|From:||Bridge of Orchy|
|Length:||14.8 miles (23.8 km)|
|Meets:||No classified roads on this section|
|Route outline (key)|
After crossing the pass from Strathfillan and climbing up to Bridge of Orchy, the A82 embarks on its journey across Rannoch Moor. This bleak and inhospitable landscape has seen three routes of the road cross it, each converging once more near the Kingshouse Inn to begin the descent into Glencoe. As noted above, the A82 across Rannoch Moor is well documented on CBRD, so here we shall give a brief overview, with further detail as appropriate.
The eponymous Bridge of Orchy lies a little to the west of the crossroads outside the Bridge of Orchy Hotel, where the old and new roads cross. The bridge was built by Major Caulfeild in 1751 as part of his road across the Moor. Immediately beyond the bridge, the Military Road climbs into the forest, roughly followed today by the West Highland Way. However, at times it is clear that the old road and new path are not one and the same, with the old road now lost in the forest. After crossing the hill, the road drops down to Inveroran, where it rejoins the route later chosen by Telford and still in use as the unclassified road to Forest Lodge, formerly the cul-de-sac A8005.
After crossing the Victoria Bridge, which from its name appears to post date even Telford, the Old Military Road forks off to the left, through the grounds if not the house of Forest Lodge and into the forest beyond. Although clearly marked on OS maps, there is little evidence on the ground of the old road within the forest area, and once out of the trees the road is very difficult to identify on the open boggy hillside. Here and there, kerbstones can be identified, there is at least one box culvert which hasn't completely collapsed, and the occasional cobbled ford kept clean by a mountain stream. However, if you weren't looking for the road you would be unlikely to see it!
The old road drops back to Telford's route through a particularly boggy area, which has destroyed the junction - it may be that the construction of Telford's route formed this particular 'pool' by blocking off the drainage. Either way, the two routes follow the same alignment down to and across the Ba Bridge, which crosses the River Ba (see below).
Beyond the bridge, the fork where the Old Military Road peels off to the left is still quite obvious, and the old road is used as a modern footpath. This means that the road surface and structure is well-preserved compared with elsewhere, and so this is one of the best sections to investigate the original road from 1751-2. Before reaching the Ski centre, the two routes merge once more, following the ski road down to the modern A82 and on past the Kingshouse Hotel. Beyond the Hotel, the West Highland Way again stays faithful to the old Military Roads route, although it is virtually impossible to identify any evidence of the old route save for the occasional ford or culvert remaining intact alongside the modern path.
By the time we reach Altnafeadh, and the entrance to Glencoe, the modern A82 has been built on top of the Old Military Road, although at the layby the old road turns off to the right, again followed by the West Highland Way, to climb the Devils Staircase to Kinlochleven.
Telford carried his road across Caulfeild's Bridge of Orchy, but then chose to turn right and follow the river to Loch Tulla. This was to minimise the gradients on his new carriage road round to Inveroran. This stretch is still public highway, being the former A8005 to Forest Lodge. At Inveroran, the Military Road drops off the hill, and Telford again chose to follow its route across the Victoria Bridge and up to Forest Lodge itself. Here, the modern road ends, but Telford's new alignment continues north as the West Highland Way, crossing the vast Rannoch Moor to Kingshouse. For roughly a mile, across the Ba Bridge, Telford followed the military road, otherwise he built a new route lower down the hill, requiring less sharp ascents/descents, but more bridges.
Approaching Blackrock Cottage near the Ski Centre, the two routes merged once more, turning along the Ski road to the A82, and then across along the West Highland Way to the Kingshouse Hotel. After crossing the old Kingshouse Bridge, Telford turned to the left, again following the Military road, heading for Glencoe. However, just before the modern A82 is reached, the Military Road forks to the right to climb the hill, followed by the West Highland Way, while Telford's route is still used by the modern road all the way to Altnafeadh.
The road built from Bridge of Orchy to Kingshouse in 1931-3 was completely new. Involving the construction of many new bridges to take a modern high speed two way highway across the bleak Rannoch Moor. The new road from the south crossed over the old road at the crossroads in Bridge of Orchy, and then followed the old track to Achallader towards Loch Tulla. This track had been extensively improved in the late 1890s when the new railway line was built across the moor.
From the point where the track to the farm still turns off, the road had to be built from scratch, however, passing to the east of Loch Tulla and crossing the Water of Tulla on one of the distinctive bridges constructed on the moor (see below). It then crosses the Ba Bridge between Lochan na h-Achlaise and Loch Ba, before heading north west across the moor to Kingshouse. Here, the River Etive is crossed on the new Kingshouse Bridge, and shortly after the old Black Corries road joins at the Glen Etive crossroads. This is where Telford's road is picked up once more, and we follow it all the way to Altnafeadh and the entrance to Glencoe.
Until 2010, it could be said that little had been done beyond basic maintenance to the A82 since it was opened in 1933. A turning lane had been added at the Ski Centre and the Kingshouse Hotel was provided with a new entrance road, but that was all. However, in January 2010 work started on the replacement of the Ba Bridge, with a temporary bridge alongside being built in March 2010 prior to the demolition of the old bridge.
Bridge of Orchy
The Bridge of Orchy, built by Caulfeild in 1751, is a well known place on the A82, but few use the actual bridge.
Set at the other end of the former A8005, the Victoria Bridge is now the gateway to Glen Kinglass or Rannoch Moor for walkers.
Water of Tulla Bridge
This bridge is identical to the current Kingshouse Bridge across the River Etive further north.
The current A82 Ba Bridge was completed in 2010, replacing a structure dating from the construction of the new route in 1932. A far older bridge spans the river a couple of miles to the west, constructed either by Caulfeild or Telford.
Rannoch Moor Bridges
Most of the remaining bridges across the various water courses on Rannoch Moor are dated. As mentioned above, the original River Ba bridge is dated 1932, with the next one to the south dated 1931, so showing the progress of works. The Bridges are all made from mass concrete, with stone wall parapets and stone cladding on the lower structures, giving the impression of traditional structures as you drive over them. Unfortunately, they were all built to 1930s standards, which means that they now form narrow pinch-points on the road, with stripy yellow-black boards warning drivers of the parapet walls.
The Bridge over the river Etive next to the Kingshouse Hotel dates from c1752 and was built by Major Caulfeild. It was replaced in 1932 by the new bridge, also known as the Etive Bridge, which is identical in design to the one crossing the Water of Tulla further south.