|Distance:||29.7 miles (47.8 km)|
|Meets:||A84, B8075, B822, B8037, B8034, B835, A875, A81, B858, A809, A813, A82|
|Former Number(s):||B8051, A813|
|Old route now:||A813, A82|
|Route outline (key)|
Stirling - Balloch
The road currently has two starting points. One on the Craigs roundabout in the centre of Stirling (sharing it with the A9, A905 and B8052). It then heads west via Dumbarton Road to meet the B8051 at the Kings Knot Roundabout. The other starting point is on the A84 at Ballengeich, and the road runs along the former B8051 to reach the Kings Knot where the two spurs join.
The road then heads west out of the city and crosses over the M9 without a junction; motorway traffic needs to follow the A84 to reach M9 J10. Continuing west, the A811 heads in a succession of long, straight lines for almost ten miles along the River Forth, interrupted only by a roundabout with the B822. Then it passes through the tiny village of Arnprior - the B8034 heads off north from here to Scotland's only lake, the Lake of Menteith. The road becomes somewhat less straightforward (and less straight) from here - in Buchlyvie the B835 goes off to the right and leads to the A81 and then after Buchlyvie the A875 departs for Balfron and Killearn.
Shortly beyond this junction, the A811 dog-legs over the A81 bound for Strathblane and the northern suburbs of Glasgow. Even though the A81 isn't primary, it has right of way. A few miles later the A811 enters the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, and though Loch Lomond is very close by, you never see it. The road bypasses Drymen and then the route transforms into the A809, another non-primary road (this time bound for Milngavie). Astonishingly, to stay on the A811 one has to take a right-turn. It then drops down into Balloch and crosses two roundabouts (one for the A813 through Bonhill, and the other the B857 into Alexandria town centre). After a long incline it finally meets the A82 to Glasgow. Travellers to south-west Scotland can leave via the Erskine Bridge a few miles away, avoiding Glasgow altogether.
Originally, the A811 turned left in Balloch and headed along what is now the A813 through Bonhill, then the A82 through Dumbarton, to end on the original A82 on the edge of Milton; the current A811 is an improved version of the original route of the A813.
The origins of the route now taken by the A811 are perhaps an ancient trackway along the southern side of the vast, and often boggy Forth Valley. There were undoubtedly paths and routeways along the base of the hills centuries ago, but between 1770 and 1780 these were formalised as one of the last Military Roads built in Scotland. It was built after the death of Major Caulfeild, but doubtless was influenced by his methods, and was designed to connect the two important military castles of Stirling and Dumbarton.
The route starts on the western edge of Stirling, in the shadow of the castle, and is initially still followed by the A811 as it heads west. There is a slight deviation as the road crosses the M9, and again where the road crosses the Touch Burn. Here the road used to kink north to cross the burn further downstream at the old Polrogan Bridge. Nearly a mile further on, and a large layby on the left shows another section of the old road, with some less obvious kinks ironed out on either side as well.
A little further on, and the A811 forks right at a short row of houses. The now dead-end road serving these properties is the original line of the Old Military Road, with the old and new roads going their separate ways for around the next 6 miles. The tarmac ends just beyond the houses, but a grassy track continues ahead in a straight line, crossing a farm road to reach the village road for Gargunnock. This then follows the old road into the village, where the precise route becomes unclear. This is partly due to the development of the village, and also the changes to the Leckie Estate, particularly Watson House. Today walkers should follow Leckie Road, forking left past Bield Farm, and then following the path around the edge of the grounds to Watson House. It seems possible that a more direct line, perhaps along Main Street, was followed in the past.
The path brings us to a bridge over the Leckie Burn, and on the far side we are definitely back on the old road. However, the bridge is a new structure, probably contemporary with the house, and not the original military bridge. A little upstream, another bridge stands, an old packhorse type bridge, which could date back to the C17th century, despite almost looking like a Victorian garden ornament! The road then remains fairly straight as it continues west, past the houses at Burntown, where a short section is still public road, and on towards Boquhan. The Boquhan Burn is crossed by another Victorian Estate bridge, beyond which the road climbs into a field. A partially collapsed retaining wall on the right could date back to the original construction.
The route across the field is wide and level, and perhaps the best opportunity to see the original profile of the road. It is, however, covered in turf which disguises the side ditches. The bank on the uphill side seems to survive as the foundation of the field boundary, but there is no such mound on the downhill side. Once across the field, the path becomes narrow and overgrown, but still follows the old road line as it climbs up to the houses of Glentirranmuir. Initially a private drive (open to walkers), the old road appears to become a public road beyond the estate gates, and continues ahead into Kippen.
The old road crosses Kippen Main Street, and probably continues ahead along Fore Road, the B8037. The alternative is that the narrow and cobbled Rennies Loan is the old road line, either following the path down to the old A811, or running along a field boundary. Either way, the old road crossed the Broich Burn at the Broich Bridge, just before which the old line of the A811 rejoined after its long bypass of the villages.
The only other substantial deviation between the modern A811 and the Old Military Road before Balloch is the Drymen Bypass, where the B858 follows the old road line through the village. At Balloch, the old road is now mostly the A813, the corner being cut by Shandon Brae. This was all originally the A811 in 1922, but the roads have been realigned, renumbered and partially built over in the intervening years.