Motoring experts from LeaseCar.uk have researched and revealed some of the UK’s most iconic bridges, from the record breaking Iron Bridge in Shropshire to the breath-taking Pulteney Bridge in Bath.
Legendary engineer Isambard Brunel’s ‘first love’ and ‘darling’ Clifton Suspension Bridge made the cut, as well as the instantly recognisable Tower Bridge in London.
Many of these structures are steeped in history and are now Grade I and Grade II listed, whilst others are simply so massive, they had to be included for their size alone.
A spokesperson for LeaseCar.uk said: “The humble bridge is often overlooked, but they’ve aided British trade and communities for centuries, so we think they deserve some recognition.
“We’ve picked 12 of the biggest, best and most beautiful bridges you can find across the UK, to help celebrate them for what they are – incredible feats of engineering.
“Not all of the bridges listed can be driven across, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be admired from the side lines or travelled a different way.”
1. Tyne Bridge
Stretching 1,276 ft to link the city of Newcastle with the town of Gateshead, Tyne Bridge was officially opened in October 1928 by King George V, standing 194 ft high. Its towers are built from Cornish granite and were designed by a local architect as warehouses with five storeys. But, the inner floors of the warehouses were never completed and, as a result, the storage areas were never used.
In 2018, the bridge became one of the 5.8% of structures in England which are Grade II listed.
2. Humber Bridge
For centuries the Humber Estuary was a barrier to trade and development between the two banks, until the approval for the construction of a suspension bridge was granted in 1959 – although it was not until 1972 that work finally began. Work on the construction took eight years and traffic first crossed the bridge on 24th June 1981, before Her Majesty the Queen performed the formal opening ceremony on 17th July.
At 4,626 ft, the Humber Bridge is the UK’s longest single-span suspension bridge and the eighth longest in the world. It also remains the longest bridge in the world that can be crossed on foot or by cycle.
3. Infinity Bridge
Built at a cost of £15 million, the Infinity Bridge is a 787 ft public pedestrian and cycle footbridge across the River Tees in the borough of Stockton-on-Tees in the north-east of England.
The bridge had the project title North Shore Footbridge before being given its official name Infinity Bridge, chosen by a panel using named suggested by the public. The name derives from the infinity symbol formed by the bridge and its reflection.
4. Clifton Suspension Bridge
Described by the legendary engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel as ‘my first love, my darling’ and originally designed to cater for horse-drawn traffic in 1864, Clifton Suspension Bridge today serves as a crossing for more than four million vehicles every year – but note you have to pay a £1 to cross it.
Brunel’s original design featured an Egyptian theme which was all the fashion at the time. Each of the towers were to have two sphinxes sitting on top, but long delays and money problems saw the design revert to a less flamboyant version.
The bridge weighs 1,500 tonnes, spans 703 ft, and sits 245 ft above the water below at high tide. It’s made up of 3,500 load bearing bolts and vast chains that stretch 20 miles underground.
5. Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge was built over 125 years ago to ease road traffic while maintaining river access to the busy Pool of London docks. Built with giant moveable roadways that lift up for passing ships, it is to the day considered an engineering marvel and is arguably one of the most famous and instantly recognisable structures in the world.
It took eight years, five major contractors and the relentless labour of 432 construction workers each day to build Tower Bridge, which crosses the River Thames at a total length of 801 ft.
6. Menai Suspension Bridge
Carrying road traffic between the island of Anglesey and the mainland of Wales, the Menai Suspension Bridge was completed in 1826 and is now a Grade I listed structure. Before the bridge was completed in 1826, Anglesey had no fixed connection to the mainland, and traveling between the island and the mainland was often hazardous.
When it was first opened for public use, the Menai Bridge represented a triumph of civil engineering and was the biggest suspension bridge in the world at the time. Sixteen huge chains held up 579 ft of deck, allowing 100 ft of clear space beneath.
7. Severn Bridge
The Severn Bridge is a motorway suspension bridge that spans the River Severn and River Wye between Aust, South Gloucestershire and Chepstow, Monmouthshire. It’s the original Severn road crossing between England and Wales and opened in September 1966, replacing the Aust Ferry which had been in operation since 1926.
During the first few days after it opened, about 100,000 vehicles crossed the bridge, and people stood in line and camped out for several days to be the first to walk across it.
8. Queensferry Crossing
Construction of the Queensferry Crossing ended in August 2017, making it the newest bridge on this list. It was built alongside the existing Forth Road Bridge and carries the M90 motorway across the Firth of Forth between Edinburgh, at South Queensferry, and Fife, at North Queensferry.
It’s also one of the longest bridges on the list, stretching 8,858 ft!
9. Tees Transporter Bridge
Also known as a ferry bridge or aerial transfer bridge, the Tees Transporter is a type of movable bridge that carries a travelling ‘car’ or ‘gondola’, suspended from the bridge, across the river in just 90 seconds. The gondola can carry 200 people, 9 cars, or 6 cars and one minibus. Locally, the bridge is often referred to simply as ‘the Transporter’.
10. The Iron Bridge, Shropshire
The Iron Bridge is a cast iron arch bridge that crosses the River Severn in Shropshire. Opened in 1781, it was the first major bridge in the world to be made of cast iron, and was greatly celebrated after construction owing to its use of the new material.
During the 1960s there was talk of dismantling the Iron Bridge and selling it for scrap, but thankfully the site came under the guardianship of English Heritage and its predecessors in the 1970s, before becoming one of the first places in the UK to be inscribed onto the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.
11. Glenfinnan Viaduct, Inverness
Movie fans will likely instantly recognised Glenfinnan Viaduct as the bridge that the Hogwarts Express travels over in four of the Harry Potter films. Located at the top of Loch Shiel in the West Highlands of Scotland, the viaduct overlooks the Glenfinnan Monument and the waters of Loch Shiel.
The viaduct is built from mass concrete and has 21 semi-circular spans of 50 ft, and is the longest concrete railways bridge in Scotland at just over 1,240 ft.
12. Pulteney Bridge, Bath
Crossing the River Avon in Bath, Pulteney Bridge was completed in 1774 and connected the city with the land of the Pulteney family which they wished to develop. Designed in a Palladian style, it’s exceptional in that it has shops built across its full span on both sides.
By the end of the 18th century it had been damaged by floods, but it was rebuilt to a similar design. In the 20th century, several schemes were carried out to preserve the bridge and partially return it to its original appearance. The bridge is now 148 ft long and 58 ft wide, making it the smallest – and oldest – bridge on this list.