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A82/Fort William - Fort Augustus

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Location Map ( geo)
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From:  Fort William
To:  Fort Augustus
Via:  Spean Bridge
Distance:  32 miles (51.5 km)
Meets:  A830, A86, B8004, A87, B862
Highway Authorities

Transport Scotland



Route outline (key)
A82 Fort William - Fort Augustus

South | North

After the tortuous journey along Loch Linnhe, the A82 reaches Fort William at the foot of Ben Nevis. Here a brief dual carriageway avoids the town centre, but the road reverts to single carriageway as it passes through the northern part of the town, with turnings for Glen Nevis (and the path up Ben Nevis) and the housing areas of Inverlochy and Claggan. This two-mile section can become very congested in summer. At Lochybridge the A830 "Road to the Isles" turns off for Mallaig, and very soon the town is dropping behind us as we start the journey north-east up the Great Glen. A low ridge separates us from the River Lochy and Caledonian Canal, and veering slightly away from the main line of the glen we reach Spean Bridge, where the road crosses the River Spean and immediately meets the A86. There it turns sharp left to climb out of Glen Spean and reach the main line of the Great Glen. A mile after Spean Bridge we pass the Commando Memorial, with a very fine view of the mountains north of Ben Nevis, at the junction with the B8004. The summit of the road, at 126m, comes just after the memorial. It then starts the long descent to Loch Lochy, with the Old Military Road running along the hillside above the loch. At North Laggan we cross the Glen to the western shore of Loch Oich to meet the A87 at Invergarry. The route crosses back at Aberchalder for the final stretch into Fort Augustus at the foot of Loch Ness.

Military Road

The Fort in Fort William was the terminus of Cauldfield's Road from the south, as it was already the southern terminus of Wade's Military Road through the Great Glen which had been built 25 years earlier. The precise route through the town is uncertain, although the River Nevis was probably bridged much closer to the fort (it originally flowed out through Morrisons Car Park and in front of the college). The bridge across the current course of the Nevis into Inverlochy, followed by Wade's Road, Locheil Road and Black Parks Road to the old Inverlochy Castle is the assumed route.

The old High Bridge

After the Castle, the road probably followed the same alignment as the current A82 as far as Torlundy, after which it lies on the other side of the railway line, and is still in use as a forestry road. This road continues as far as the unclassified road to Leanachan, although it cannot be Wade's main route up the Great Glen. On the opposite side of the A82, starting somewhere near Achindaul and then passing to the north of Achnabobane, the OS mark another track as Military Road, and it is this road that is aligned with Wade's High Bridge across the River Spean. Quite how these two routes are connected is uncertain.

North of the bridge, It was once thought that the road had become completely lost. There are various bumps in the boggy land, but none line up with each other, or the bridge. However, the supposed route has now been identified as running alongside the river (obliterated by the short lived Fort Augustus and Invergarry Railway line), before crossing the B8004 just over half a mile west of the Commando Memorial. It then curves through the forest, rejoining the modern A82 alignment at Stronaba. Again, there are various lumps and bumps in the ground along the roadside, but the precise alignment is uncertain.

It is at Glenfintaig where the road reasserts itself, taking the road into Glen Gloy as far as the hairpin, and then continuing along the hillside past the farm. It then drops back to the modern road to the north of Invergloy House. However, between various subsequent alignments of the A82, the railway line and forestry it is very difficult to trace any further evidence until the further end of the long straights along Loch Lochy, but the fact that the military road can then be identified on the shore side of the A82 as it climbs inland towards Laggan, suggests that Wade may well have built a shore-side route. It is also worth remembering that the construction (by Telford) of the Caledonian Canal changed the water levels in all of the Great Glen Lochs.

The old military road alongside Loch Oich

It is at North Laggan, just before the Swing Bridge Over the Canal that the route suddenly becomes interesting once more. Here, a side road turns into the Great Glen Holiday Park set on the shores of Loch Oich, and this is Wade's Road. Following the eastern shore of the loch (quite literally in places, due to the rise of the water level), the old road is now used, along with the old railway line, as the Great Glen Way. Towards Aberchalder, the road climbs across a bridge over the railway line, which considering the subsequent history of this route may seem a little odd. However, believe it or not, this dirt track was classified as the B8040 in the early 1920s!

From Aberchalder to Fort Augustus, the alignment of the modern A82 doesn't appear to have changed in nearly 300 years, but it is quite a different story from Fort Augustus north along Loch Ness! There are also two other military roads meeting the A82 in Fort Augustus - the Corrieyairack Pass and Glen Moriston Road

Telford's Road

In some places, Telford came along to survey the Military Road, laughed and built a new road. In others, he presumably shrugged and rebuilt the existing road. The section of the A82 from Fort William to Fort Augustus is a bit of both. At the southern end, the military overtones (starting at the fort and passing the old castle) seemed to have given the wrong message, so Telford built a new route to the east, which is still the A82 today. This briefly rejoined the Military Road at Lochybridge, where Telford's road to Arisaig (the A830) was accessed via a ferry. Continuing north to Spean Bridge, a completely new alignment was called for, and again this is still the modern A82.

The A82/A86 junction at Spean Bridge

The Bridge at Spean (see below) was built by Telford, although subsequently widened, and was also the junction point for the difficult route up Glen Spean to Strathspey. Again, as Telford headed north he chose to rebuild short sections of the old road, but in the main it was a new route to Loch Lochy. Here, presumably due to the same pressures of land seen on Loch Lomondside, the modern A82 still follows the Military Road as far as North Laggan. However, Telford was building a road to serve the people, not the army, so he needed to connect the communities together.

This was the main reason (the fact that the Laird of Invergarry Castle was a major investor in both the roads and canal, also supplying vast quantities of timber had nothing to do with it) that Telford chose to cross the Glen to follow the west side of Loch Oich. As a result, he took his road through Invergarry, where the Kinloch Hourn road (now partly the A87) joined. He recrossed the glen at Aberchalder to once more pick up the Military Road into Fort Augustus.

1930s Route

The shores of Loch Lochy

The only obvious changes to the route to be implemented in the 1930s were the bridges. All of the bridges over the canal were replaced by 1936, including those at Laggan and Aberchalder. Between the two, the bridge over the River Oich was also replaced, although the old bridge remains in place and has been thoroughly restored. The Bridge of Oich is now owned by Historic Scotland, and is one of the few remaining examples of a rather unusual bridge design by James Dredge, dating from 1854. A couple of miles further south, the original bridge over the River Garry, 500m east of the 1930s bridge, has now collapsed on its upstream side.

Otherwise, the road was essentially just widened and straightened here and there, with new bridges and culverts where necessary. It is much the same today.

Modern Route

Apart from some minor works - such as the turning lane for the Aonach Mor Ski Centre - most of the road remains essentially as it was when Telford built it. Except in Fort William, and at Loch Lochy.

The road used to continue straight on at the West End Roundabout, passing along the town's High Street, and then crossing The Parade to join Belford Road near the Alexandria Hotel. All of this changed in the 1970s, however, when the town's railway station was resited. Formerly, it had stood on the loch shore next to the Crannog Restaurant Pier - the embankment along the shore having been built specifically for the purpose. However, with the High Street already chronically congested in the 1950s it was essential that a new road was built, and the only option was to replace the railway with a road. The result was that the old railway line was removed, the embankment strengthened with new steel piling and a brand new dual carriageway planted between the town and its lochside. An essential travesty. The new station opened in June 1975 and the road-building began immediately afterwards.

The northern end of this D2 stretch was again changed in the 1980s when the An Aird Roundabout was built to provide access to the new supermarket and other developments on the reclaimed land. The A82 itself turns inland, dropping from D2 to S2 outside the Hospital and so resuming Telford's route.

There are, naturally, many junction improvements as the A82 wends its way out of town. The Glen Nevis junction has been given a small roundabout just next to the Nevis Bridge (see below), the junctions at Claggan and Inverlochy all have turning lanes and a set of traffic lights, while works at the new junction to Argos in 2005/6 have already been re-done. At Lochybridge, the old traffic lights were replaced by a mini roundabout in 2007 in readiness for the Mountain Bike World Cup at Aonach Mor.

At Spean Bridge, the proximity of the bridge to the junction means that the A86 turning is still narrow and awkward, but at the top of the hill the B8004 junction at the Commando Memorial has been significantly improved, to reduce the acute angle and to allow tourist coaches into the large new car park.

A short new section was been built in the 2010s, through a cutting, as the road descends through Glen Gloy, where the old road was subsiding into the gorge. A much larger improvement was made along the shore of Loch Lochy in the late 1980s, where a new embankment was built into the loch, giving a fast and level alignment and taking the road slightly further out from the foot of the steep hillside. Before rebuilding, this section had suffered from landslides. Beyond that, however, the road is pretty much the same. A little wider perhaps, but the same alignment that Telford chose for most of the way north to Fort Augustus.


Nevis Bridge

The current Nevis Bridge replaces the older structure that still serves as a pedestrian bridge about 100m upstream. The new bridge is barely any wider than its predecessor, and the main reason for its construction appears to have been to straighten the road out. It dates from the early twentieth century, possibly the 1930s, and is faced in stone.

Spean Bridge

Spean Bridge

Designed and built in 1819 by Thomas Telford as part of his Great Glen Road. It essentially replaced the old High Bridge a mile or so further west at Kilmonivaig, and in doing so Telford moved the centre of this huge rural parish to the junction that he created next to his bridge. It was the existence of the bridge and junction that created the village we have today. The bridge was widened in 1932 and is unusual in that it has three arches of different sizes, the centre one the widest, then the north arch and the southern arch significantly narrower. This may have been related to the suitability of bedrock in the river.

Laggan & Aberchalder Canal Bridges

Main Article: Caledonian Canal Swing Bridges

The Caledonian Canal is crossed twice on this stretch of the road, each time by a bridge built between 1930-5 to replace the original Telford design.

Invergarry Bridge

The new Invergarry Bridge

Main Article: Invergarry Bridge

The modern bridge at Invergarry is a striking structure, formed from four concrete ribs. Less than a mile downstream, Telford's original bridge survived for many years as an access to the Castle Hotel, but as noted above, has now partially collapsed.

Bridge of Oich

The Bridge of Oich

Main Article: James Dredges Suspension Bridges

The old Bridge of Oich is one of the few survivors of an unusual bridge design by James Dredge of Bath.

The current A82 bridge over the River Oich

The new bridge built in the 1930s, along with a number of other structures in the Great Glen to bring the A82 up to 'modern' standards, consists of three pointed concrete arches spanning the River Oich just to the south of the old bridge.

South | North

A82/Fort William - Fort Augustus
Related Pictures
View gallery (50)
A82 Fort Augustus - Coppermine - 3044.jpgA82, Bridge of Oich - Geograph - 1648700.jpgA82-snow-gloy.jpgInvrgry-old-br2.jpgLand Rover passing under the A82 bridge over the Caledonian Canal in Fort Augustus - Coppermine - 6941.jpg
Features of the A82 Corridor
Route HistoryA82Great Western Road • Loch Lomond • Glen Falloch • Srathfillan • Rannoch Moor • Glencoe • Ballachulish - Fort William • Fort William - Fort Augustus • Loch Ness
Associated Routes: A805 • A829 • A876 • A8005 • B810 • B848 • B863 • B8040
CrossingsErskine Bridge • Dumbarton Bridge • Balloch Bridge • Luss Bridge • White Bridge • Ba Bridge • Kingshouse Bridge • The Study • Achnambeithach Bridge • Ballachulish Bridge • Righ Bridge • Corran Ferry • Kiachnish Bridge • Nevis Bridge • Lochybridge • Caledonian Canal Swing Bridges • Invergarry Bridge • Bridge of Oich • Fort Augustus Bridge • Invermoriston Bridge
JunctionsCharing Cross • Anniesland Cross • Kilbowie Roundabout • Old Kilpatrick • Dunglas Roundabout • Dumbarton Fork • Barloan Toll • Lomondgate Roundabout • Renton Junction • Stoneymollan Roundabout • Arden • Tarbet • Crianlarich • Tyndrum • Bridge of Orchy • Glencoe Crossroads • Ballachulish Roundabout • North Ballachulish • Corran Ferry • West End Roundabout • An Aird • Nevis Bridge • Lochybridge • Spean Bridge • Commando Memorial • Invergarry Bridge • Fort Augustus • Invermoriston • Drumnadrochit • Tomnahurich Roundabout • Telford Street Roundabout • Harbour Road Roundabout • Longman Roundabout
DestinationsGlasgow • Clydebank • Erskine Bridge • Dumbarton • Tarbet • Crianlarich • Tyndrum • Fort William • Lochybridge • Spean Bridge • Inverness

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