10 September 2012

Scottish Bridges: 50. Falls of Gharb Allt Footbridge

I stumbled across the details of this bridge via Google while preparing for this Scottish bridge trip. It’s not a span I was previously aware of, and I don’t think it appears in any book about bridges to be found on my shelves. However, it certainly should do.

Nor is it well recorded on the internet: Aberdeenshire Council's Sites and Monuments Record doesn't feature it, and although it's Listed Category A, it achieved that status only in 2010.

The probable reason for its lack of renown is simply that it is very well hidden away in the private forests of the Balmoral Estate. It’s not signposted, and not very easy to get to.

For our trip, we had secured permission from the Estate to approach it on foot. I expect that Scottish land access rights actually render that unnecessary, but note that there’s no right to park a car on private land, so you may need to park some distance away if walking there. Another option is to book a place on a Balmoral Estate “safari”, as these sometimes include a visit to the bridge.

This cast iron footbridge was built in the time of Queen Victoria, and spans a watercourse which tumbles down through the Ballochbuie Forest and eventually out into the River Dee. It was built by Blaikie Bros in 1878 (also responsible for the mid-1880s refurbishment of Crathie Suspension Bridge, and the 1885 bridge at Abergeldie Castle).

It’s a very attractive ornamental iron arch, which would not be out of place in a park or estate garden.

The arch ribs are extremely slender, stiffened vertically by spandrel bracing intersecting in a diamond pattern. The main ribs are also cross-braced horizontally.

The parapets incorporate a repeating floral pattern, a level of ornamentation which I would imagine found more favour with Victoria and Albert than did the austere functionalism of Brunel's Balmoral Bridge.

It's a charming little structure, but what made it well worth visiting is its setting, spanning directly across the Falls of Gharb Allt.

I've seen more spectacular waterfalls on a private estate in the Western Highlands, but the scenery here is delightful, and the bridge offers a splendid vantage point from which to admire the turbulent river.

In the interests of safety, it's worth pointing out that the rocks next to the river are extremely slippery, so anyone seeking a good vantage point for photography should take care.

Further information:


Bill said...

Surely it's mostly steel (or possibly wrought iron)with a few cast fittings. Regards, Bill.S

The Happy Pontist said...

Yes, I agree. The "cast iron" reference is from the bridge's Listing description, which on the visual evidence is clearly wrong. Sorry for just copying that over, it must have been a long day!