From Roader's Digest: The SABRE Wiki
|From:||Cromarty, Black Isle (Cromartyshire) (NH785676)|
|To:||Braemore Junction, Wester Ross (Ross-shire) (NH208776)|
|Length:||114.5 miles (184.3 km)|
|Meets:||A9, A835, A862, A835, A890, A896, A835|
|Now part of:||A835|
|Route outline (key)|
The A832 is, without a doubt, one of Britain's finest roads. What it may lack in quality of engineering, it more than makes up with some of the best mountain, moorland and ocean views that Britain has to offer. It is also one of Britain's few true coast to coast roads. As far as I know, it is the longest road in Britain that remains in a single county (Ross and Cromarty) for its entire length (126 miles). Those 126 miles also make it the longest 3 digit A road in Scotland and the fifth longest in Britain. Unlike the four roads longer than it (the A361, A470, A483 and A487), it is almost entirely non primary; the only green signs one sees on its route are on the 9 miles where it multiplexes with the A835 near Garve.
Section 1: Cromarty - Kinlochewe.
Cromarty is situated on the tip of the Black Isle, at the mouth of the Cromarty Firth. It is possibly one of the Highlands' best preserved historic towns. It has managed to keep its character without giving in completely to the antique shops and tea rooms which are so prevalent in other towns of this type. The town was the birthplace of Hugh Miller, the geologist, and his 17th century cottage is preserved by the NTS (Scottish National Trust). This area is also famous for the dolphins, which are common along this stretch of coast.
The A832 begins its journey at the harbour, from where one can catch the car ferry across the bay to Nigg. Running briefly down Bank Street and the High Street, the A832 begins its run out of town along Denny Road. Initially, it crosses flat, fertile land but after about four miles, it starts to climb gently towards Janefield. Turning south, it runs through the 'Fairy Glen' into the small village of Rosemarkie. As you enter the village, you pass the Groam House Museum, which contains a fine collection of Pictish stones found in the area. From here, one can also see the historic castle of Fort George across on the other side of the Moray Firth. Fortrose is a mile further on, and the road goes straight past the partially ruined Fortrose Cathedral. It was built in the mid 13th century, and only a small portion of the original building remains standing. Constructed of red sandstone, it is, nevertheless, an impressive sight. The next section runs alongside the Moray Firth and, if you're lucky, it's possible to see dolphins swimming in the water. After passing through Avoch, the road runs inland again, and the roundabout with the A9 and the A835, at Tore, is reached shortly thereafter.
After taking the second exit off the roundabout, the A832 drifts westwards. Mostly running inland, we catch a brief glance of Beauly Firth, just west of Milton. Passing through Muir of Ord, there is a brief multiplex, near the station, with the A862 (the old A9) as the road passes over the Inverness to Wick railway line. Heading west out of Muir of Ord, we leave the Black Isle behind us. We pass the Glen Ord distillery on the edge of Muir of Ord, and the road then heads back out into the countryside. On a clear day, one can see the hills, of Glen Orrin and Strathconon, in the distance from here. After passing through Urray and into Marybank, there is a sharp right hand turn in what passes for the middle of Marybank. A mile further on, the narrow Moy bridge carries the road over the River Conon. At the T-junction with the A835, the A832 heads west again. It multiplexes with the A835 for about nine miles past Contin, the Rogie Falls and Garve, before the junction at Gorstan, where the roads diverge. While only 19 miles to Braemore Junction along the A835, it's 88 via the A832!
Following the path of the Inverness to Kyle railway line, the A832 now runs through Strath Bran and into Wester Ross. The first section, to Lochluichart, is mostly through light woodland. After passing the turn for the small road up to Loch Fannich, the scenery begins to open up a bit, but it is not until the road passes Achanalt that one gets the wide open views associated with this area. The road itself is of pretty good quality on the stretch between Gorstan and Achnasheen. It is now S2, has decent sightlines, is fairly straight and it is therefore possible to drive along it at about 50mph. Nevertheless, as one approaches Achnasheen, it is still a surprise to see streetlights in the village.A890 continuing to follow the railway towards Kyle of Lochalsh. Leaving the railway and the village behind, the road climbs gently away from the roundabout. After a short run through a lovely, wooded glade, the road emerges on the banks of Loch a Chroisg. Thanks to recent upgrade works, the quality of the road on this section is dramatically improved, and now a fast S2, surrounded by magnificent scenery. Leaving the loch behind, the road begins to climb up to the 'pass' of 815 feet. Hemmed in by steep hills on both sides, the road winds gently uphill. The summit is also the watershed and, on a clear day, there are tremendous views of Beinn Eighe, Slioch and Loch Maree. As one descend through Glen Docharty, picturesque village of Kinlochewe comes into view ahead. The junction with the A896 Torridon Road (formerly the B858) is in the middle of the village, but the A832 continues straight on towards Loch Maree and Gairloch.
Section 2: Kinlochewe - Gairloch.
Carrying on as S2, the road is relatively straight and flat. The Beinn Eighe (The Peak) Visitor Centre is about two miles northwest of Kinlochewe. This area is home to many types of rare wildlife such as eagles, as well as many uncommon types of plants and vegetation. The ancient Caledonian pines seen from the road here provide an unbroken link dating back to the end of the last Ice Age 8,000 years ago.About a mile further, the road reaches the southern end of Loch Maree. This loch is, without a doubt, one of the finest lochs in Scotland, and if not for some of the wonderful views further on, would undoubtedly be the highlight of this entire road. For many travellers, it is the highlight! It is a fresh-water lake and reputed to be Queen Victoria's favourite.
Running in a south-easterly to northwesterly direction, the lake has a length of 13 miles from Kinlochewe to the short but impetuous river Ewe, by which it drains to the sea. It lies at a height of only 32 feet above sea-level with a greatest width of just over 2 miles at Slattadale and greatest depth of 367 ft. A remarkable feature is the large number (more than 30) and considerable area of the islands. With the exception of Loch Crocach, a small lake near Lochinver in Sutherland, its insularity (i.e. the ratio of the total area of the islands to that of the water surface) is higher than that of any other lake in Great Britain, Loch Lomond coming next. Nearly all the islands lie north and east of Slattadale, the largest being Eilean Subhainn, or St Swithin's Isle, which contains a small lake 750 feet long, 300 feet wide and 64 feet deep. For two-thirds of its length the loch is flanked by magnificent mountains. On the north-east the principal heights are Ben Slioch (3217 ft.), which dominates the landscape, Ben Lair (2817) and Ben Airidh-a-Char (2503), and, on the south-west, the peaks of Beinn an Eoin, four of which exceed 3,000 ft.
Running north along the shore, the road is enclosed by trees on both sides, with occasional glimpses of the loch. Another five miles or so brings us past the Loch Maree Hotel, where Queen Victoria stayed in September 1877. The falls, a mile further up the road, were renamed in her honour at the same time, and a plaque to commemorate the visit is situated by the hotel. The road now peels away from the loch and starts to climb again. It also narrows again to S1P, and remains like this to the junction at Kerrysdale, with the B8056 to Badachro and Redpoint. Now S2 again, the road is nevertheless of very poor quality into Gairloch, and there is no scenery on this bit to compensate for it. While there may be no spectacular views to be had, there is a very pretty golf course, that looks out on to the loch, just after passing Charlestown. Once in Gairloch, there is the unexpected sight of a very unnecessary double yellow line just by the junction for the Melvaig road! Just down that road lies the Gairloch Heritage Museum, which covers many aspects of the history of the area, including archaeological finds, a croft house room, schoolroom, shop, and the interior of the local lighthouse, as well as an archive and library.
Section 3: Gairloch - Braemore Junction
Leaving Gairloch, and now heading northeast, the road climbs out gently through a rocky landscape. The road is now S2 all the way to Braemore Junction. After a couple of miles, and emerging back out on the moorland, the road heads towards Loch Tollie and Poolewe. On a clear day, it is worth stopping to take in the views. To the west, there are fine views across the Inner Sound towards the Trotternish Range in northern Skye, and one can see the hills and mountains in every other direction. After running along the edge of Loch Tollie, there are some more small wooded portions of the road, as well as moorland. As the road heads towards Poolewe, it runs alongside the River Ewe for the last mile before the village.
Poolewe, standing at the head of the Loch Ewe, is famous for its salmon, but more especially for Inverewe Gardens, a mile to the north. These gardens are truly remarkable. The sheer audacity of Osgood Mackenzie's vision in creating this outstanding 50 acre garden, impressively set on a peninsula on the shore of Loch Ewe, is still astonishing today. Plants from the Himalayas, New Zealand, Chile, Australia and South Africa flourish on a latitude more northerly than Moscow's. Combining to give a colourful display throughout the year, this mix of woodland gardens and semi-tropical plants are a testament to the soothing effects of the warm Gulf Stream, as well as to the brilliance of Mackenzie's original concept. The garden, created by Mackenzie, was started in the 1860s and his work was carried on by his daughter. She gave the entire 2,000 acre Inverewe estate to the NTS in 1953.
Still heading north, the A832 climbs and falls to reach Loch Thurnaig and Tournaig. The road then heads uphill high onto a hillside with some lovely views over Loch Ewe. There is a particularly lovely view from a car park, about a mile to the north of Tournaig village. The road then meanders for about two miles in an attempt to stay reasonably level. Just before Drumchork, there is a short descent through a hairpin bend. After passing Drumchork, it's about half a mile until the outskirts of Aultbea are reached. [[History|Loch Ewe and its villages were of great strategic importance in both world wars, but more specifically in World War II. Partly because it is north-facing (and therefore protected from the prevailing westerly winds), the loch was less exposed to air attack than the base at Scapa Flow in Orkney. It was utilised as a gathering place for convoys heading to Russia and across the Atlantic. As well as anti-submarine boom nets, anti-submarine guard loops and mines were used across the mouth of the loch, while anti-aircraft guns and a coastal defence artillery site also defended the area.}} Beyond Aultbea, the A832 runs along the path of one of the 'Destitution Roads', built during the famines of the late 1840s. This one, from Aultbea to Dingwall, was completed in 1851. As a consequence, there are still some very steep hills and sharp bends on the last thirty miles towards Braemore, despite the road having been improved in the '70s and '80s.For the next three or four miles, the road drifts across moorland, but as it approaches Laide, there are some fine views of Gruinard Bay, and on a fine day, one can see the hills of Coigach too. Skirting the southern side of Laide, it climbs up through the strangely named settlements of First Coast and Second Coast. Twisting along the edge of the bay, the road descends steeply to Little Gruinard, before crossing the Inverianvie River. The road passes through more scrubland before crossing the Gruinard River, after which there is a small patch of woodland. Just after passing the jetty beside Gruinard House, there are glimpses over to Gruinard Island.
Leaving the coast for a while, the road deteriorates in quality and climbs up eastwards towards the woodland at the top of the 585 foot Druim nam Fuath. Following Allt Mhungasdail (the Mungasdale Brook), this is a gentle interlude before what may be some of the grandest scenery that Britain has to offer. There is a car park from where there are some truly superb views of Little Loch Broom and the mountains. The road then slowly descends through the small settlements of Badcaul and Badbea, where it joins the southern bank of Little Loch Broom. Again, there are some tremendous views on this stretch of road, with the old passing places now being used as lay-bys. The views of the loch, Sail Mhor and the peaks of An Teallach make this a road to savour. Running east along the loch, we pass the Ardessie Falls and Camusnagaul to reach the end of the loch at Dundonnell.
Just after the Dundonnell Hotel, there is a little car park. This is the the place to stop if you wish to walk up towards the hills of An Teallach. An Teallach is a strong contender for the title of Britain's best mountain. As with Liathach, the mountain is composed of sandstone, and different weathering rates produces a ridge of pinnacles that mountaineers love. An Teallach has two Munros, and is also situated near the coast which enhances the views on clear days. This, however, also means that the mountain takes the full force of Atlantic storms. Despite the coastal location, the mountain rises to nearly 3500ft and this far north, snow can fall at any time of the year. It is worth stopping here just to see the tiny loch of 'Toll an Lochain', which is about 2000 feet above sea level and situated underneath the great cliffs of Sgurr Fiona. A word of warning though! The inexperienced should be careful though as there have been fatalities on the mountain, particularly in descents. Many climbers just visit Bidean a Ghlas Thuill (the summit) and Sgurr Fiona, and thus miss out the harder parts of the mountain. The Dundonnell Mountain Rescue Team cover this area, and in an emergency, they can be called out through the police. Use the normal emergency numbers, 999 or 112, rather than calling the team directly though.
The road now enters Strath Beag and follows the Dundonnell River inland. After passing Dundonnell House, the road starts to climb again. It first passes through a stretch of heavily wooded land, but after passing another waterfall, the road runs through the rocky Dundonnell Gorge. Still climbing, the scenery opens out on your left hand side, while remaining thickly wooded on your right. Passing waterfalls every mile or so, the road is of a surprisingly good quality on this section despite all the bends. As the road crosses the 1110 foot Fain Summit, there are more great views of the surrounding hills. Drifting downhill towards Braemore, the scenery is the usual mix of moorland and scrubby woods but there is one last surprise in store. The Corrieshalloch Gorge National Nature Reserve fills the hollow between the A832 and the A835, just before Braemore Junction. This spectacular mile-long gorge is 200 feet deep, and is one of the finest examples in Britain of a box canyon. The river which carved this channel through hard rock plunges 150 feet over the Falls of Measach. The suspension bridge, a little way downstream from the falls, was built by John Fowler (1817-98), who also designed the Forth Railway Bridge. Further downstream, a viewing platform provides an excellent viewpoint looking up towards the waterfall.
Just after the gorge, the A832 finally reaches its terminus of Braemore Junction. Here you used to have the extraordinary sign facing you of Ullapool A835 to the left, and Inverness Wick A835 A832 to the right. I'd lstill ove to know why the A832 was not in brackets on that sign! As remarked earlier, it is however only 19 miles, from here to Gorstan, if one takes the A835, rather than the 88 miles via Gairloch! That sign is shown below.
Overall, despite the sinuous nature of much of this road, it is, without a doubt, one of the finest in Britain. If you get the chance, it is well worth a trip, either driving or cycling.
|Distance (m)||(km)|| Name
|18||29||Tore Roundabout (A9 A835)|
|24||40||Muir of Ord (A862)|
|29||47||Wester Moy (A835)|
|72||119||Loch Maree Hotel|
|126||202||Braemore Junction (A835)|
Original Author(s): Graham Mackay
Then, when the roads were being renumbered in 1935 the original proposal was to turn the A832 into a major coastal route, taking in (part of) the routes of the A835, A837, A894, A838, A836 and A882 to finally reach the re-routed A9 at John o'Groats. Unfortunately, this rather mad idea was turned down with a curt 'No', and instead the route was extended eastwards along the former A833 to Cromarty.
The A835 originally started on the A832 in Gorstan and therefore the A832 did not originally have the gap it does now. The A835 became the dominant partner in the multiplex when the road was extended east in the 1970s.