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First things first. I’m not scared of heights. Oh no, I’m absolutely terrified of them unless I’m on a chunky mountain or safely behind a window. So it was with some trepidation that I agreed to try and make it over 150 metres up to the top of the Forth Road Bridge, an experience you too can try next year if you are brave or, like me, daft enough.

 Robin before the climb

Robin before the climb © Robin McKelvie

Living in South Queensferry I see the vault of the Forth Road Bridge every day so I had to take the opportunity to scale it, otherwise I’d have to spend years wondering what if? Next year the bridge owners will be taking 2,014 people up as part of the Forth Bridges Festival and further plans have been mooted to make bridge climbs more permanent so look out if you fancy it.

Safety is, of course, paramount so I was given a full briefing on the south side of the bridge and kitted out with a helmet and a harness before I boarded a minibus across the bridge towards the North Tower. That is when the butterflies started in earnest as I gazed out at the big drop on both sides down to the tumultuous waters of the Firth of Forth. I knew that drop was nothing compared to that from the much higher narrow walkway I was heading for.

As the minibus stopped our chirpy guide informed us that the ‘lift up is a bit on the wee side’. He wasn’t joking. The tiny service lift can cram in a maximum of three people. It fairly scoots up, though, and soon I was right up inside the North Tower totally immersed within the metal web of the bridge. It was time now to connect to a harness and tackle the 12m ascent of a ladder up to the platform access. Maybe 12m does not sound like much, but it is when you are hauling your body weight up a totally vertical ladder.

Eventually I squeezed out of the ladder shaft to find another beaming bridge worker. The staff here are pretty good with dealing with people with a touch of vertigo. It was time now to ditch the harness and the helmet, along with everything else like phones and wallets. Even a small object dropped from 156m could cause a serious accident on the bridge.

View from the top of the Forth Road Bridge

View from the top of the Forth Road Bridge © Robin McKelvie

The last leg of the bridge ascent involved a haul up a short ladder on to the narrow platform that connects the two sides of the North Tower. My dry mouth and spinning head signalled my mind and body’s reluctance to step out, but step out I did onto the slightly breezy top of the Forth Road Bridge. I say slightly breezy, but all maintenance work had been halted due to the gusts in excess of 40 mph.

This was the point where the effort and nervous tension became instantly worth it. All around me exploded a unique panorama of the Forth Valley. Directly below rushed cars, trucks and buses, looking like tiny avatars on a computer game. Just to the east rose an even grander structure, the legendary Forth Bridge with its distinctive triple cantilever iron red spans. The vista from the top of the Forth Road Bridge is undoubtedly the finest possible of the Forth Bridge.

Robin on the Forth Road Bridge

Robin on the Forth Road Bridge © Robin McKelvie

Daring to cast my eyes even further afield North and South Queensferry unfurled on their respective flanks of the Firth of Forth, while even further away the crumple of the Pentland Hills rose to the south and the Ochils to the northwest. Edinburgh was visible too, seemingly within touching distance, as were the likes of Grangemouth, Blackness Castle, Hopetoun House and the myriad wee islands of the Forth.

All too soon it was time to descend from this lofty platform and take the ladders and lift back down to the real world. I still gaze up at the Forth Road Bridge every day when I’m at home. Only now I smile to myself knowing I’ve tackled her right to the top with the photos and indelible visual memories to prove it. Next year you can do the same.

Factfile

– We’ve got a page on our website dedicated to the Forth Bridges Festival in 2014, which also fills you in on tickets for the climb. Rumours suggest more tickets may be released and the bridge climbs may be extended beyond 2014 so watch this space.

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