Dingwall Environment

Ross and Cromarty Heritage Society is grateful to Philip and Edith Blake for permission to use their photographs to illustrate the story of  the provision of a footbridge across Dingwall canal in memory of their son James.

Watch the video of James' Bridge being lowered into position at the bottom of this page.

James' Bridge

Unlike Venice, Dingwall has few bridges crossing expanses of water.  The oldest one, a small, stone bridge spanning the River Peffery at the west end of the town, and rejoicing in the name of Robert's bridge  was built by the Munros of Foulis in the 16th century and included the Munro crest on one wall..  In living memory, a rough track ran from East Lodge to the bridge situated beside West Lodge, both on Tulloch Estate.  The bridge was replaced by a 20th century one when a tarmac road was created leading to Dingwall Academy and the council houses erected in what had been Tulloch wood.  The only reference to its origins is on a plaque on a house at the entrance to Burns Crescent.

A second structure, Peter's bridge, traversed the canal at its Tulloch Street end and carried the A9 road until it transferred to the route across the three firths - Beauly, Cromarty and Dornoch.  The name was given in recognition of Peter Reid, factor to Davidson of Tulloch, because of his role in supervising its building. At one stage the original bridge was widened to accommodate modern traffic but the name remains to honour Peter Reid.

Since December 2019 the town has had James' bridge

James Blake was a much loved young man who died in February 2019.  He and his wife Sarah lived near the former harbour at the end of what was once Dingwall's canal.   The canal fell into disuse in the 1880s but since that time its banks have been  popular walkways for townsfolk and with the provision of a footbridge at the harbour end it was possible to have an extended, circular walk.  This was something James and Sarah loved to do ...... 

...... until Highland Council closed the footbridge in 2017 and indicated that budgetary restrictions  precluded early replacement.of the structure.

Two years passed and the impasse remained, until the Blake family stepped in and offered the community a new bridge in memory of James.  His father, Philip, was at the helm of the project, in collaboration with Dingwall Community Council.

The approaches to the old bridge were overgrown and not particularly attractive, and much work would require to be done to prepare the site for easy access to machinery involved in removal and replacement.

Removal of trees, for example, required liaison with the council's wildlife officer to ensure that the work would not disturb bats, birds or a hearby otter holt.

Permission was obtained from Scottish Water to create a secure base for the very large crane that would be required to remove the old bridge and replace it with the new one. Part of the work involved felling some trees and clearing the site, and in this Dingwall Sawmill staff and tree surgeon Simon Logan participated, returning later to replace the rotten fence along the canal.

Local contractor Garry Bain created the crane pad and cleaned the ditches, as well as preparing the road corner for the delivery lorry.

In due course Stoddart Cranes arrived with their impressive lifting gear.

The arrival of the new bridge from CTS Bridges, Huddersfield.  [Photo courtesy of the Editor of The Ross-shire Journal.]

The driver's manoeuvring of his load is something to be applauded.

As dawn was breaking on a December morning the cables were in place around the old bridge.

Ready for lift-off.


With the old bridge removed, attention was given to the supports.

The old bridge having been laid on the hardcore base, the new structure was craned off the lorry ....

.... and within three hours the new bridge was in place.

Some finishing touches were made.

James' bridge was now in place. 

An open invitation was given to the community of Dingwall to attend the dedication of the bridge on 14 December 2019 and a large, appreciative crowd arrived.

oooooo When am I going to get my walk?

Philip Blake addressed the crowd and proceeded to dedicate the bridge to James' memory.

He urged everyone to use it and enjoy the freedom it gives.

A piper played.

People began to cross the new bridge ......

...... and to view it from all angles.

The day ended with a winter sun setting on James' bridge.

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