Thousands of people have walked across the new 1.7-mile Queensferry Crossing over the Firth of Forth in Scotland.
The pedestrians were granted the “once-in-a-lifetime experience” of walking across the new road bridge in a ballot.
Built at a cost of £1.35bn, the bridge will be formally opened by the Queen on Monday, 53 years to the day after she opened its predecessor, the Forth Road Bridge.
The new crossing, which opened to traffic on 30 August, was closed to vehicles in preparation for the celebrations.
The Queensferry Crossing Experience ballot attracted almost 250,000 applicants, with 50,000 given the one-off chance to cross the bridge on foot on Saturday and Sunday.
The bridge will host up to 10,000 local school pupils and community representatives on Tuesday.
The new crossing will have no pedestrian access when it reopens to traffic on 7 September.
The first of the successful ballot winners to make the journey set off under blue skies at 9am led by Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and the transport minister, Humza Yousaf.
One of the first to cross from north to south was 16-year-old Morgan Lewis-Wilson, one of three generations of his family from East Lothian who were taking part in the experience.
“I ran the second half and I was one of the first people to finish north to south. It was a really amazing atmosphere coming in first with the saltire over my shoulders,” he said. “It was just brilliant.”
Shauna Killen, from Anstruther in Fife, who was taking part with her family, said: “It was absolutely fantastic, I got quite emotional coming across it. It was wonderful and I’m really pleased to have done it.
“I applied for the kids really; it was just so amazing to watch it being built over the last few years and just to be a part of it today was a once-in-a-lifetime experience so hopefully they will remember it for a long time.”
Derek Green, who also took part in the walk, said: “I’ve watched this new structure take shape over the past few years. The atmosphere on the bridge was amazing. It was really relaxed, no one was hurrying us along. We were able to take photos, enjoy the views and marvel at the engineering.”
Green said he was looking forward to crossing again: “I’ll definitely be using the Queensferry Crossing once it reopens to traffic.”
Melanie Freeland, from Polmont, who took part with her two young daughters, said: “The bridge is awe-inspiring. It felt very special to be getting a view of the scale and magnificence that not many people will be lucky enough to experience.
“It stands beside the other bridges as an impressive engineering feat. I think it speaks to the ambition of Scotland and really helps to put us on the map.”
Freeland, whose grandfather was one of the engineers involved in building the Forth Road Bridge, added: “Getting some photos today with my children in the foreground and the FRB in the background was also quite special.”
Before the celebrations began, Sturgeon said: “Excitement has been building steadily in recent weeks as we have watched this hugely ambitious project near completion. It’s only right that the public get the chance of an up close and personal look at this amazing structure so they can see the stunning engineering and views for themselves.
“Walking across the new Queensferry Crossing will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, before it is officially opened to traffic and pedestrian access continues on the Forth Road Bridge. I look forward to joining some of the 50,000 people lucky enough to participate in this unique opportunity.”
Yousaf said the structure was expected to become a tourist attraction. “There has been interest from all around the globe and events this weekend can only serve to heighten that enthusiasm further,” he said.
“While motorists will see immediate benefits from the bridge being open to traffic, work is under way to ensure the location is marketed as a leading destination for tourists and locals alike.”
The new bridge will initially have a 40mph speed limit and will take all traffic across the firth while the Forth Road Bridge closes for transition work, during which time it will be open to cyclists and pedestrians only.
Once that work is completed, the Queensferry Crossing will become a motorway with a 70mph speed limit.