Although the coast of southern Fife is predominantly industrial – with everything from cottage industries to the refitting of nuclear submarines – mercifully, only a small part has been blighted by insensitive development. Thanks to its proximity to the early coal mines, the charming village of Culross was once a lively port which enjoyed a thriving trade with Holland, the Dutch influence obvious in its lovely gabled houses. It was from nearby Dunfermline that Queen Margaret ousted the Celtic Church from Scotland in the eleventh century; her son, David I, founded an abbey here in the twelfth century. Southern Fife is linked to Edinburgh by the two Forth bridges, the red-painted girders of the Rail Bridge representing one of Britain’s great engineering spectacles.
Forth Rail Bridge
The cantilevered Forth Rail Bridge, built from 1883 to 1890 by Sir John Fowler and Benjamin Baker, ranks among the supreme achievements of Victorian engineering, with some 50,000 tons of steel used in the construction of a design that manages to express grace as well as might. The only way to cross the rail bridge is on a train heading to or from Edinburgh, though this doesn’t allow much of a perspective of the spectacle itself. For the best panorama, use the pedestrian and cycle lanes on the east side of the road bridge.
Forth Road Bridge
Derived from American models, the suspension format chosen for the Forth Road Bridge alongside the rail bridge makes an interesting modern complement to the older structure. Erected between 1958 and 1964, it finally killed off the 900-year-old ferry, and now attracts such a heavy volume of traffic that a second road crossing is being considered.