|To:||Bridge of Orchy|
|Distance:||11 miles (17.7 km)|
|Route outline (key)|
After climbing through Glen Falloch, the A82 meets the A85 at Crianlarich, with the two routes then multiplexing for the five miles north to Tyndrum. Perhaps surprisingly, this does not cause any serious problem with traffic flows on the S2 route, but then again traffic is never that busy in this part of Scotland! The route between the two villages passes through Strathfillan, a wide valley at the upper end of the Tay River system, and has been rebuilt a number of times over the years. After the A85 turns off just to the north of Tyndrum, the road starts the long climb up to Rannoch Moor, the edge of which is reached at Bridge of Orchy.
The Old Military Road reaches the modern A82 immediately to the north of Crianlarich. The modern road cuts into the hill at this point, but there is a stile hidden in the trees at the top of the bank, and opposite the old junction is still marked by a bridge across the railway line to a private house.
As we head north through Strathfillan, the construction of three further roads and a railway line has obliterated much of the Miltary Roads route, although a rough bank across a field at Dalrigh is reputed to be the road. This would suggest a different location for the bridge / ford to the current White Bridge (see below). On the final approach to Tyndrum, the modern road becomes narrower and twistier, and the OS mark a track on the hillside immediately to the east as being the 'Old Military Road' It is difficult to dodge the traffic and investigate further!
In Tyndrum, it is again difficult to identify any old route, but behind the Green Welly, the road climbing beside Brodie's Store is still used as access to the houses along it. It is also the route of the West Highland Way. With the houses left behind, the road climbs steadily towards the railway line, then crosses over it, to run parallel for nearly a mile. Of course, the railway line post dates this particular road, by at least 140 years! The West Highland Way starts to climb away from the railway at the summit of the pass, with the modern A82 route doing likewise on its other side. However, the old road recrosses the railway on another (collapsed) overbridge and follows the stream down to Auch. As a result, it is difficult to say exactly where the old road ran as it was quite clearly realigned when the railway was built.
At Auch, the road crosses the Allt Kinglass Bridge (see below), before following the river northwest. However, as the valley floor drops away, the road maintains its contour, before climbing across the railway line once more. It is not until Bridge of Orchy that the road drops below the railway again, turning sharp left to cross the modern A82 at the crossroads next to the Hotel. From here, the route crosses the eponymous Bridge, before climbing round Loch Tulla and onto Rannoch Moor.
As mentioned above, with the subsequent development that has been undertaken in the narrow corridor of Strathfillan, it is difficult to know exactly where Telford's road went. The surviving Bridge just north of Ewich and the White Bridge at Dalrigh suggest that Telford's route was upgraded online in the 1930's. They also suggest that Telford himself followed the route of the Military Road as he surveyed his own route, albeit with some realignment near Dalrigh.
However, once past Tyndrum, the current route of the A82 all dates from the 1930s improvements. Telford followed the Old Military Road along the east side of the pass, with the old road now being the West Highland Way. After climbing past the modern water treatment works, the old road again reappears from under the modern track, with lengthy tarred stretches. Towards the summit of the pass, the road crosses a stream and then the railway. While the railway bridge obviously dates from the end of the 19th Century, the river bridge also appears to be relatively new, as the arch is concrete. Perhaps the bridge was reconstructed when the railway bridge, just a few metres away, was built. However, while the railway bridge is nearing 25 foot across, the river bridge sticks to the 18 foot width of the Old Military Road.
As late as 1948, the OS were still marking this route as public highway, and the new access road for Auch House is not shown. However, whether the road was passable or not is quite another story. Today, much of the route is crumbling away. The second bridge over the railway line has been removed, leaving an empty chasm, and then further along as the road winds along above the Allt Coire Chailein the retaining wall has fallen away in a number of places, leaving a roadway of just 4 or 5 feet. If this process had already started in the 1920s, it would certainly go a long way in explaing the construction of a completely new road on the other side of the glen.
Those of us who travel along the A82 between Crianlarich and Tyndrum today would be forgiven for thinking that Strathfillan is almost as deserted as Rannoch Moor. Apart from the odd glimpse of a farmhouse on the hill, the modern motorist will see no signs of habitation. However, this was not the case in the past, when the road weaved between the houses and passed within a couple of feet of some of their front doors!
Pulling out of Crianlarich, there is little change in the route since Telford's time, but soon we reach 'The Lodge', where the old road passed between the house and the Railway line. We then cross the modern road and pass the houses at Inverherive before the two routes briefly rejoin. Soon, however, the old road dipped to the right and passed under the railway line, not that the bridge survives! This took us past Ewich, before rejoining the modern route. However, exploration in the undergrowth suggests that the modern road is banked up approximately 8 feet on top of the old road surface to provide a gentle gradient to the bridge over the railway line. The old bridge survives across Allt an t-Saoir, providing an incongruously wide section of the West Highland Way next to the railway viaduct - carrying the railway line twenty feet up in the air and yet the modern A82 crosses over that same line just 300 m to the south!
In the next mile, only the loop at Mountgreenan shows the old road's course, the rest having been improved on-line. However, at Strathfillan House, the old road forks left to pass the house and former parish church, crossing the Drochaid Bhan or White Bridge about 500 m upstream of the modern route. The road then passes the forestry car park at Dalrigh to rejoin the modern A82, for the second half of the one good straight in Strathfillan. At the end of the straight, the road climbs up and suddenly drops in quality - this is the section of the road that wasn't upgraded!
The sweeping bend to climb the hill north of Tyndrum is all on the 1930s alignment, although probably widened a little. The road is then characterized by a series of long straights as it crosses the watershed into the Auch Glen and so Glen Orchy. Whilst the western side of the glen therefore affords the route an easier gradient with less bends, there is one major break in this as the road has to dip into the Coire Chailein. Just before reaching Bridge of Orchy, the B8074 turns left down Glen Orchy to the A85 at Dalmally.
As with so much of the A82's route, there is little change in the section north of Dalrigh since the new road was built in the 1930s. However, as can be seen from the description above, the section through Strathfillan itself has been significantly improved. This saw the construction of a new railway overbridge to replace the old underbridge, and a new bridge across the River Fillan to replace the old White Bridge. Much of this reconstruction was doubtless to provide a modern high speed route for the multiplex of the A82 and A85, without weaving past the scattered properties. It has also made those properties access much safer.
The biggest problem is that while the road may have been considered high quality at the time of construction, the constant sweeping tree-lined bends prevent any safe overtaking points for the majority of drivers, leaving frustrated motorists stuck behind slower traffic. It is doubtful that this situation will ever be resolved.
The Scottish Executive are currently in the planning stage for the Crianlarich Bypass, with construction due to begin in 2011. This would see the A82 diverted to the west of the village, with roundabouts approximately at the current speed limit points. The A85 would remain unchanged, albeit that the multiplex would start a little later! This would result in the A82 avoiding both of the low railway bridges on its current route, theoretically making access for oversize vehicles easier. However, until the Tarbet - Ardlui stretch of the road is improved this is unlikely to prove beneficial.
The bypass has caused much controversy in the village, with the few small businesses complaining that it will take away much of their trade. However, it is arguable how much passing A82 trade they receive when drivers know about the facilities at Tyndrum.
A curious coincidence that this proposed route gives is that the northern roundabout will be about 100-150 m south of the old junction for the Military roads, the new alignment for the roundabout starting at that former junction!
White Bridge, Dalrigh
Main Article: White Bridge (Strathfillan)
A historic crossing point of the River Fillan first bridged by Major Caulfeild in the 1750s. Today a modern bridge stands about 500m downstream of the old bridge.
Auchtertyre, Kirkton and Inverhaggernie
The three farms of Auchtertyre, Kirkton and Inverhaggernie all lie on the east side of the River Fillan, with the latter two having their own bridges across. Auchtertyre is still accessed by a side road following the Allt Auchtertyre and then crossing on a small stone arch bridge similar to those built by Telford. However, this merely suggests that it is of a similar age.
Kirkton is accessed by a modern steel and timber bridge on 1930s-era concrete supports. This suggests that the farm was formerley accessed along the track from Auchtertyre that is now the West Highland Ways route. Inverhaggernie also has a modern bridge, although this is the farm's only access.
Allt Kinglass Bridge
The bridge across the Allt Kinglass at Auch is listed by Historic Scotland as being 18th Century. This would suggest that it was built by General Caulfeild as he took the Military Road north. Despite his general preference of using fords and small culverts to cross streams high up the hillside, the necessary detour to safely cross the fast-flowing Allt Kinglass without a bridge would suggest that Caulfeild did indeed bridge the river.
The bridge is a single stone arch, similar in design to those built by Telford's team 60 years later. However, bridge design in the West Highlands was always a matter of simplicity. Today it carries the West Highland Way and estate traffic, and with the modern A82 passing on the opposite side of the glen there is no replacement bridge.