Historic Bridges Trail to take visitors from Iron Age to Royal Deeside - and beyond

A new heritage trail taking in some of the most beautiful parts of Aberdeenshire on a route using some of the area’s most historic bridges was launched today. (Wednesday, September 13)

With the iconic Grampian Transport Museum as a backdrop, Provost Bill Howatson jumped aboard a 1930 Albion bus to highlight the new Aberdeenshire Historic Bridges Trail.

From an Iron Age route over the famous Cairn O’Mount to the Hanoverian military roads between Deeside and Donside and along the area’s beautiful coast, the trail takes you through 2,800 years of history on a 300-mile circular route.

The museum is a great place to start off, with an impressive range of historic transport exhibits, from travelling chariots of the 1800s to some of the fastest cars ever made.

As the route was launched, a new plaque was also unveiled on nearby Bridge of Alford, marking its design by renowned engineer Thomas Telford and construction by William Minto in 1811.

Bridge of Alford is one of the 12 historic bridges on the new route which takes participants from mountain to sea through one of the most beautiful parts of Scotland.

A guide to accompany the trail offers more about the history and engineering behind the structures, such as the medieval Gannochy Bridge, on the border with Angus, which was completed around 1460.

Another crossing on the trail, Banff Bridge, was completed in 1780 by John Smeaton, often regarded as the “father of civil engineering”. 

Other notable engineers with Aberdeenshire bridges to their names include Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who built Balmoral Bridge for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to get to their new home at Balmoral Castle, near Ballater, still a Royal residence today.

And the Old Bridge of Dye on the Cairn O’Mount Road, built in 1681, must have been an imposing sight for travellers on the Great North Road between Edinburgh and Fochabers.

The area was notorious for robbers and thieves but in modern times is known as one of the first roads to be blocked by snow each winter.

And the Bridge of Feugh, near Banchory, built in 1790, is known as one of the best places to watch salmon leap as they make their way to their spawning grounds.

The trail guide is available digitally from Aberdeenshire Council’s website right now, but hard copies will be made available from public buildings around Aberdeenshire and will be available from the transport museum.

Launching the Aberdeenshire Historic Bridges Trail, Provost Howatson said: “It is very apt to launch this fascinating trail at Grampian Transport Museum, as it will be mounting a major exhibition in 2018 on the history of roads, bridges and transportation in the north east.

“Many of our visitors, and even residents, will be unaware of the significance and historical importance of many of our bridges, but the movement of people and goods has been crucial to the development of civilisation and trade through the centuries and there are many stories to be told.

“This resource allows people to find out more while touring this fascinating area and visiting some of the excellent attractions along the way, including castles, the Marine Aquarium at Macduff and Fraserburgh’s Lighthouse Museum – there’s even a discounted ticket scheme available.

“In the Year of History, Heritage and Archeology this is a great project to further develop what we offer both residents and visitors, highlighting some of our fascinating history as well as the bridges and roads which often go unnoticed, but make our everyday lives possible.”

Aberdeenshire Council looks after 1,307 bridges on a public road network extending to around 3,400 miles and 123 of those bridges are heritage listed – 11 with the highest Grade A listing.

Each year the council spends on average £3.5million on their inspection, maintenance and repair and is also responsible for the construction of new bridges, where and when necessary.

The bridges trail is being launched in Scotland's Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, which provides an ideal opportunity to celebrate the wealth and diversity of historical and archaeological sites and stories which Aberdeenshire has to offer.

The area’s heritage can be traced back to around 12,000 BC, so with sites ranging from stone circles through medieval castles to World War II defences, there are plenty of fascinating sites to explore.

You can access the Aberdeenshire Historic Bridges Trail, and others such as the Stone Circle or Castle Trails, online at: http://bit.ly/BridgesTrail