Looking upstream (north) along the Tay from the centre of Perth
|Mouth||Firth of Tay|
|Length||120 miles (193 km)|
|Avg. discharge||170 m³/s|
|Basin area||4970 km²|
The River Tay (Gaelic: Tatha) originates in the Highlands and flows down through Strathtay (see Strath), in the centre of Scotland, through Perth and into the Firth of Tay, south of Dundee. It is the longest river in Scotland and the seventh-longest in the United Kingdom. It is the largest river in the UK by volume of discharge. Its catchment is approximately 2000 square miles (the Tweed's is 1,500 square miles (3,900 km2) and the Spey's is 1097 square miles).
The Tay, a famous salmon river, rises in the Highlands and flows down into the centre of Scotland through Perth and Dundee. It is the longest river in Scotland and the seventh longest in the UK. The Tay drains much of the lower region of the Highlands, its source being high on the slopes of Beinn Laoigh. The source is only c. 20 miles (c. 32 km) from the west coast town of Oban, in Argyll and Bute. The Tay flows through Perth and Kinross to the Firth of Tay and the North Sea, some 100 miles (160 km) to the east. The river has a variety of names in its upper catchment: for the first few miles the river is known as the River Connonish; then it is called the River Fillan; and then the name changes again to the River Dochart until it flows into Loch Tay at Killin. The River Tay emerges from Loch Tay at Kenmore, Perth and Kinross, and flows from there to Perth which, in historical times, was the lowest bridging point of the river. Below Perth the river becomes tidal and enters the Firth of Tay. The largest city on the river, Dundee, lies on the north bank of the Firth.
The 995recorded flow of 2269 m3/s was recorded on 17 January 1993, when the river rose 6.48 metres above its usual level at Perth, and caused extensive flooding in the city. Were it not for the hydro-electric schemes upstream which impounded runoff, the peak would have been considerably higher. The highest ever flood at Perth occurred in 1814, when the river rose 7 m above the usual level, partly caused by a blockage of ice under the Smeaton's Bridge. Other severe flood events occurred in 1210 and 1648 when earlier bridges over the Tay at Perth were destroyed.
In the 19th century the Tay Rail Bridge was built across the Firth at Dundee as part of the East Coast Main Line, which linked Aberdeen in the north with Edinburgh and, eventually, London to the south. On 28 December 1879 the bridge collapsed as a train passed over it. The entire train fell into the Firth, with the loss of 75 passengers and train crew. The event was 'immortalised' in a poem, The Tay Bridge Disaster, written by William McGonagall, a notoriously unskilled scottish poet. The critical response to his article was enhanced because he had previously written two poems celebrating the strength and certain immortality of the Tay Rail Bridge. A. J. Cronin's first novel, Hatter's Castle (1931), includes a scene involving the Tay Bridge Disaster, and the 1942 filmed version of the book recreates the bridge's catastrophic collapse.
Several places along the Tay take their names from it, or are believed to have done so:
Until 18 August 1966 a passenger and vehicle ferry service across the River Tay operated between Craigie Pier, Dundee and Tayport, Fife. The service was discontinued upon the opening of the Tay Road Bridge. Three vessels latterly operated the service - the PS B. L. Nairn (a Paddle Steamer) and the two more modern ferries MV Abercraig and MV Scotscraig (equipped with Voith Schneider Propellers). The ferry service was popularly known in Dundee as "the Fifie".
Furthermore the German poet Theodor Fontane has mentioned the Tay in his poem Die Brück' am Tay.
It is also mentioned in the Steeleye Span song "The Royal Forester".
Many Rolls-Royce civil aero-engines are named after British rivers, one of which is the Rolls-Royce Tay.