Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The Seven Bridges.

The club’s second run was titled The Seven Bridges Road Tour.

Joe is an Eagles fan and he based the run on one of their hits, Seven Bridges Road.
He also spoke about some Eagle-based ideas he had half-considered. Life in the Fast Lane would have featured 3 motorways and a dual carriageway; Desperadoes might include trips to four of Scotland’s prisons; while Hotel California could involve a trip to a B&B in the oddly-named village of California, 20 miles from our usual start-point in the cafe.

Joe’s named list of seven bridges was Stirling Bridge, Bridge of Allan, Bridge of Earn, Rumbling Bridge, Vicar’s Bridge, Kincardine Bridge and Clackmannan Bridge but we would pass over and under many more than his original seven. Indeed, our run started just across the road from the cafe, with the Drip Old Bridge over the river Forth. The modern bridge passes over the river next to this without even a bump.

Built by public subscription in 1773.

Into Stirling and around the Back o’ Hill to the medieval bridge which replaced the wooden structure involved in William Wallace’s famous victory over the English  in 1297 at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. This features in the film Braveheart which ludicrously shows the Scots wearing kilts and blue paint (they didn’t). It also fails to portray a river or even the bridge, from which the battle was named.
Stirling Old Bridge dating from c1490.

The modern road bridge opened in 1883.

Our convoy of four MGs left Stirling and drove through the prosperous spa town of Bridge of Allan. As we passed the popular Allanwater cafe we were greeted by ‘The Ferrari Boys’ a group of enthusiasts who meet there on Sunday mornings. We felt that we had dignity and British tradition on our side as we waved in return. We turned off the main road to park by the Allan Water and photograph the bridge itself.

This replaced the narrow 1520s hog’s-back bridge in 1954.

Taylor taking a chance with the weather.

We travelled through Dunblane to the little bridge at Kinbuck, the Jacobites camped here in 1715 before the Battle of Sherrifmuir.

The Weak Bridge at Kinbuck

The road to Braco is very scenic. When we got into the village, a cracked church-bell rang out and caused two drivers to wonder what had just fallen-off their beloved MGs.

Joe's TF is out of sight.

We passed through the Gleneagles golf course. As we waited in the unexpected traffic jam, Paul Lawrie was winning the Johnnie Walker Championship. One of our members observed that if the road traffic was so badly organised for this competition, then it would be chaos for the Ryder Cup next month.

Paul Lawrie wins by four strokes at Gleneagles. Another Eagles hit.

We crossed the bridge over the busy A9 but had become separated in the traffic. We sorted ourselves out and drove along the beautiful road towards Dunning. The old church houses the 9th century Dupplin Cross with its ancient carvings ranging from victorious armies and the biblical king David to the Trinity and the Eucharist.

They had the flags out for us in Dunning.

Taylor had a continuing problem with his fuel supply. His MGB started to backfire and stutter.  His was not the only MG to drive a considerable distance with an uncancelled indicator. In the end only the TF escaped this oversight, but two members were conspicuous by their extended ‘driving while indixicated’.

On to Forteviot, the centre of many ancient cultures, with archaeology from 3000 BC to the ninth century (I have helped as a volunteer archaeologist here). It is now a small village near to a couple of famous schools.

The delightful unclassified road dropped towards the town of Bridge of Earn where we came to a large flood. Joe, as any good leader, tested the depth by putting his foot down and setting up an enormous spray as he sped off in his TF.
Amphibious MGs

 Mike paused beside the unknowable deep before slowly driving his precious TD into the water. He emerged with flooding through his wooden floorboards and water inside the cockpit. The MGBs were undeterred but we all regrouped to check brakes etc on the other side.

We managed to stop on the famous bridge and hardly caused any disruption to the tourist traffic.

The bridge at Bridge of Earn, with tourist bus.

Heading back over the bridge.

We drove past the Bein Inn which was once famous for its blues/folk concerts before climbing the hill with its overhanging trees, burn to the right and the smell of wild garlic in season.

 Under the railway bridge.

As we climbed the hill there was a break in the double white line and our leader, Joe, took his chance to overtake some cyclists and speed off. At almost the same moment Mike realised that his TD had a puncture and we pulled into the side. The punctured tyre had been replaced with a new wheel before Joe returned. He had driven on for a mile or so and waited for us in the next village before turning back.

Not the best place to stop but we were on a hill and the tyre was completely flat.

Through Glenfarg village and under the motorway bridge towards Milnathort and onto a road our own MGB had frequented for a couple of years while we lived there. Then down into Kinross and through Glen Devon, turning off the main road to pick up the next two of Joe’s bridges. First was the tiny village of Rumbling Bridge. The bridge is over the dramatic River Devon gorge. The lower bridge, without parapets, was built in 1713. 
Over the Rumbling Bridge.

Mike had asked that Joe should help him with the calibration of his speedometer.
As we drove down the quiet, straight road, Joe was to raise his hand to show when he was travelling at 45mph. Mike was disappointed to read that his 1953 TD recorded 60mph at these moments, not the most accurate calibration result.

Later he showed us the much more accurate, MG-approved device, which he used to check his fuel level.

Mike’s other calibration challenge.

Then down a small side-road to park near the Vicar’s Bridge. Its original may have been erected in the 1500s by Thomas Forrest the Vicar of Dollar.   

Vicar’s Bridge has a single arch and has been widened on the western side in 1869.

View from the Vicar's Bridge.

We drove on south past the Tulliallan Police College into Kincardine and across the 1930s swing-bridge.

Famously constructed to link four counties.

We stopped for lunch in the Kincardine Way Hotel. This was variously received, some enjoyed their prawn cocktail snack or their freshly-cooked, large mixed grill, others were disappointed with the carvery meal.

We returned north by the Clackmannanshire Bridge which was opened in 2008.

At the time, there were disputes about naming the new bridge which is in Fife not Clackmannan. But the name ‘Clackmannanshire Bridge’ was chosen by the politicians, illustrating their enthusiasm for renaming things in the face of reality.

When he opened the bridge in 2008, Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond said: ‘This is a world-class infrastructure project which will cut journey times, improve central Scotland connections, and provide a unique gateway to Clackmannanshire, Fife and Falkirk’. In truth, it’s just another bland road-bridge.

Mike crossing the new bridge

 Joe’s Run had opened with an ancient bridge from 1490 and closed with one of Scotland’s newest road bridges from 2008. We had started our run in Stirlingshire, visited Perthshire, then Fife and Clackmannan. In our visits to four Counties, we had crossed over and under many more than the Eagles’ original Seven Bridges. We had also passed over five thousand years of archaeology as well as five centuries of Scottish bridges.

Thankyou Joe for the beautiful byways.