|Location Map ( geo)
|15 miles (24.1 km)
|A83, B840, A85
|Old route now:
|Route outline (key)
The A819 is approximately 14.5 miles long, and forms a connection between the A83 and A85 trunk roads. The road as it is today was constructed during the 1930s, partly following the course of an old military road, and as such it is lined with mile stones. In 1922 it followed the military road far more closely than does today's alignment.
At its southern end the route starts at a junction with the A83 facing Loch Fyne in the town of Inveraray. It almost immediately passes through a large stone arch, mirrored by another on the far side of the hotel. They were built as part of the grand frontage of the new town of Inveraray in the 1740s by the Duke of Argyll, who could see them from his new Inveraray Castle. A sweeping bend at the back of the hotel leads to a short straight climbing north west out of town to a sharp right hander as the road turns north east to navigate around the hill. The first couple of miles largely run through forestry and round the edge of the Inveraray Castle Park, and are narrow with some tight bends, which led to a 40mph limit being implemented in the 2010s. Slowly, however, the road opens up and climbs to the north, following the course of the River Aray uphill through swathes of forestry land. Old road lines can be found disappearing to either side, some the former route of the A819, some the original line of the military road, and some just old overgrown forest roads.
The climb to the summit is long and gentle, with a number of straights linked by sweeping bends. There are occasional turnings to house accesses, and gates, many of which mark the alignment of the old military road or later improvements as they deviates from the modern road. Higher up the glen, the trees peel back from the roadside in places, and farms can be seen scattered across the hillside to the west, but North Tullich is the last of these. The river, which has never been far away, is now just below the road to the right, before it forks at the Drochaidean Eoin Ruadh bhuidhe (loosely translates as Auburn (haired) Eoins Bridges - note the plural!). A ruined cottage sits dramatically below the road at the next bend. The road continues to climb, the trees closing in once more in places, although recent felling has temporarily opened up the views. Up to the right, and sitting just above the old military road, is the monument to Neil Munro, author of the Para Handy stories.
Although the gradient eases to either side, the actual summit of the pass at 207m is short, barely the length of a car, and then the road starts the descent which is steeper and twistier, losing height much more rapidly. The road is winding down the hillside above the Cladich River, which is crossed at Cladich Bridge just before it meets the single-track B840 on the far side of the village of Cladich. There is also a minor road cutting off the corner for northbound traffic on the A819; this road is unusually one-way, despite appearing of equal quality to the B840. Both were once the A819 before the current line was built c1939.
A mile further on and the shores of Loch Awe come into view, with fleeting glimpses of the islands near the further shore. Running north east now, the A819 winds along the contours on the eastern shores of Loch Awe, climbing and falling as gently as possible across the boggy moorland. Just beyond Achlian the old military road forks off to the right for the last time, and the onward route from here was constructed in the late 1930s. It is therefore interesting to note that it is this section which has seen the most work over the last few years, with some lengthy widening and resurfacing.
Although the loch remains close at hand, it is often completely screened by trees. At length, long laybys on either side of the road are normally full of cars belonging to fishermen. Then the road sweeps down across the railway line, to end at a junction with the A85 between the villages of Dalmally and Lochawe, close to the ruinous Kilchurn Castle (built by Sir Colin Campbell of Glenorchy around the year 1420). This final junction seems to approach the A85 at right angles, and then at the last moment skews towards Lochawe and so Oban. Whether this was dictated by the topography of the location, or because it was believed that this would be the dominant flow (it probably is) is uncertain.
The route taken by the A819 essentially dates back to the 1750s when Major Caulfeild constructed the military road from Tyndrum to Inveraray. However, over the years bends have been straightened, gradients eased, and bridges widened – meaning that little of that 250-year-old road alignment is still used. Nowhere is this more true than at the northern end.
The military road took a very different route out of Dalmally to the modern route of the A819, but up until the late 1930s the main road still crossed Monument Hill on the old road. Indeed, part of this route is still public highway, and the remainder appears to be surfaced and used as estate / forestry access. The reason for this change seems to have more to do with the A85 than the A819 however.
The A85 and A819 originally met near Dalmally Bridge, where the B8077 now turns off the A85. This B road was the original route of the A85 before Kilchurn Bridge was built, providing the A85 with a new route across the head of Loch Awe, using part of the A819 route. The 1930s rerouting of the A819 still met the A85 in Dalmally although it was not long before the A85 took over that part of the A819 from there to Kilchurn and the new bridge.
To find the old route of the A819 you need to take the wiggly road through Dalmally village, and then turn up the hill following the signs for the monument.
This road climbs steeply in places, with many bends and yet in nearly two miles there is not a single signed passing place. There are a few entrances that can be used, and the verges should be sturdy enough as the military road was originally built to 15-18 feet wide. However, meeting an oncoming car is quite common in the summer months and not a pleasant experience. Eventually, after climbing steadily through the lush greens of thick grass, deciduous trees and wild flowers, a gravel turning / parking area is reached with three tracks radiating out from it. The eponymous monument, to Gaelic poet Duncan Ban MacIntyre, is just to the left.
One of the tracks leads off to a farm in the forest, one leads up to the communications mast, and the middle one is the old military road. After a short rough section, the tarmac returns, albeit either side of a thick band of grass, and the descent begins. The road remains as before, steep sections, many bends, and no room to pass oncoming traffic... except that as we have left the car at the top of the hill that isn't such a problem. Incidentally, there isn't a sign at the top stating 'end of public road' which may suggest that this route is still technically highway...
The long descent is a little over two miles long, passing Ardteatle Cottage but otherwise surrounded by forestry for much of the way. Shortly before the end, a modern forest road turns off to meet the A819 beyond a gate, but the old road continues ahead to reach the road at a sharp and discrete fork, still with no sign of a gate.
In the 1740s, the Old Town of Inveraray, already 300 years old, had a church, tolbooth, school, many substantial houses and 43 taverns. It might still have been there to this day, had not the 3rd Duke and 12th Earl of Argyll decided in 1744 to replace the ruinous old castle with a splendid new mansion. To ensure that the grounds around his new castle could be properly landscaped, the Duke proposed to move the town to a new site. Plans for this New Town, one of the first such schemes in Scotland, were drawn up with the first house being built in 1753. Over the next 23 years the town gradually took shape. In 1776 the last of the houses in the Old Town were demolished and all traces of the once flourishing Royal Burgh disappeared.