Bucket-list builder: brilliant bridges
- Credit: Archant
Find a fantastic destination for your post-coronavirus bucket list - by visiting a brilliant bridge.
A bridge might sound like an odd thing to put on your bucket list, but bear with us. A good bridge is functional engineering at its best – and there’s something quietly fascinating about that. But bridges are more than mute manmade structures, as they’re all about travel and journeys. They’re wildly different from every angle – when you’re beneath them, crossing them or admiring them from the side.
The greatest bridges have atmosphere, a sense of romance and a killer setting – and travelling to explore one adds a brilliant destination to any bucket list. From the 2000-year old Pont du Gard, built by Romans in the South of France, to miracles of modern engineering like the Humber Bridge or the iconic ironwork of the Victorian Forth Rail Bridge in Scotland, there’s likely to be a bridge in the style you like in a location you’d love to visit. That’s what the bucket list is all about: bridging the gap between wishing and doing, so go on... add a good bridge to your bucket list. Here are our favourites.
Sligachan Old Bridge, Scotland
The Isle of Skye is famous for its wild beauty – never more perfectly framed than by Sligachan Old Bridge. With what little traffic there is passing on the parallel, unexciting 1930s bridge, it’s a popular pedestrian landmark for tourists enjoying the rugged landscape, with a handy inn (and brewery) within a comfortable stroll. Though it’s pretty enough to adorn a tartan shortbread tin, the truth is this three-span Scottish bridge was built between 1810 and 1818 by that most English of Victorian engineers, Thomas Telford.
How to get there: Allow at least two days to drive from East Anglia to Skye. The bridge is beside the A87 junction with the A863, halfway between the tiny towns of Broadford and Portree. Click for location.
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Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge, Switzerland
You’ve never heard of it? Well, this pedestrian bridge in the mountains of Switzerland was opened only in 2017. It earns a place on the list not for its unrivalled views of the Matterhorn, Weissehorn and other peaks – though they are truly breath-taking - but by being the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the world. It’s 494m long, but you’ll need a sturdy set of walking boots and a good head for heights to appreciate it, as it’s a vertigo-testing 85m above the valley floor – making it the literal highlight of any trip to the gorgeous Swiss Alps.
How to get there: the Charles Kuonen Hangebruke (suspension bridge) is part of the well-signed Europaweg walking trail between Grachen and Zermatt, at the foot of the Matterhorn. Click for location.
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Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, Northern Ireland
You don’t have to leave the UK to enjoy a great pedestrian bridge, though. The wildly romantic Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge in Northern Ireland has stunning views of the sea and cliffs, though is a much friendlier 20m long and 30m in the air. The views at the other end are equally brilliant – across the Irish Sea, all the way to Scotland on a clear day. Like the nearby Giant’s Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede is managed by the National Trust, so it’s best to book a ticket before going.
How to get there: If you take a ferry from Stranraer to Belfast, or fly in and hire a car, Carrick-a-Rede is about an hour north of the city, near the village of Ballycastle. Click for location - or click here to book tickets.
Tower Bridge, London
Completed in 1894, this iconic London landmark is as British as the Queen – but much easier to visit, with a full tour available if merely walking or driving across isn’t enough for you (hint: it isn’t - the tour’s fascinating). The tour takes in the high-level pedestrian walkways, 44m above the Thames but closed to the public since 1910. The two enormous arms of the road deck are raised by massive hydraulic motors in the base of each of the 65m towers. Of course, it is also next to the Tower of London, the London Eye is a short distance away and any number of other capital-based bucket list items are also within reach when visiting Tower Bridge.
How to get there: London is easily reached by road but, with the congestion charge and the Ultra Low Emissions Zone, it’s easier to take the train, then a tube to Tower Hill - a three-minute walk from Tower Bridge. Click for location - or click here to book a tour.
Millau Viaduct, France
If you want modern bridge building on a truly monumental level, head to France and the picturesque town of Millau at the mouth of the Tarn Gorge. Designed by Sir Norman Foster and built by Eiffel (yes, the people who erected the tower in Paris), this is a bridge on a stupendous scale. Balanced on seven colossal piers – Pier 2 is the tallest structure in France, 23m higher than the Eiffel Tower - it carries the A7 motorway more than 1.5 miles, upto 270m above the valley floor. There’s a good visitor centre explaining this herculean feat of engineering, the views are spectacular (though they’re better from the valley below than from the bridge itself) and the local food and scenery are wonderful – it’s a brilliant destination.
How to get there: Millau is a comfortable 600 miles from Calais – a two-day drive at least – on the A75 motorway (leave at J45). Click for location.
Bixby Creek Bridge, USA
A bucket list should mean going somewhere exotic, on the trip of a lifetime, so why not head to California? Go to San Fransisco and admire the Golden Gate Bridge and the Emperor Norton Bridge (properly called the Oakland Bay Bridge), then head south on Highway One - the iconic Pacific Coast Highway. After Monterrey it climbs up above the blue waters of the ocean until, rounding a corner, you spot Bixby Creek Bridge. It’s more than just a good-looking structure, it’s the gateway to Big Sur and one of the most iconic drives of any American road trip. If you’re looking for a bucket-list item, you came to the right bridge...
How to get there: Fly direct from the UK to San Fransisco and take Highway One south, to fly back from Los Angeles (or fly into LA, drive north, and fly home from SF). Click for location.