2. Neidpath Viaduct, Peebles

The facts

Neidpath Viaduct (National Grid Reference NT232401), sometimes known as the Queen’s Bridge, once carried the Caledonian Railway over the River Tweed as it exited Peebles to the West. It is just half a mile downstream from Manor Bridge and is the 20th bridge under which the Tweed flows.

It is, in the humble opinion of this amateur bridge hunter, quite something. The photos I took on my iPhone 7 simply do not do it justice. The bridge sits in a small valley between hills and, at first glance, appears to lead its passengers over the river and straight into the side of a hill. However, as we will soon learn, the bridge is a master of deception. Tunnels abound in the neck of these woods.

It is an eight-span, skew curved viaduct, made from ashlar stone, designed by Robert Murray (of Peebles) and George Cunningham (not of Peebles). It was built as a railway bridge to feed the line into the Neidpath Tunnel, which starts at the Eastern end of the bridge. The bridge opened to traffic in 1864 and closed 90 years later when Beeching took his axe to the railways of the UK.

The aforementioned Cunningham apparently carved his original design for the bridge from a turnip. I will allow you to insert your own root vegetable-themed pun here. Or you may select from the following (£8 each):

  • Swede dreams are made of these
  • Turnip for the books
  • One giant neep for mankind

I know what you are thinking… “that bridge’s castellated features are pleasing to mine eye”. Well, you are in good company – the bridge was deliberately made to look a bit castelly (which is an actual word outside of Game of Thrones) to please the 9th Earl of Wemyss, who lived in the nearby Neidpath Castle at the time of the bridge’s construction (as his descendants still do to this day).

It is now most commonly used by walkers and is the setting for the image on the homepage of this very website.

The vibes

I am pairing this bridge with a tune by the fantastic This Is The Kit, who have been turning out high quality music for years, but only came to my attention very recently. Sit back and enjoy The Turnip, but please also check out “Off Off On”, their most recent album at the time of writing.

The bridge is both the subject of and the viewpoint for some of the most beautiful vistas in Tweed country. The iron railings along the edge of the bridge give it a Victorian grandeur in-keeping with the rumour that the adjacent Neidpath Tunnel was a hiding place for the royal train during WWII while the King and Queen visited the recently bombed town of Clydebank.

But like Bob Dylan, this bridge contains multitudes. And for all its castelly splendour, much of the personality of the bridge comes from its proximity to said tunnel.

The tunnel is nearly half a mile long and follows the curvature of its bridge companion. As a result, once you are round the corner from the entrance, and not yet in sight of the exit, you are shrouded in complete darkness for a good part of the journey through the tunnel.

This makes the tunnel either / both a place of peace or a place of anxiety, depending on the disposition that accompanies you into its cold embrace. I have experienced both, as well as joy when participating in the annual Tweed Valley Tunnel Trail Run, during which the interior sparkles with assorted disco lights and lasers.

I am very fond of this bridge. It is located within 30 minutes walk of my house and I pass it most weekdays in the car as I ferry my kids to and from school. In some ways, it deserves a grander setting. Many of the bridges further downstream are both more accessible and more visible to the casual rambler. But those that do venture into the small notch between South Park Wood and the Jedderfield Plantation are rewarded with a quite unexpected delight.

Each time I have visited this bridge, whether crossing it or walking under it, it has given off an air of strength and superiority, not unlike the British royal family to which it seems to be connected in name if nothing else. There is plenty wrong with the monarchy in this country, but their architectural legacy is not one of them.

You will usually find a smattering of walkers, with or without canine companions, when you spend time at this bridge. There really is no other reason to be there (unless you happen to be counting bridges over the River Tweed) so you are likely to receive a friendly greeting, a smile or at least a nod if you do bump into anyone else upon your visit. I can’t recall anything else ever being the case on my many visits.

I’m writing this blog at the very start of 2021, some 8 months after starting this venture and first formally “bagging” this bridge in April 2020. This has generated a kind of fuzzy nostalgia for the early days of the first COVID-related lockdown. We have just moved back into Tier 4 to cope with a new variant of the virus and it doesn’t feel as fuzzy and warm anymore.

I hope you kept safe during this time and that you continue to do so as you read this and beyond.

The credits

Canmore (Historic Environment Scotland) – link

Neidpath Castle – link

Abandoned Scotland article about the tunnel – link

Railscot website – link