Five ways to enjoy the world's iconic bridges
Whether you bike, bungee jump or view it from a helicopter, Lucy Gillmore explains how to take it to the bridge
Thursday 04 September 2014
Just when you thought Edinburgh's festival season was winding down, another one gets under way. The Forth Bridges Festival (0131 319 1699; forthbridgesfestival.com), from tomorrow until 13 September, celebrates 50 years of Scotland's famed road bridge. There will soon be three connections across the Forth – a new crossing joining the existing road and rail bridges – but, for now, it's all about the birthday party.
As part of the celebrations 2,014 visitors will have the chance to climb the bridge and the Flotilla on the Forth will transform the water into a sea of sails on 7 September. A torchlight procession along the bridge will form a kilometre of fire on 13 September, before the party kicks off with live music, fireworks and a giant outdoor ceilidh, the Forth Fling (tickets for both £23, Bridge Party only £13.50).
Another bridge celebrating its birthday this year is Bristol's Clifton Suspension Bridge (cliftonbridge.co.uk). Brunel's masterpiece turns 150 on 8 December, with a competition that invites artists of all ages to paint and draw images of this landmark structure as part of the festivities.
Bridges form part of so many of our travel experiences, whether it's a romantic stroll over the Seine, bungee jumping off Auckland Bridge in New Zealand (bungy.co.nz), or clambering up Sydney Harbour Bridge (bridgeclimb.com). But for pure wow factor you can't beat a drive across the Millau Viaduct, southern France, the tallest bridge in the world at 343m.
For fans of Nordic Noir, of course, there's only one bridge. The Oresund Bron (uk.oresundsbron.com) linking Malmo and Copenhagen is one of Europe's most impressive feats of engineering and the star of Danish/Swedish crime drama The Bridge. Take a one-and-a-half-hour tour of the locations featured in the programme (currently filming its third series) – although not on to the bridge itself (Saturdays, 4pm; Dkk150/£16; nordicnoirtours.com).
One of the iconic scenes from Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo is the fog swirling around San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge (goldengatebridge.org). You can hike it, bike it, or gaze down on it from a helicopter. Viator (viator.com) offers a half-hour aerial tour including Alcatraz, Fisherman's Wharf and the Golden Gate, from £131. Or take a free twice-weekly (Thursday and Sunday) walking tour to learn more about the bridge's history (sfcityguides.org).
Teeter through the treetops in the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park (001 604 985 7474; capbridge.com) in Vancouver. The suspension bridge dates back to 1888 when Scottish engineer George Grant Mackay bought 6,000 acres of thick forest, built a cabin on the clifftop and suspended a rope bridge across the chasm. Today, as well as walking the suspension bridge's 137m length (set 70m above the Capilano River), you can also follow the narrow cantilevered walkway that clings to the Golden Gate Bridge cliff, and take the Treetops Adventure – linked rope bridges offering a "squirrel eye view" of the surrounding coastal forest (C$36/£20 for all activities).
Bird's eye view
For one of the best London vistas, head to Tower Bridge (020 7403 3761; towerbridge.org.uk; £9). The high level walkways, suspended 42m above the Thames, that link the two magnificent towers provide panoramic views across the capital. The Tower Bridge Exhibition outlines the history of the structure, a combined bascule and suspension bridge, and explains how the Victorian machinery works.
Out of Africa
The Victoria Falls Bridge (00 260 213 324 231; victoriafallsbridge.com) spans the Zambezi River gorge, between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Celebrating its 110th birthday next year, this railway bridge was the highest in the world when it was built, shipped from London to Africa and reassembled on site. Today, you can cross it on foot, by rickshaw, do a bridge climb, bungee jump or take a two-hour steam train tour (00 263 13 42912; steamtraincompany.com), which stops on the bridge at sunset for champagne and canapés (US$80/£50 per person).
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