Looking for clues of the old alignment along the modern A82 can be very rewarding, if you know what to look for. As the road gets further and further north, there is plenty to see, lying abandoned in the wilderness, or consumed by trees and scrub just a few metres from the passing traffic.
One obvious piece of history that is 'overlooked' below, is the old route of the A82 through Kinlochleven on what is now the B863. This is because the A82 as listed in the 1922 Road Lists ran via the Ballachulish Ferry - the road through Kinlochleven wasn't completed until 1927. See that roads article (B863), and also the A828 and A829 pages for more information.
Glasgow - Loch Lomond
The original route of the A82 through Glasgow appears to be Argyle St and Dumbarton Road, then passing through Bowling on Dumbarton Road, the modern A814. In Dumbarton it followed Glasgow Road, Castle St, High St, Bridge St, West Bridgend and Renton Road and then Lennox St and Main Street in Renton, before using Main St and North Main Street in Alexandria, and Luss Rd/Old Luss Road in Balloch. After that, then as now it went up Loch Lomondside to Tarbet.
Great Western Road in Glasgow seems to have originally been numbered as the B810, before becoming the A876 when the new road was completed through to Bowling. The road was complete in 1927 but it was not a through route until the Cloberhill Bridge over the Forth and Clyde Canal had been opened on 16 September 1930 (the road is shown as under construction on the map to the right).
Vale of Leven
The Ordnance Survey Road Map of Great Britain, 1932, shows the thick line of the A82 running up the west side of the Vale of Leven.
The early routes of the other A-roads in the Vale of Leven – expanding on the information given in the 1922 list – were as follows:
- The A811 started on the A82 east of Dumbarton, and followed Stirling Road through Bonhill (Main St) and Balloch (Main St, Shandon Brae, Stirling Road) continuing towards Drymen and Stirling.
- The A812 was a short link between the A82 in Alexandria and the A811 in Bonhill, most probably following Bank St.
- The original A813 was Balloch Road and Drymen Road, linking the A82 to the A811 at Balloch (now unclassified, having been earlier renumbered to B854 when the designation A813 was transferred to the newly built Lomond Road).
- And the A814 started on the A82 at a Y-junction off West Bridgend in Dumbarton leading west to Helensburgh and Arrochar.
Some time between 1932 and 1936, probably in 1935, the A82 route was almost completely changed south of Alexandria. From Glasgow to Bowling, the A82 was moved onto the Great Western Road. The new route of the A82 through the Vale of Leven followed the former A811 Stirling Road to Bonhill (Main Street), then the former A812 route across the Leven to Alexandria (Bank St) before joining the previous route to Balloch.
The other roads through the Vale also had changes: The southern end of the A811 was truncated to Bonhill. The A814 was extended eastwards along the former A82 through Dumbarton and right through to Glasgow, and the A812 number was used instead for the former A82 route between Dumbarton and Alexandria.
There were also changes to the roads within Balloch as the town was expanded, probably in the early post-war years. Lomond Road provided a new and improved E-W route for the A813, and Carrochan Road was built as new N-S route carrying the A811 into Balloch - with Shandon Brae being bypassed and declassified. The roundabout where the two new roads cross appears contemporary with their construction, but the western end of Lomond Road was initially a large triangular junction with the A82 Luss Road The large green area, within which the present roundabout sits, indicates the approximate size of the original junction.
The next significant change to the roads in the Vale of Leven didn't occur until about 1972 or '73, when the southern half of the Alexandria bypass was opened - from a new roundabout on Stirling Road around the north side of Dumbarton to a half-diamond temporary terminus junction on Renton Road. The A82 number appears to have been moved onto the new dual carriageway almost immediately - and hence back onto its original route through Renton and Alexandria. Presumably there were problems with the 1930s route through Bonhill - perhaps a low bridge under the railway in Alexandria or weight/width limits on the bridge over the Leven. The A812 must have been truncated to its present length at this time.
With the opening of the northern half of the Alexandria bypass as the A82, the current pattern of roads was very nearly established. The A811 and A813 swapped routes for their links with the A82, with the A811 taking shorter route west to the new dual carriageway. The former A82/A812 route through Alexandria became the B857.
The more recent changes to the classified roads in the area have been relatively minor: A B857 bypass around Alexandria town centre, an A813 bypass around the centre of Bonhill, and an A814 bypass around the centre of Dumbarton.
North of Balloch, the A82 road up Loch Lomondside has been extensively rebuilt over the last 3 decades. The remains of the earlier road along the lochside have been used as laybys and the basis of National Cycle Network route 7.
Loch Lomond - Crianlarich
From Balloch to Tarbet, the current A82 is all new, having been rebuilt in the 1980s (??). This reconstruction was partly on-line and partly off-line, meaning that some sections of the old road should still be visible. In fact, they are! There are numerous laybys and the long section of road through Luss that are all parts of the older route. Other sections however, have been removed as the road passes through an environmentally sensitive (and highly scenic) area now part of a National Park.
North of Tarbet, there is no sign of any former alignment until you reach Inverarnan. There is a very simple explanation for this - The A82 still uses the same route laid out by Telford nearly two centuries ago. The few short sections which are of a much better standard are all on-line upgrades.
After passing Inverarnan and leaving the National Park behind us, the current road is a fast modern S2. The initial climb through Glen Falloch is a much straighter route than before, as evidenced by the two bridges over the river within a few hundred metres of each other. The old road can still be traced through the trees in several places, and the old bridges remain in-situ. After passing the Falls of Falloch Car park (on part of the old road), the landscape starts to open up and the current road is mainly on-line. The occasional layby and disused loop being the only witness to the old route.
The Old Military Road in upper Glen Falloch sits much higher up the hillside, and appears to bypass Crianlarich to the west.
Crianlarich - Fort William
The road through Strath Fillan has been significantly improved, although the two ends are largely unchanged from the beginning of the 20th Century (except for the tarmac and white lines!). After leaving Crianlarich behind, the road is mainly an on-line upgrade to Inverhervie, where the old alignment now provides access to the houses. At Ewich, a new railway bridge has been provided a little further north of the old crossing point, with another old loop after another half mile. At Strathfillan House, a new bridge across the river was built, leaving the old road to pass the church, house and then cross the river 500m or so upstream, rejoining at Dalrigh, after which the A82 hasn't been changed as far as Tyndrum.
The Old Military Road can be seen climbing out of Tyndrum just across the river from the Green Welly. It then crosses the railway as the three routes north meet, and stays on the other side until the A82 turns away from the railway. This was the road north until the new route was built in the 1930s as part of the unemployment relief schemes. Intriguingly, a 1947 OS Map (although the revision of major roads is probably c1935) shows this old route as still being public highway. Today it is the West Highland Way, and stays much closer to the Railway than the modern A82 all the way to Bridge of Orchy.
As we cross Rannoch Moor and dip into Glencoe, the modern A82 has two predecessors accompanying it on the way north. For a full account of these three routes, see the Three Generations of the A82 article on Roads.org.uk.
The old road from the Kingshouse Hotel through Glen Coe and its Village to the shores of Loch Leven was replaced in 1929/30 by the modern A82. Most of this was built on a new alignment, with the old route still visible in the Glen, and used as a footpath for much of the way. However, the last three miles were built on the other side of the River Coe, courtesy of a new bridge, and the old road still remains open as an unclassified route. In 1922 the road around Loch Leven was still incomplete, and so given the A829 number until the mass renumbering of 1935. As a result the A82 loosely followed the current route along the loch's southern shore to Ballachulish Ferry (where the bridge now stands). From Glencoe Crossroads, the original route passed slightly further in land, using the road through Tigh Phuirt. This modern section of the A82 involved some land reclamation from the loch to provide a wide enough road, and was built at the same time as the Ballachulish Bridge, which opened in 1975.
As we approach Ballachulish village, the old road would originally have passed under the slate arch which connected the quarry to the harbour. Its neighbour was demolished to make way for the new road. Much of the alignment on the approach to the arch was higher up the hillside, and lost when the hill was 'trimmed' to provide more land for the loch-side road. In Ballachulish, the road looped right through the village, using the Brig O'Laroch, as the current bridge on Albert Road wasn't built until 1951.
Beyond Ballachulish, the old road is still vaguely traceable in the trees on the landward side of the modern A82, which follows the line of the old railway. After passing St John's Church, the road is largely still the 1930s alignment, although perhaps a little wider. The wall at the layby provides an idea of where the old road was.
After crossing the Ballachulish Bridge, the A82 has changed little, with the landscape through which it passes being the major problem. First the road is penned in by the hotels and houses of North Ballachulish and Onich, then after passing the Corran Ferry, it narrows and winds along a narrow shelf cut into the cliffs. Old bypassed bridges can still be found at Corriechurachan and 'Three Mile Water' (the replacement Kiachnish Bridge was built in 1933), but otherwise the road is essentially the same as it was after the 1930s upgrade. Before that, the road was on the same alignment, just narrower and twistier (If that's possible!).
Fort William - Inverness
The A82 north of Fort William is mainly an on-line upgrade of Telford's road that was built nearly 200 years ago. The even older Military Road is clearly marked on OS maps, and after Torlundy spends much of its time passing along the edge of the Leanachan Forest, running parallel to the railway line. Somehow, it then crosses the A82 and the moorland to the north to get to the tiny hamlet of Highbridge next to the River Spean. Here, remains of the old Highbridge still stand but the road either side is completely lost. The Military road rejoins the A82 in the vicinity of the Commando Memorial at the B8004 junction.
Meanwhile, the A82 has stayed with Telford's road, and entered the village of Spean Bridge. This village (in the parish of Kilmonivaig) takes its name from the bridge that Thomas Telford built across the River Spean in 18xx. Before the bridge was built, there was nothing here, so the village owes its very existence to Telford!
We then cross over to Loch Lochy, and follow its shores, with the Old Military Road now partly used as Forestry Roads higher up the hillside. At Laggan, Telford and the modern A82 cross the Great Glen, while the old Military Road (now partly the West Highland Way) stay on the south-eastern shore of Loch Oich. Telford's road then crossed the River Oich on one of his own bridges, but it was unfortunately washed away in a storm in 1849, and replaced by one of James Dredges Suspension Bridges. This was also replaced (although left standing) in the 1930s as it was unsuitable for modern traffic. After crossing the Canal at Aberchalder the two routes re-converge, before splitting once more at Fort Augustus, where the B862 and B852 follow the Old Military Road north to Inverness.
In Inverness, the A82 used to terminate on Tomnahurich Street, with the A9 passing through the city centre and so along Kenneth Street. The road was extended northwards along its current route with the opening of the Kessock Bridge and now reaches the Longman Roundabout immediately south of the bridge.