Best of British: 60 things that make Britain great

Imagine you're cut off in a far-off land. What longings would be uppermost in your mind? Here we celebrate those aspects of life that make our islands distinct and beguiling.

 48. The Forth Bridge

Forth rail bridge long exposure at dusk

Britain’s best-known engineering landmark is a Meccano fantasy of tubular steel latticework that celebrates Victorian engineering and the great railway age. Sponsored by the competing rail companies whose expansion north depended on this strategically vital connection, the 1.6-mile rail bridge between Edinburgh and Fife was designed by Sir John Fowler and Sir Benjamin Baker and opened in 1890. Its single cantilevered span was the longest (since 1917, the second longest) in the world and it has even been adopted as a national colloquialism, ‘painting the Forth Bridge’ being the expression for a never-ending task. The pairing of this behemoth with Freeman Fox & Partners’ Forth Road Bridge of 1964 doubled the significance of the historic North/South Queensferry crossing. Scotland’s Golden Gate is another national icon, soon to be joined by a third: the 1.7-mile Queensferry Crossing, which will become the main vehicular route across the Forth when it opens in 2016.

‘The engineers, with their gigantic works sweep everything before them in this Victorian era’
(Sir Benjamin Baker)

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