Seven Wonders of Scotland: the public choice

IT WAS once described as the Eighth Wonder of the World - and now the Forth Bridge can lay claim to be the First Wonder of Scotland.

In a massive public ballot, which attracted more than 50,000 votes, readers of The Scotsman selected the triumph of Victorian engineering as their favourite national icon.

Single malt whisky was 100 votes adrift in second place, while Edinburgh Old and New Town came third. Glencoe was fourth and the Prehistoric Treasures of Orkney, championed by broadcaster Lesley Riddoch, came fifth.

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The Seven Wonders of Scotland were completed by the kilt and the light and the sky.

Representatives of all the winning wonders collected certificates to mark their success at a ceremony at The Scotsman office in Edinburgh last night, ending a two-month campaign which captured the public's imagination.

Iona and the Cuillin of Skye both made it into the top seven during the voting period but were squeezed out when the final tally was added up. More than 84 per cent of votes were cast online, from Scotsman readers across the country and by expats all over the world.

John McGurk, editor of The Scotsman, said: "This has been a magnificent project which opened up a great debate about the wonder of Scotland. The number of votes and enthusiastic response both indicate a genuine interest in the many wonders our nation has to offer."

Shonaig Macpherson, chairman of the National Trust for Scotland - The Scotsman's partner in the campaign - said: "The Seven Wonders project has shown people in Scotland are passionate about what is great about our nation. At the NTS we are delighted Glencoe, which we have owned for over 70 years, has been voted in the top seven. It encapsulates so much of what we are about - caring for Scotland's natural and cultural heritage. This has been a fantastic way to mark the Trust's 75th anniversary."

Scott McCombie, an NTS ranger at Glencoe, collected its award. City council leader Donald Anderson accepted Edinburgh's certificate, while Grant Cairncross received the whisky award on behalf of John Wheeler, lead singer in the band Hayseed Dixie, who were playing a concert in Memphis. Kilt champion Howie Nicholsby was away for Tartan Week, but designed an outfit for Gavin Smith who collected the prize. Dan Hillier, of the Royal Observatory of Edinburgh, received the award on behalf of the light and the sky.

Each of the 30 shortlisted wonders was championed by a public figure arguing passionately for their choice. They included Sir Alex Ferguson on the ships of Glasgow, David Bellamy on Scotland's wildlife and Margo Macdonald on Arthur's Seat.

Alex Salmond, SNP leader and champion for the Forth Bridge, collected the award on behalf of the winning wonder. In the souvenir Seven Wonders magazine today, he explains why he thinks it came out on top. He says: "The Forth Bridge reaches deep into the Scottish psyche; most of the things it touches are strong and positive. It represents glory on a grand scale and stands impervious to time and the elements - a reminder of a golden age when all was possible if the country dared to dream."

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Mr Salmond also says the bridge has "something of the blood price about it" because of the death of so many of the 'briggers' who built it. He says: "Latest estimates suggest 79 paid the supreme price during its construction. When I was at school, the generally accepted figure was 57, still a memorably large figure for a bridge whose colour resembles that of dried blood."

Tom Devine, one of Scotland's leading historians, says the choice of the Seven Wonders suggests our hearts are still very much in the Highlands. Writing in the magazine, he explains: "The Highlands are over-represented. Glencoe, not surprisingly, is listed. But Kathleen Jamie, in her essay on light and sky, paid special attention to the places 'where the sky is vast as on Orkney or the Hebridean Islands', while John Wheeler draws on Highland imagery to support his case for whisky: 'Single malt whisky is Scotland in a bottle' ... which brings to mind 'the rugged landscape, the mist from the sea blowing across peat-covered hills'. The strong support for the kilt with its Highland connotations is also striking. There is no evidence of hostility to tartan kitsch here."

He concludes: "Apparently for many modern Scots, as for Victorian ancestors, their hearts are still in the Highlands."

Hundreds of votes were cast for wonders not on our shortlist, with supporters of Gaelic language and culture and the Falkirk Wheel especially angry about their exclusion. There was also strong support for bagpipes, the Standing Stones of Callanish, the music and poetry of Burns and lighthouses.

How you voted

1 The Forth Bridge - 3,247 votes

2 Single malt whisky - 3,124

3 Edinburgh Old and New Town - 2,790

4 Glencoe - 2,582

5 Prehistoric treasures of Orkney - 2,286

6 The kilt - 2,155

7 The light and sky - 2,137

8 The Cuillin of Skye - 1,905

9 Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park - 1,870

10 Iona - 1,867

11 The Scots tongue - 1,761

12 Scots sense of humour - 1,713

13 Fingal's Cave and Staffa - 1,600

14 Scotland's literature - 1,599

15= Golf - 1,580

15= Rosslyn Chapel - 1,580

17 The ancient Caledonian Pine Forest - 1,550

18 The Scottish enlightenment - 1,538

19 Ben Nevis - 1,437

20 Scotland's wildlife - 1,423

21 The Edinburgh festivals - 1,377

22 Arthur's Seat & Salisbury Crags - 1,190

23 The Caledonian Canal - 1,163

24 The architecture of Charles Rennie Mackintosh - 1,160

25 Dolly the sheep/Scottish inventiveness - 1,087

26 The Border Abbeys - 943

27 St Kilda - 941

28 The ships of Glasgow - 836

29 New Lanark - 608

30 The Scottish Parliament - 497

Almost 750 votes were cast for wonders not on our shortlist.