Forth Bridges focus for Lothians Homecoming 2014

First Minister Alex Salmond and school pupils get the 2014 message out to the world. 'Picture: Neil Hanna

First Minister Alex Salmond and school pupils get the 2014 message out to the world. 'Picture: Neil Hanna

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THE iconic Forth bridges will become the focal point of a year-long celebration of Scottish culture.

The packed schedule for Scotland’s second Year of Homecoming was unveiled yesterday, and events linked to the famous bridges spanned the tourism drive which is expected to bring a healthy influx of visitors to the Edinburgh area and pump some £44 million into the national economy.

September’s Forth Bridges Festival will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Forth Road Bridge, with thousands of visitors and local people invited onto the bridge on Sunday September 7 to enjoy a parade across the structure.

Simultaneously, a flotilla of boats will gather in the Forth and there will be a special air display overhead, including a reunion of the Golden Lions Scottish Infantry Parachute Display Team.

Other highlights of the spectacular include a torchlit procession across the bridge, a Forth bridges art trail, and an attempt to set a world record for the largest sit-down lunch.

The festival will conclude on Saturday September 13 with a fireworks display.

In the weeks leading up to the festival, up to 2014 members of the public will be given a one-off opportunity to climb to the top of the bridge’s main towers.

Malcolm Brown, chairman of Queensferry Ambition, is delighted the bridges are at the centre of a heavily cash backed drive.

He said: “The Forth bridges are an iconic symbol of the Queensferry communities. They can be viewed as a gateway to the Highlands, Edinburgh or to literally every other part of Scotland.

“Therefore, it is appropriate that the Forth Bridges Festival will form a key element of Homecoming 2014 and will give local communities, businesses and visitors a number of great opportunities to join in the celebrations.”

First Minister Alex Salmond joined a group of schoolchildren at Hopetoun House in South Queensferry to launch the first phase of the Homecoming 2104 programme.

Mr Salmond said: “Scotland is preparing to welcome the world during our second Year of Homecoming in 2014. Next year, people from all across the globe with Scottish connections – and those without – will come to our country to celebrate with friends and family and enjoy the huge programme of events.

“Fantastic expressions of culture, such as Europe’s biggest brass band festival will sit alongside the exciting commemorations of the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn and a variety of celebrations of Scotland’s heritage, history and food and drink in a 12 month schedule that truly does offer something for everyone in every corner of the country.”

Other events include a festival celebrating the life of East Lothian conservationist John Muir, a conference on the Scottish diaspora and the display of a tapestry depicting the experience of migrant Scots.

The year-long celebration, timed to complement Scotland’s two major sporting events next year – the Ryder Cup and Commonwealth Games – is expected to give the Scottish economy a £44m boost.

International orienteering will be brought to the streets of Edinburgh and Stirling and to the forests of Deeside in the Race the Castles event in October, when the sport’s British and Commonwealth championships will be run alongside mass-participation courses suitable for all ages.

The Celtic Revival in Scotland project promises a diverse series of lively, high-profile artistic, musical, and cultural events between March and May in the Capital.

The project focuses on the legacy of the late 19th and early 20th centuries when Scotland witnessed an artistic renaissance known as the Scottish Celtic Revival.

Lottery fund puts £1.3m towards celebrating Edinburgh icons

TWO projects in the Capital are set for a huge financial boost after the Heritage Lottery Fund dished out £1.3 million.

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) has been awarded £708,700 to help rebuild the 18th century Botanic Cottage (pictured).

From 1764 to 1821, the cottage was the “gateway” to the previous RBGE site on Leith Walk but was taken down “stone by stone” in 2008 to save it from demolition.

RBGE’s regius keeper, Professor Stephen Blackmore, said: “When the Botanic Cottage follows us to Inverleith, almost two centuries after we moved from Leith Walk, it will become the centrepiece of our rapidly expanding programme of voluntary and education activities helping to transform out public engagement. The award is wonderful news for the Botanics.”

Our Dynamic Earth in Holyrood was awarded £622,800 to create a gallery about five geologists with Scottish connections whose work has shaped the understanding of the world’s landscape.

It will focus on the work of James Hutton, an Edinburgh farmer and naturalist recognised as the father of modern geology.

Professor Stuart Monro, scientific director at the attraction, said: “I think it’s [Hutton’s life] an important story that the people of Edinburgh and the people of Scotland need to hear a little more about.”