From Roader's Digest: The SABRE Wiki
Drochaid an Baile a'Chaolais
|From :||South Ballachulish|
|To :||North Ballachulish|
|On road :||A82|
|Location Map (geohack)|
For centuries, ferries had plied the narrows of Loch Leven between North and South Ballachulish. The existence of the Loch Leven and Ballachulish Hotels is evidence enough for this, but on top of that we have the slipways, queuing space and Old Ferry Road on the northern shore.
Until c1914, there was no other way to cross the loch, except the ancient and decrepit Old Military Road from Kingshouse on Rannoch Moor to Fort William, but before and during the First World War, the new road round Loch Leven (now B863) was built. This, in later years, offered motorists an alternative to the lengthy summer queues for the ferries.
The first vehicle ferries to serve were simple rowing boats, with two planks balanced across the middle. The car was driven onto these planks from the slipway, with the boat side onto the slip, and carefully balanced before the boat was rowed across to the opposite shore. This must have been particularly difficult with the tides, as heading north an outgoing tide would push them away from the slip, and heading south the incoming tide would cause the same problem.
Later the ferries grew larger, gaining engines and could carry two cars at a time. They were still, however, little more than converted rowing boats. By the 1960s, the ferries, now able to carry 6 cars at a time, were becoming overstretched in the summer season, and boards marking queuing times had been established on either shore. Generally speaking, if the queue stretched back past the 'half hour' board, it was quicker to drive round.
By the 1970s there appear to have been 3 ferries on the crossing. The Glen Loy, Glenachulish (now serving on Glenelg - Kylerhea Ferry and the Appin Chief, although the last was probably the relief vessel. The first two were both turntable ferries, where the vehicles loaded nose in, then the deck was spun around, apparently simply by a couple of blokes giving it a good shove, before the ferry sailed. This way the cars were nose-out upon arrival. There was, of course, a brake to prevent the deck spinning during the crossing!
In 1937 the ferry charged from 2/6 to 5s for a car (based on horsepower). In 1963 this had changed to 4-6s based on length. The service operated daily from 8/9am to 9.30pm, took about 5 minutes and could carry just 6 cars.
The Bridge is in many ways a modern twist on the design of the much older Connel Bridge seen further down the coast. Construction appears to have started late in 1972, or early 1973 and took 2 years. It was finally opened in December 1975 after a number of delays, along with massive improvement works to the A82 and A828 on the southern shore of Loch Leven, to connect the new bridge and the old road. Further improvements continued for the next 4 or 5 years until the whole road back to Glencoe Village had been rebuilt.
On the northern side, the road ramps up to meet the bridge deck, still climbing until it reaches the middle of the bridge. It then starts to dip, but reaches land much higher up on the south side, above a low cliff next to the A828, which passes underneath.
The structure is a large steel box truss, standing high over the road, with peaks above either pier. In some ways it looks over engineered, but as it approaches its 40th birthday, it has received a surprisingly small amount of unplanned maintenance work, and looks good for many years to come.