River Forth

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The Forth amongst farmland near Stirling
Course of River Forth

The River Forth is the major river draining the eastern part of the Central Lowlands of Scotland. It is 30 miles long excluding its firth, rising in the Trossachs in Perthshire and runs down to open to the sea in the Firth of Forth

The source of the River Forth rises is Loch Ard in Pethshire, some 18 miles west of Stirling. From here in the mountains of the Trossachs it flows generally eastwarda, through Aberfoyle, joining with the Duchray Water and Kelty Water, and out over the flat expanse of the Flanders Moss. The Forth is joined by the River Teith (which itself drains Loch Venachar, Loch Lubnaig, Loch Katrine, and Loch Voil) and the River Allan, before meandering through the ancient town of Stirling.

Above Stirling, most of the course of the Forth marks the boundary between Stirlingshire and Perthshire. At Stirling Bridge the burgh and its county claim both banks, but below it Clackmannanshire stands on the north bank.

Below Stirling the Forth is tidal and begins to widen, and it is here that the lowest ford on the river exists, a seasonal ford, and until the nineteenth century Stirling was he lowest bridged point on the river and until the twentieth century was the lowest road bridge: a strategic bottleneck. Below Stirling, the Forth flows east over the Carse of Stirling and past Cambus (where it is joined by the river Devon), Alloa, Fallin and Airth.

Upon reaching Kincardine on Forth, the river begins to widen into an estuary, the Firth of Forth.

Towns on the Forth

There are a number of towns which line the shores of the river and the Firth, as well as heavy industry: the petrochemical complexes at Grangemouth, the commercial docks at Leith, oilrig construction yards at Methil, the ship-breaking facility at Inverkeithing and the naval dockyard at Rosyth, with numerous other industrial areas including the Forth Bridgehead area, Burntisland, Kirkcaldy, Bo'ness and Leven.

Navigation on the Forth

The meandering Forth from the Wallace Monument

In the Middle Ages the Forth was navigable at least as far as Stirling, but silting and the increase in ship sizes now mean that traffic upstream of Kincardine is rare.

Bridges over the Forth

Upstream of Stirling, the river is rather small and is crossed in numerous places (although before modern drainage works, the ground was often treacherously marshy near the riverbank). After its confluence with the Teith and Allan, the river is sufficiently wide that a significant bridge is required.

A bridge has existed at Stirling since at least the 13th century, and until the opening of the road crossing at Kincardine in 1936, Stirling remained the easternmost road crossing. The Clackmannanshire Bridge just upstream of the Kincardine Bridge opened on 19 November 2008. Much further downstream joining North Queensferry and South Queensferry is the famous Forth Bridge, a railway bridge opened in 1890, and the Forth Road Bridge which opened in 1964. A swinging railway bridge between Alloa on the north shore and Throsk on the south opened in 1885 and was closed (and largely demolished) in 1970. Only the metal piers remain.

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