|Location Map ( geo)|
|Distance:||66.4 miles (106.9 km)|
|Meets:||A832, A9, A862, A832, A834, A832, A893, A837|
|Former Number(s):||B862, B9162, A834, A832, B860|
|Old route now:||A893|
|Route outline (key)|
The A835 is just over 66 miles long, and is a trunk route from its start at Tore Roundabout to Ullapool. It used to commence at the A832 junction at Gorstan just beyond Garve; the section between Maryburgh and Tore was previously briefly the A834 (and before that the B9162). The road can be particularly busy before and after ferry crossings arrive at and depart from Ullapool, and sees a great deal of goods traffic travelling to and from the Western Isles.
The road is characterised by frequent deer warning signs and deer reflectors are in place at a number of locations to try to limit the number of accidents, some fatal, which have occurred on this route. There has also been action by Highland Council along the route to try to control invasive species such as Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam, which displace other plants and destabilise river banks, and areas of banking on hillsides.
Tore - Gorstan
The road commences at its eastern end at Tore Roundabout, a roundabout providing links in five directions with the A9 north and southbound, the A832 east and westbound, and the A835 itself, which heads north west. Leaving the roundabout behind, the A835 initially heads west, following the line of the former B9162 as it climbs to a shallow dip at the western end of the range of hills which stretch north east across the Black Isle. A forestry car park at the summit leads to some popular walks, and then the road starts the long descent to the head of the Cromarty Firth. The B9169 is crossed at a staggered junction, just after the road deviates from the old B road line, to ease the gradient as it takes a sweeping bend past Kinkell Castle (a restored 16th/17th-century tower house). On the edge of the growing town of Conon Bridge, the B9163 is also crossed at a staggered junction, after which the A835 by-passes the town on a new road which crosses the mouth of the River Conon on a new bridge. The bridge lies at the bottom of the hill, with the road climbing again to the north to cross the Inverness to Wick/Thurso railway line before meeting the A862 at the Maryburgh Roundabout.
Maryburgh itself is by-passed to the north, with the A835 now heading west with long sight lines and plenty of overtaking opportunities. This stretch of road is all new build from the 1980s, but largely replaced a minor road that skirted the bottom of the hill. There is another long climb up from the roundabout as the road skirts the extensive Brahan Estate, while on the opposite side of the road some impressive cliffs are a haven for climbers. Dropping back towards the River Conon, the road meets the A832 next to Moy Bridge which crosses the River. The A835 now follows the Black Water, a tributary of the Conon, meeting the A834 at a triangular junction, at the entrance to the small village of Contin. At the far end of the village, the road swings round across Contin Bridge, the first of three crossings of the Black Water.
A minor road turns left to Loch Achilty, and on across the Meig Dam deep into Strath Conon, before a long straight leads the A835 into the woodlands above the Black Water. This section of the route has hardly seen any improvement in the last half century, and after passing the Rogie Falls with its fish ladder (where, in season, salmon can be seen leaping up the Black Water), it becomes a real rollercoaster ride with short undulating straights punctuated by sharp bends on blind crests. There is brief respite at Tarvie, where a popular cafe sits on the roadside, but as the road approaches Loch Garve, the Inverness - Kyle of Lochalsh railway line comes to join it, and the two snake along the southern shores of the Loch.
Loch Garve is not much more than a mile long, and then the road straightens up on the short run into the village of Garve, where it crosses the railway line on a level crossing beside Garve Station. To the north of the village, the road is squeezed between the railway and river, creating some unpleasant tight bends, but soon it arrives at the junction at Gorstan, where the A832 turns off west for Achnasheen and Gairloch after the lengthy multiplex. This junction was heavily rebuilt when the A835 was extended south to Tore, and the next section is new build through a cutting.
Gorstan - Ullapool
From Gorstan, the road turns round to the north east, crossing a small stream on a new embankment before heading into a cutting. This bypasses the small villages of Gorstan to the north and Little Garve to the south. The road is still following the Black Water, as it passes through Strathgarve Forest, crossing the river again at the picturesque Silver Bridge before turning north into Garbat Forest. There are odd houses scattered along the roadside, with the old road alignment running parallel to the new road, immediately to the west. In a few places the old road is used for laybys, but the old bridges all seem to have gone. At Garbat a large parking area provides access to Ben Wyvis for Munro baggers, alongside Garbat Bridge. A mile or so further on, the Inchbae Lodge Hotel is passed next to Inchbae Bridge.
Heading north west again, the road leaves the forest behind and crosses the Black Water for the third and final time at Black Bridge. It then sweeps across the moorland, running alongside the Glascarnoch River, as it heads west to the Aultguish Inn and then the dramatic concrete wall of the dam at Loch Glascarnoch. The Glascarnoch dam is part of the Conon Valley power project; the dam receives water from the Lochs Vaich and Droma which then flow into the River Glascarnoch. Aultguish Inn stands in the shadow of the dam, and is the last signs of human habitation for many miles.
Although it is sometimes stated that the A835 road was not displaced when the valley was flooded, the OS Six-inch map shows two earlier routes, both now within the area of the reservoir. It's likely that the new road was built in preparation for the reservoir, and the earliest One-inch Seventh Series map (surveyed 1955-6) shows only this new alignment together with the unfinished dam, but an overlay of a modern map over the the 1922 MoT Map clearly shows the different routes. The old road can be clearly seen between Aultguish Inn and the dam, and at low water a good length of it is also visible at the west end of the loch. The new road provides many large parking areas to enjoy the views, or perhaps climb the hills to the south. It has a series of bends as it follows the contours of the hills, unlike the old road which was much straighter as it ran along the floor of the strath. (There was no loch here before the dam.) Just before crossing the watershed, the road crosses Torrandhu Bridge, and then descends past Loch Droma. Below the loch there are a couple of laybys showing up the old road alignment.
At Braemore Junction The A835 meets the A832 for the fourth and final time, before turning north to pass through the Corrieshalloch Gorge (this breathtaking mile-long gorge is one of the finest examples in Britain of a box canyon, it is 61m (200ft) deep, and the river plunges 46m (150ft) over the Falls of Measach. There is a suspension bridge a little way downstream from the falls, this was built by John Fowler (1817-98), he was also a joint designer of the Forth Railway Bridge). A new visitor centre was opened in 2023 on the A832 just west of the junction. The A835, meanwhile, plunges down the hill, losing 150m in less than 2 miles.
Continuing north west the road follows the River Broom through Lael Forest, crossing Inverlael Bridge alongside its humpbacked predecessor. Beyond Inverlael, it emerges to skirt the eastern shores of Loch Broom, through Leckmelm, and the Ullapool Braes, entering Ullapool as Garve Road. In Ullapool (purpose built as a herring station to a Thomas Telford design in 1788) it meets the A893, which is a very short road connecting the A835 to the pier, where Caledonian MacBrayne ferries depart for Stornoway on Lewis. This is where the road ceases to be trunk, the A893 taking on that baton to the pier, which was the original terminus of the A835. Today, however, the road continues north through the town as Mill Street, and then North Road, which bypasses the older route of Moss Road to reach Ullapool Bridge.
Ullapool - Ledmore
Leaving Ullapool, and most of the traffic, behind the road turns to head north west, climbing through Morefield, before dropping again to cross a stream near the junction with the road to Rhue. Another, lower, hill is crossed and the road drops to the shore at the pretty whitewashed row of houses at Ardmair. From here, the road turns again to head north east, along the shore of Loch Kanaird and then climbing steeply through the narrow pass called Glutton. The old road can be seen in places off to the left, taking a less direct, but also more level, route through to Strath Canaird. The old and new roads re-converge near a hydro-electric power station, just before the bridge over the River Canaird, in the village of Strathcanaird.
The road is now climbing steadily into the hills, the coast a distant memory as the breathtaking views across Coigach and north to Assynt start to unfold. At Drumrunie it meets the unclassified single-track road leading to Achiltibuie and the west coast. The A835 continues heading north east, passing several small inland lochs, and the Knockan Crag visitor centre (telling the story of the unique geology of the Assynt area, 'The South Pole to Scotland in 600 million years'). There are a number of laybys from which to enjoy the spectacular views, and in places the old road can be seen running parallel to the new a little to the west. The tiny, merged villages of Knockan and Elphin are passed, with the road snaking through on a route that is actually straighter than the old road thanks to some new cuttings and embankments. Beyond Elphin, the road turns east, briefly skirting the shores of the Cam Loch, before crossing the Ledbeg River to end at Ledmore Junction, where it meets the A837.
The A835 has been extended in both directions and enjoyed many upgrades and improvements over the years. Like many roads in the north-west Highlands, until the 1960s it was single track throughout. (The extension over the former A832 was always double track, albeit rather narrow.) It originally started on the A832 at Gorstan near Garve and ran to Ullapool harbour. The extension to the north happened in the mid 1920s when it took over the former route of the B860, while the southward extension to Tore Roundabout happened in the 1980s when the new road between Contin and Maryburgh completed the link to the Black Isle, where the new roads had been built a few years earlier. For several years after the rest of the road to Ullapool had been double-tracked, the mile or so from Gorstan to Sliver Bridge remained S1 until 1982. The original line through Little Garve remains driveable, although its northern end is in poor condition. The road from Dingwall to Ullapool (A834 / A832 / A835 / A893) became trunk in 1946. A834 was detrunked when the new road east of Contin was completed.