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The Road To The Isles
From:  Fort William (NN125758)
To:  Mallaig (NM676967)
Distance:  40.6 miles (65.3 km)
Meets:  A82, B8006, B8004, A861, B8008
Old route now:  B8008
Highway Authorities

Transport Scotland

Traditional Counties


Route outline (key)
A830/History Fort William - Mallaig

The A830 is an unusual road in that almost every section can be dated fairly accurately. The road was first set out in 1804 by Thomas Telford as part of his commission on Highland Roads and Bridges, indeed it was the first route to be completed by the commission. With a few exceptions, almost all of the subsequent improvements have been carried out within living memory, so the dates are recorded.

Fort William - Glenfinnan

It would be easy to think that as the A830 heads west out of Fort William, the road is little changed. However, aside from the new Lochybridge over the River Lochy and the Blar Mhor Roundabout, there is another major change, before the route even reaches Corpach. After the roundabout, the road sweeps round a left hander to meet the B8006 again before crossing the canal alongside the railway. However, the original line of road across the Blar Mhor was straight, and can still be accessed from the side road through Camaghael. The canal was then bridged at the third lock on Neptunes Staircase, with the road continuing past the Moorings Hotel (now extended over the old road), and so via a short section of the B8004 and Old Banavie Road to its current line. The new bridge was installed in the 1930s, but the road was only realigned to the west, the A830 doing a dogleg along the canal bank (along the pre-existing link to Caol) on the east bank. Then in the 1960s, the road was completely realigned, with new junctions for both the B8006 and B8004.

Continuing west, the road beyond Annat was single track as recently as 1978 when the section along Loch Eil was improved. Much of this was online widening, but where the old road had turned away from the shore to cross a stream, the new road stayed close to the railway. The first slight deviation, therefore, is at Camas na h-Atha, while at Fassfern the old road is still fully open to serve the small community. A little further west and the road used to cut up hill again between Drumbeg and Corriebeg, with over half the old road still in use as property and farm accesses. As the road reaches Kinlocheil, the improvements are more subtle. Laybys and driveways show where the road has been straightened, and a couple of properties now sit behind retaining walls showing that the gradient was also improved.

Old and new road crossing near Glenfinnan

At the Kinlocheil Junction, the old road used to again run further north over the Druim Na Sallie Bridge, although this section and the replacement Drochaid Sgainnir‎‎ date from 1975. The road has had to sneak under the railway since it was built in the early 1900s, but from the bridge into Glenfinnan the road was improved in 1971, and the old line can still be seen first on the inside of the bend, then crossing to the other side as it winds westwards alongside the Callop River. The next loop is not so easy to see from the road at the eastern end, but gated at the western end, and then after a short section of online widening, the old road can easily be seen criss-crossing the new, either gated or open for parking.

Glenfinnan - Loch nan Uamh

The whole section of the A830 west from Glenfinnan to Lochailort was upgraded in one go, and completed in 1961. As a result, there are less offline sections, and most of the route was simply widened online. Through Glenfinnan village, the road shows no signs of changes, except for the approach to the railway bridge which has obviously been swept out to remove a near right angle bend onto the bridge. Half a mile further on, a rock cutting bypasses a sharp bend on the old road. Continuing west, many of the laybys will probably be the old road which has been subtly cut into the hill and straightened, and a number of the bridges were replaced in the late 2010s.

Layby entrance alongside Loch Eilt

At the western end of Loch Eilt, around Arienskill, the line of the old road becomes more confusing. The short rock cutting is almost certainly from 1961, with the old road traceable closer to the river, but the construction of the railway which bridges the river here seems to have also moved the road, and the precise chronology of what happened is uncertain. The road originally stuck to the river bank and took a straighter line to reach Arienskill Cottage, then when the railway was built it crossed the railway further along and doubled back towards the river to meet the old road, probably along the driveway to the cottage. The current straight, bypassing the cottage, almost certainly dates from 1961. Mapping evidence at the scales available is difficult to decipher, but there is a suggestion that the current rail bridge is not the original, and that the road originally crossed the tracks a little to the south. A concrete abutment adjacent to the tracks a little to the south of the existing bridge might support this theory.

The A830 then sticks broadly to Telfords line as far as Lochailort, at which point the real fun once began! The old road ran parallel to the front of the hotel, and despite the construction of this end of the A861 in 1967, continued to do so until 1988 when the current road was built. The old road therefore crosses the A861 a little to the south, and cuts round the back of the cutting to cross the new road almost at right angles. It then headed inland, under the railway, before doubling back to cross the Allt na Criche Bridge, and the complex history of this section is fully described on that page. Suffice to say here that there are three or four road bridges across this little stream.

Construction of the current road around the bay of Camus Driseach has obliterated most of the evidence of the old road, but a track leading off along the shore at the far end of the bay is then the old road, curving round the finger of hill where the new road cuts through it. The old road then zig-zagged back and forth across the new road line, trying to avoid steep climbs, before it can be found again as the side road past the famous white chapel at Polnish. The bridge over the Polnish Burn is a replacement, probably in the early 20th Century. As the A830 passes Loch Dubh, the rock cuttings tell their own story, the old road line almost completely lost as it again zig-zagged around the contours.

The old road used to run through the trees to the south of the current line on the approach to the Peanmeanach parking area, and then the double loop at Arnipol to the north can still be partly driven. On the descent into Glen Mama, the A830 sticks to the old line, until it can be seen cutting off across the field to the old bridge before passing under the railway viaduct to reach Loch nan Uamh.

Loch nan Uamh - Mallaig

The previous section was built in two stages, in 1988 and 1998, but most of the rest of the current A830 dates from 2003 and 2009. After passing under the viaduct, there is still a mile of the 1998 section, curving round Loch nan Uamh, with three loops of the old road identifiable before the road turns west again. Otherwise, despite being straightened, there is precious little evidence surviving along the lochs north shore. Beyond, this even the old road deviates from Telfords line, as we shall see.

The final upgrade

In May 2009, the final piece of the A830 was opened, after being upgraded to proper S2 over the previous couple of years. The new road is initially an online upgrade, but after passing Glen Beasdale Station, a new alignment has been found, taking the road further away from Borrodale House. Initially, this tends to the north of the old road, sections of which remain to serve Drumindarroch and Arisaig House, but a long stretch has been removed and allowed to return to nature. After this the two roads cross, with the new road then remaining to the south of the old route until it reaches the new bridge next to the Larichmore railway viaduct just east of Arisaig. The final half mile has then straightened out the twists and turns of the old road, before 'plugging in' to the Arisaig bypass. While some sections of the old road remain accessible, a lot of work was done to remove the old road and allow it to be reclaimed by nature

The new A830 junction at Druimindarroch, with cycle track alongside.

The new road features a cycle path from the Princes Cairn layby on Loch nam Uamh through to just short of the first railway overbridge. There is then a break for about 1.5 miles (although the second railway bridge has short pavements to allow pedestrians and cyclists access to the push-button controls for the traffic lights). Once the new road diverges from the old alignment, the cycle track resumes, alongside the new road. It seems a shame that the old road couldn't have been retained for the cycle track, but after less than a year since its abandonment, much of the old road had returned to nature, albeit with a little help!

A comparison of the two images below will show how much the old road had changed in just eight months, and if you don't believe that they are of the same spot, compare the tree trunks too! The gates have been moved about 200 m further east to the end of the Tarmac road at Druimindarroch.

Telfords Road

A pond where the road ran a year before!

After passing Arisaig House, the line of Telfords road diverged along the surviving Druimindarroch Road, continuing ahead past the cottages and through the green gates. For 500m this was the A830 until 2009, but then the road swung north (a pond now covers the old road line), while Telfords route continued ahead, finding a gap between the low hills. It dropped down and crossed the Brunery Burn - the bridge is clearly a Telford Bridge - and continued west past Glen Cottage to reach the shore of Loch nan Ceall on the current road to Rhu. Prior to the road being built, there was no real village at Arisaig, but Telford had identified it as a possible port, and Cattle Drovers were already landing cattle in the vicinity. The road north along the shore to Arisaig village may or may not have been constructed by Telford.

Arisaig - Mallaig

From Arisaig north, the old road is almost completely still open to traffic as the B8008. Every Crest, Dip, Twist and Turn appears to date back to at least the construction of the railway, probably before, except for the obvious changes where the old road has been cut by the new A830 line. The precise date of the construction of this old road is not so clear, although evidence from the construction of the railway suggests that parts of the road had to be rebuilt as part of the construction of the line - and more than just where the tracks and road met. This was presumably an attempt to try and help the local people access and so use the new railway.

The most obvious changes lie either side of Morar Village. To the south, an underpass used by the cycle route connects to the old road loop south east of the current staggered crossroads, and to the north the old road can still be traced extending north from the Cemetery Road.

Opening dates

1805LochybridgeMorroch, ArisaigLoch nan Ceall Road built by Thomas Telford
1850s?LochybridgeSuspension Bridge designed by James Dredge
c1903various placesminor improvements carried out to accommodate the new railway line to Mallaig
c1936BanavieNew swing bridge across the Caledonian Canal
1961GlenfinnanLochailortEarliest and longest section to be upgraded in one go
1965BanavieAnnatUpgraded through Corpach
1969LochybridgeThe new bridge opened
1975Drumsallie, KinlocheilCraigardThe 2.6 mile improvement with diversions was completed in 1975 per the 1975 Scottish Development Department Report.
1978Loch nan UamhJust a mile near Princes Cairn
1979Annat (Corpach)Drumsallie, KinlocheilThe widening to S2 and improvements on the north shore of Loch Eil were completed in 1979 per the 1979 Scottish Development Department Report. There were then 26 miles of S2 road from Lochailort to Fort William.
1994Morar BypassIncluding Morar Bridge
1998PolnishLoch nan UamhIncludes two climbing lanes
2003ArisaigKinsadel (Morar)
2009Loch nan UamhArisaigThe final missing link!
The 1922 MOT Road List defines this route as: Fort William - Arisaig - Mallaig

Other nearby roads
Fort William
A800 • A801 • A802 • A803 • A804 • A805 • A806 • A807 • A808 • A809 • A810 • A811 • A812 • A813 • A814 • A815 • A816 • A817 • A818 • A819

A820 • A821 • A822 • A823 • A824 • A825 • A826 • A827 • A828 • A829 • A830 • A831 • A832 • A833 • A834 • A835 • A836 • A837 • A838 • A839
A840 • A841 • A842 • A843 • A844 • A845 • A846 • A847 • A848 • A849 • A850 • A851 • A852 • A853 • A854 • A855 • A856 • A857 • A858 • A859
A860 • A861 • A862 • A863 • A864 • A865 • A866 • A867 • A868 • A869 • A870 • A871 • A872 • A873 • A874 • A875 • A876 • A877 • A878 • A879
A880 • A881 • A882 • A883 • A884 • A885 • A886 • A887 • A888 • A889 • A890 • A891 • A892 • A893 • A894 • A895 • A896 • A897 • A898 • A899

Defunct Itineraries and Motorways: A804 • A806 • A817 • A818 • A823(M) • A825 • A833 • A859 • A862 • A872 • A876 • A882 • A896
Scottish Tourist Routes
National RoutesAngus Coastal Tourist Route • Argyll Coastal Route • Borders Historic Route • Clyde Valley Tourist Route • Deeside Tourist Route • Fife Coastal Tourist Route • Forth Valley Tourist Route • Galloway Tourist Route • Highland Tourist Route • Moray Firth Tourist Route • North & West Highlands Tourist Route • Perthshire Tourist Route
Scenic RoutesGreat Glen Scenic Route • Lomond & Trossachs Scenic Route • Snow Roads Scenic Route
Road Trip RoutesNC500 • NE250 • SWC300
TrailsBurns Heritage Trail • Castles Trail • Clyde Sea Lochs Trail • East Lothian Coastal Trail • East Lothian Hillfoots Trail • East Lothian Saltire Trail • Kintyre Trail • Malt Whisky Trail • North East Coastal Trail • Pictish Trail • Solway Coast Heritage Trail • Tower Trail • Trossachs Trail • Victorian Heritage Trail • Wester Ross Coastal Trail
OtherBerwickshire Coastal Route • Dornoch Tourist Routes • Road to the Isles • Scottish Castles Route

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