A82/Fort William - Fort Augustus
|Length:||32 miles (51.5 km)|
|Meets:||A830, A86, B8004, A87, B862|
|Route outline (key)|
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 before long the town is dropping behind us as we start the journey north up the Great Glen. The summit of this stretch is at Spean Bridge, where the road meets the A86. It then starts the long descent to Loch Lochy, with the Old Military Road running along the hillside above the loch. At 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.
The Fort in Fort William was the terminus of Cauldfeilds 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.
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 Stronenaba. Again, there are various lumps and bumps in the ground along the roadside, but the precise aligment 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. However, 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.
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
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 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.
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. 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.
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.
Apart from some very minor works - such as the turning lane for the Aonach Mor Ski Centre - the road remains essentially as it was when Telford built it. Except for in Fort William.
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 1960s, however, when the towns railway station was resited. Formerly, it had stood on the loch shore next to the Crannog Restaraunt 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 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 in land, 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, mainly to allow tourist coaches into the large car park. 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.
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.
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.
Main Article: Invergarry Bridge
The modern bridge at Invergarry is a striking structure, formed from four concrete ribs. less than a mile downstream, however, Telford's original bridge survives as access to the Castle Hotel.
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.
Just to the north, stands 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. It consists of three pointed concrete arches spanning the River Oich just to the south of the old bridge.