A bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland: Is there any hope it could happen?

A bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland

Fancy a drive from the Emerald Isle to Scotland and back?

Reports have resurfaced that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson may wish to build a bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland in an unprecedented move.

In documents discovered by Channel 4, the British Government was seeking advice from government officials on how best to plan for the construction of this audacious bridge.

Two potential routes have been established where the gap between the North and Scotland may be bridged.

The first would be from Torr Head in County Antrim to Mull of Kintyre in Scotland, or from the town of Larne in County Antrim to Portpatrick, Galloway.

The bridge would span at least 30 km (around 20 miles), falling just short of the award for the longest sea bridge in the world. This award is held by the Hong Kong Zhuhai-Macau bridge, which is around 48.3 km (30 miles) long.


Plans for a bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland stirs some concerns
Credit: Flickr / Chatham House

The proposals for the bridge have received limited support. The DUP are the only party to have supported the idea, while other main parties, such as Sinn Féin and the SDLP, have described the idea as a fantasy. They have been rubbished by most and are plagued by structural difficulties and common sense.

For example, there are major concerns around an area known as Beaufort’s Dyke, a deep submarine trench in the Irish Sea where more than one million tonnes of British weapons, including WWII munitions, have been dumped. This is only a few miles off the coast of Galloway, where the bridge will be expected to cross.

Engineers have further questioned the nature of the Irish Sea and its suitability for a project of this nature. Chris Wise, the engineering designer of 2012 Olympics velodrome warned about estimating costs when, at this stage, no one knows what exactly is to be built.

Estimated costs

A bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland would be expensive

With that said, the bridge is estimated to cost between at least £15 billion to connect Torr Head and Mill of Kintyre, and £20 billion to connect Larne and Portpatrick, with further costs needed to expand and improve the roads around the bridge, which will take many years to build.

Problems arise from the bridge’s connection to the main cities in the North of Ireland and Scotland. Larne is 34 kms (22.4 miles) from Belfast, while Portpatrick is 152.8 kms (92 miles) from Glasgow and 214 kms (133 miles) from Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh.

There are also concerns that the economic benefits stemming from the bridge will not come close to the cost in constructing it. Dr Esmond Birnie of the Ulster University bemoaned the plan and put forward the idea that the money could be better used upgrading existing infrastructure.

Our advice: Don’t get your hopes up

Map of British Isles

As nice as it would be to drive from the Emerald Isle to Scotland, you had better hold off on filling the car tank. The idea of a bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland is unlikely to ever materialise, leaving you with the age-old options of either flying or taking the boat to one of our nearest neighbours.  

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