Celebrating local heritage: Forth Bridges Trail


Forth Bridges Trail North Queensferry Railway. Credit: Forth Bridges

Celebrating the local heritage of our lived environment gained a renewed focus following the pandemic.

Despite the financial challenges facing local government in Scotland (check out this LGIU briefing on the recent Scottish Government budget), this blog post hears from Karen Stewart, Forth Bridges Area Tourism Strategy Manager, about a new initiative to promote the heritage of the Forth Bridges area.

To highlight Scotland’s iconic Forth Bridges and the distinctive historic communities of North and South Queensferry, a new visitor trail launched in November 2022.

The Forth Bridges Trail offers a five-mile circular route that brings together 16 points of interest in North and South Queensferry and along the Forth Road Bridge. Offering historical facts, local tales and folklore, and panoramic views of the three crossings and the Firth of Forth, this blog post from Karen Stewart will be of interest to those in the public sector working with local heritage and tourism.

In a project manager role, Karen Stewart reports to the Forth Bridges Tourism Group, a collaboration between 3 local authorities and 4 national bodies. Taking up the role during the early months of 2021, when Scotland was in the midst of lockdown restrictions, Karen proposed the Trail concept to the Tourism Group, and with the input of community groups, launched the Trail in November 2022.

Heritage in the Forth bridges area

Standing side-by-side, the famous Forth bridges span three centuries. One of Scotland’s most recognisable landmarks, it is a marvel of Victorian engineering and was the world’s first major steel structure when it opened in 1890 and still carried over 200 trains a day.

Opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1964, the Forth Road Bridge is a long span suspension bridge. Today it serves as a public transport corridor for buses and taxis, with walk and cycleways.

The Queensferry Crossing was also opened by Queen, over 50 years later in 2017. The 1.7 miles structure is the longest three tower, cable-stayed bridge in the world with an innovative design to provide greater resilience in high winds.

Credit: Forth Bridges

Developing the Trail

Developed by the Forth Bridges Tourism Group, the Trail has been designed to encourage visitors to explore the area around the bridges further, on both sides of the Forth, and support the area’s year-round tourism businesses which include boat trips, outdoor activities, visitor attractions, cafes & restaurants, independent retailers and accommodation providers.

Supporting Scotland’s ambitions to be a world-leading responsible destination, the trail is accessible by foot, bike, and public transport, including train stations at North Queensferry and Dalmeny. Parking is available in the area, but is often at capacity, so promoting the use of sustainable transport helped gain community support for the project.

Visitor signs marking points of interest along the trail have been designed to reflect the famous red steelwork of the original Forth Bridge, awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2015.

The panels feature illustrated maps, images and stories on the history of the Bridges, the Firth of Forth, and the local communities of North and South Queensferry. Collaboration with local history and heritage groups was key in developing the material for the signs and each panel has a QR code linking to further information on the Forth Bridges website.

The Forth Bridges Tourism Group was established in 2019 and is responsible for delivering the Forth Bridges Area Tourism Strategy, a 10-year plan endorsed by the Scottish Government to create a sustainable and high-quality visitor destination across the Firth of Forth. Core membership of the group comprises Fife Council, City of Edinburgh Council, West Lothian Council, Network Rail, Transport Scotland, VisitScotland and Historic Environment Scotland.

The Trail covers two local authority areas and includes a listed structure in the Forth Road Bridge. Working with the Tourism Group’s Forth Bridges Area Tourism Strategy Manager, the planning consent process was coordinated by the main consultant appointed to the project. The other elements of the project included community consultation, design, manufacture and installation of the signs.

To support the launch of the Forth Bridges Trail, the Forth Bridges website has been redeveloped by Transport Scotland with new content focussed on helping plan and enjoy a visit to the area. This includes the best places to view the Bridges, opportunities for cycling and walking across the Forth Road Bridge, and recommendations of things to do in North and South Queensferry and the wider area. A new visitor video has also been created and there is dedicated activity on the Forth Bridges social media channels.

Further details on the Forth Bridges and the new Trail can be found at The Forth Bridges.

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