FORTH, a river and firth of the east of Scotland. The river is formed by two head streams, Duchray Water (12 m.) and Avondhu (10 m.), or Laggan as it is called after it leaves Loch Ard, both rising in the north-east of Ben Lomond in Stirlingshire, and uniting 1 m. west of Aberfoyle. From this point till it receives the Kelty, the Forth continues to be a Perthshire stream, but afterwards it becomes the dividing line between the counties of Perth and Stirling as far as the confluence of the Allan. Thence it belongs to Stirlingshire to a point 11 m. due west of Cambus, whence it serves as the boundary between the shires of Stirling and Clackmannan. Owing to the extremely tortuous character of its course between Gartmore and Alloa—the famous “links of the Forth,”—the actual length of the river is 66 m., or nearly double the distance in a direct line (30 m.) between the source of the Duchray and Kincardine, where the firth begins. The river drains an area of 645 sq. m. Its general direction is mainly easterly with a gentle trend towards the south, and the principal tributaries on the left are the Goodie, Teith, Allan and Devon, and on the right, the Kelty, Boquhan and Bannock. The alluvial plain extending from Gartmore to the county town is called the Carse of Stirling. The places of interest on the banks are Aberfoyle, Kippen, Stirling, Cambuskenneth, Alloa and Kincardine, but after it crosses the Highland line the Forth does not present many passages of remarkable beauty. There are bridges at Aberfoyle, Gartmore, Frew, Drip and Stirling (2), besides railway viaducts at Stirling and Alloa, and there are ferries at Stirling (for Cambuskenneth), Alloa (for South Alloa) and Kincardine (for Airth). The tide rises to 41 m. above Stirling, where the river is navigable at high water by vessels of 100 tons. There is, however, a brisk shipping trade at Alloa, where the dock accommodates vessels of at least 300 tons.
The Firth of Forth extends from Kincardine to the North Sea, that is, to an imaginary line drawn, just west of the Isle of May, from the East Neuk of Fife to the mouth of the Tyne in Haddingtonshire—a distance of 48 m. Thus, according to some calculations, the Forth measures from source to sea 114 m. The width of the firth varies from 1 m. at Kincardine and 11 m. at Queensferry to 61 m. at Leith and 171 m. at the mouth. The chief affluents are, on the south, the Carron, Avon, Almond, Leith, Esk and Tyne, and on the north, the Tiel, Leven, Kiel and Dreel. The principal ports on the south shore are Grangemouth, Bo’ness, Granton and Leith, and on the north, Burntisland and Kirkcaldy; but fishery centres and holiday resorts are very numerous on both coasts. Since the opening of the Forth Bridge (see Bridges) in 1890 the ferries at Queensferry and Burntisland have greatly diminished in importance. The fisheries are still considerable, though the oyster trade is dwindling. The larger islands are Inchcolm, with the ruins of an abbey, Inchkeith, with fortifications and a lighthouse, and the Isle of May, with a lighthouse. The anchorage of St Margaret’s Hope, with the naval base of Rosyth, lies off the shore of Fife immediately to the west of the Forth Bridge.
The Forth was the Bodotria of Tacitus and the Scots Water of the chroniclers of the 11th and 12th centuries; while Bede (d. 735) knew the firth as Sinus orientalis (the Eastern Gulf), and Nennius (fl. 796) as Mare Friesicum (the Frisian Sea).