|Distance:||26 miles (41.8 km)|
|Meets:||A82, B845, A85|
|Route outline (key)|
Ballachulish - Appin
The original start point of the A828 was not that far from its current start point. Indeed, in 1922 when the routes were first classified, the A828 started at the slipway for the Ballachulish Ferry outside the Ballachulish Hotel. The road across the ferry was the A82. However, there was already a road halfway around Loch Leven, numbered as the A829, shortly afterwards completed to North Ballachulish. The A82 was re-routed this way around Loch Leven in 1935, so the A828 was extended along the old A82 and now started at Glencoe Crossroads.
At that time, the road ran along the old road at Tigh Phuirt, and then through Ballachulish Village, over the old Brig O'Laroch, with the Albert Road Bridge being built in 1951 to upgrade the road. As it approached the site of the modern Ballachulish Roundabout, the road crossed the railway and dropped down to the loch shore, passing in front of Craig Rannoch House. The short stub on the far side of the ferry was also renumbered as part of the A828, and so we are back at the old start point.
Long queues for the ferry used to form in summer months, with roadside boards telling you how long you should expect to wait. If you were further back than the 30-minute board, it was generally quicker to drive round the loch! Much of the spur is now unclassified (Old Ferry Road) but a little was converted to the A82 after the Ballachulish Bridge opened.
Back on the A828, we wind along the shore past Glenachulish and Lettermore. Between the two the road crosses the old railway line, now a cycle track. As we continue south to Kentallen most of the old railway line has been converted to a new cycle track, but in a couple of places the old track bed has been absorbed by the A828, leaving the cycle track to find a new route. Generally speaking, however, the road still sticks to its historic alignment as far as Duror. Here we cross Duror Bridge, a structure conveniently dated 1939, as are many of the bridges along the route. The old bridge remains a little to the west.
Beyond Duror there are several points where the road has been realigned over the old railway line. This has left long stretches of road on the landward side for the cycle track, although it was only during 2011 when the cycle track was constructed that this became apparent. One of these old loops is still public road, serving a house or two, but most were blocked by gates at one end or the other and hidden by undergrowth. Of course, now, they are much easier to see and when cycling it is quite remarkable how the long straights that characterise the A828 were once bumpy up-and down sections with slight kinks as the road wound around the hillside. This new section of cycle track starts at Dalnatrat, where the old bridge has now collapsed, but the new bridge is dated surprisingly late, at 1959. This is still before the railway was closed however.
The long straights along the shore come to an end with a long layby at North Dallens. This is built on the old railway line, and leads onto the cycle track round to Appin, again following the trackbed. The road instead turns inland, through the Appin Bends, and climbing steeply up and over the hill to Portnacroish. Using the old railway line to re-route the road would have made a much better alignment for traffic, although sending cyclists over the hill on a quiet side road would not have been so good! The road drops to 40 through Portnacroish, with quick glimpses of Castle Stalker in the mouth of Loch Laich. We then sweep round the head of the loch, over Appin Bridge where the old bridge remains alongside, and start the short climb through the Strath of Appin. For all of this section, the old road alignment was simply widened and improved for the new road.
Appin - Connel
The A828 emerges from the Strath of Appin and dives down to the shore of Loch Creran. Here, the cycle track runs along a pavement as the old railway line has been developed on. Just after the Cregan Inn, the road used to go under the Colonial Railway bridge which crossed the loch. Before it was rebuilt for road use in 2001, traffic had to do a 6-mile trip around the head of the loch. The old road is still there, S2 all the way and very pretty but a little twisty. This road used to flood at very high tides, and quite probably still does so there was a diversion around through the drive of a private house. Not so good. These days, the A828 stays open even if the loch floods thanks to the Creagan Bridge. Along the old road, we pass Craig House, Druimavic and Dallachullish, all hamlets before we pass under the bridge again, to reach the second roundabout with the A828.
From Loch Crearan south, most of the road re-uses the original alignment, tightly hugging the coast under the steeply wooded hills. However, at Barcaldine there is a new bridge to carry the road over the Abhainn Teithil. The old alignment is now the car park for Sutherlands Grove forestry walks, with the old bridge carrying the cycle track. Another old loop has been cut off at the junction with the B845, where that road now follows the old A828 to start with, and then the cycle track again following the remainder.
Past the Sea Life Centre, a layby on the landward side again shows the old alignment, and is quickly followed by an abandoned loop now providing access to houses. The southern end of this section seems to drop off a cliff, where a small cutting has been blasted to carry the new road. Quite how this was done while keeping the road open to through traffic is a bit of a mystery, perhaps they didn't!
A pair of long straights bring us to Benderloch without deviation, but at Connel, the road used to end on the north side of Loch Etive i.e. North Connel. The approach was through North Connel (West), down the side of the airport, and then a dogleg across the railway to approach on the stub still visible next to queuing traffic. The bridge was unclassified, with a toll and priority given to trains until the line was closed in 1966. Shortly after, the current system was implemented with single-lane running controlled by traffic lights at either end, and no toll! However, it still took several years before the road was improved. The 1976 OS Landranger sheet still shows the road running through North Connel before almost doubling back on itself to reach the bridge.
But our journey is not quite over. We still have to drop down the hill to the A85 at the shoreside Connel Junction. The curve down the hill is quite sharp today, but used to be worse, with the road emerging on the north side of the Oyster Inn, really the road from Ardchonnel which was appropriated by traffic from the Connel Bridge.