Scotland has long been known for its engineering and architecture. Indeed this has been designated the Year of Innovation Architecture and Design, andNext year will be the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.
The country has myriad dramatic examples of man’s imprint on the world. This is the land of Thomas Telford and Charles Rennie Mackintosh after all. VisitScotland recently ran a vote in order to find out which is the nation’s favourite manmade wonder. The results showcased Scotland’s remarkable feats of engineering, and the clear winner – with almost a third of the votes – was the Forth Bridge. I am lucky enough to live in South Queensferry, so I wasn’t surprised that this stunning structure topped the poll.
This really is the most impressive of all of Scotland’s manmade wonders. I’ve been to over 100 countries and have never seen anything remotely like it. She may date back over one hundred years to Victorian times, but the Forth Bridge still confounds engineers today. The stats are staggering – she is put together with over 6.5 million rivets and the tubes of her triple cantilevers are wide enough to house a London underground train! A ride on a train across her broad expanse is one of the quintessential Scottish experiences. She has quite rightly just been placed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. There is also talk locally of a new visitor centre and guided bridge walks – you heard it here first!
A brace of equestrian monsters rearing their metal heads just off the M9 motorway might not sound that engaging. But this duo of scupltures is instantly spellbinding. They vault skywards in a web of metal that has both elegant form and sheer beauty. These stunners look very different at different times of day, you can even go inside. Outside the Helix park is an engaging place for kids to play. The chances are on your Scottish travels you will drive by them at least once. If you do make sure to stop!
Now travel back through the centuries to the brutal days when the likes of William Wallace and Robert the Brice did battle on the deeply strategic ground around Stirling Castle with their old foes, the English. This sturdy castle is also one of the most fun castles to visit, and has loads of hands-on things to keep the wee ones occupied. The Grand Hall is arguably the most impressive building in Scotland. Go for an hour and you will end up spending a day there. If haven’t been go. If you have been go back!
I am a huge fan of uber engineer Thomas Telford. He left his imprint all over Scotland, but nowhere more dramatically than in his landmark Caledonian Canal. This epic creation gloriously links Scotland’s Atlantic coast near Fort William with the North Sea at Inverness. It quite brilliantly uses a series of locks – the most impressive are Neptune’s Staircase at the eastern entrance and the locks at Fort Augustus. It also works with nature, using channels through Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and Nessie’s home, Loch Ness. For more on cruising the Great Glen through the Caledonian Canal click here.
The Scottish Borders boast a quartet of romantically ruined abbeys. I agree with the voters in this poll – the highlight is Melrose Abbey. It’s not just that Robert the Bruce’s heart is buried here, nor that it lies in the pretty market town of Melrose. It is because Melrose Abbey is an ecclesiastic building that offers a real window into faith. Whatever your beliefs it is hard not to be moved and awed by the looming grandeur of this most special of abbeys. You can wander amongst the old cloisters dreaming of the days when the monks eked out their devoted lives.
Yes I know I said this list only had 5, but I’m sneaking in an extra! It’s the epic new Forth crossing I can see taking shape out of my window in South Queensferry. It is slated to be finished in 2017 and will be a truly mind-blowing structure, the largest cable stayed bridge of its kind in the world. Watch this space as Scotland adds yet another chapter to its impressive list of manmade wonders…
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