|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 primary route from Tore to Ullapool. It used to commence at the A832 junction at Gorstan just beyond Garve; the section between Maryburgh and Tore was previously 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. Heading west and then north west from here it crosses the B9169 at a staggered junction, passes Kinkell Castle (a restored 16th/17th-century tower house), crosses the B9163, again at a staggered junction, and by-passes the town of Conon Bridge, before crossing the mouth of the River Conon, and the Inverness to Wick/Thurso railway line to meet the A862 at a roundabout junction at the northern end of Maryburgh.
From here it sweeps around the north of Maryburgh by-passing the town, heading west with long sight lines and plenty of overtaking opportunities. It meets the A832 next to Moy Bridge over the River Conon, with its flood barriers and signs warning pedestrians that water levels can rise quickly. The A835 now follows the Black Water, a tributary of the Conon, meeting the A834 at a triangular junction, before passing through the village of Contin and crossing the river on Contin Bridge. Heading north west now it passes the Rogie Falls with its fish ladder (where, in season, salmon can be seen leaping up the Black Water), through Tarvie, and along the southern shores of Loch Garve, the Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh railway line separating it from the loch side.
At Garve, it crosses the railway line on a level crossing beside Garve Station, meeting the A832 at Gorstan a short distance further on. This junction was heavily rebuilt when the A835 was extended south to Tore, and the next section is new built 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 village of Little Garve to the south. The road is still following the Black Water, as it passes through Strathgarve Forest, crossing the Black Water again 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 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 again at Black Bridge. Now running alongside the Glascarnoch River, the road heads west to the Aultguish Inn and then 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 low dam, and there are a number of parking areas and viewpoints along the loch shore as we continue west. 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 advance of 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. 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 it meets the A832 for the fourth and final time, 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 61 m (200ft) deep. The river plunges 46 m (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).
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 primary, the A893 taking on that baton to the pier, which is 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.
From here, on the A837, Thurso is signed on the tourist route to the north, and east the road becomes single track, leading to Lairg and Bonar Bridge.
This last section of the A835, north of Ullapool, was classified as the B860 back in 1922, although by 1932 it had already become part of the extended A835. As the A835 originally ended on Ullapool pier, it is likely that the A893 was created when the A835 was extended north of Ullapool.
At the other end of the route, the A835 originally terminated on the A832 at Garve. Then in the 1970s plans were in place for the A9 reconstruction and the new A9 road was rerouted over the Black Isle Via the Kessock and Cromarty bridges. Along with the A9 a new spur off the Tore roundabout was built for westbound traffic which was partly on-line upgrade of the B9162. This new road was briefly numbered as the A834 (as shown on the 1981 OS Landranger map), before the Maryburgh Bypass section was built a year or two later. At this point, the A835 was extended east along the A832 through Contin (as the dominant number in a multiplex), then along the two sections of new-build road to Tore Roundabout.
As hinted at above, north of Garve there are some lengthy sections of off-line improvement where the old road can be explored. The loop through Gorstan is an easy one to spot, and the old road past Little Garve Bridge is a pleasant walk. Silver Bridge is provided with a car park, and once across the bridge, the old road line disappears through the trees on the inside of the bend of the modern road. For the next couple of miles there is a near continuous section of old road running alongside the new. There are a couple of places where explorers will need to follow the wide verge as the old road is consumed by the new, and two properties are built on the old road, with private signs up. However, a long stretch has been retained as farm/estate access through fields, and there is also a pleasant stroll through trees on a section clearly in use by quad bikes. Summer vegetation growth may make some parts difficult to follow, but good progress can be made all the way to the footbridge at Inchbae, from where a forest road leads back to the car park.
Garve - Aultguish Drove Road
Maps show a path crossing the hill from the current line of the A835 near Little Garve to the Aultguish Inn. However, on the ground this is no single file path, but a full width track right through (nearly), and although very wet underfoot in places it is easy to see that this track was constructed as a road. This track is signposted as a Drove Road, but is there more to it than that? The route shares many characteristics with the Military road network built in the 18th Century, but the only such road in the area is the Contin to Poolewe route; where there is scant evidence that it ever proceeded past Little Garve Bridge. Little Garve again? But it is scarcely believable that the military could build 7 or 8 miles of road up the wrong glen.
Move forward a few years, however, and the fishing port of Ullapool was founded. Soon after, 40 miles of road were built to reach the new town,and it is only 30 or so miles from Little Garve to Ullapool. Could this, then be the road built in the 1790s? It is plausible to think that the only reference on how to build a road in the area were the military roads, so similarities are to be expected. It is also the case that a military style bridge exists much further west at Inverlael Bridge. The fact that Thomas Telfords description of the road in 1809 is scathing does not mean that the road could not survive in its current state today - he was similarly scathing about the military road across Rannoch Moor, which survives in a similar condition.
The best place to start exploring the road is at the Silver Bridge car park. 300m back along the wide verge of the A835 towards Garve, a forest road gives access to the route, Take the first left and walk up to the sign post. Here the route starts as a steep and old forest road. climbing at a long steady gradient, this road was probably improved when the forest was first planted, but as height is gained, so the condition deteriorates. At a gateway, the upgrade ends, and a long-eroded track continues, the stream no longer channelled down a side ditch (although traces of one on the uphill side survive), and things only get worse.
Snow was lying when this route was explored, at depths of a couple of inches to over a foot across the summit stretches. Nevertheless, a fair assessment of what laid beneath could be gained from the many wetter patches and stream crossings. After several miles, the road leaves the forest and cuts across open moorland, with odd patches of trees. Here, there is clear evidence for the stone banks on the downhill side of the road, and limited evidence of a drainage ditch above. In many places erosion has badly damaged the old road, with streams following the vehicle ruts and small landslips on the uphill side making the roadway narrower and consuming the original drain. The road clearly lies in a shallow torugh on the hillside, however, and is easy to follow.
At length, the road starts the long gentle descent to Aultguish. Modern maps show the path turning just through a gateway and following the fence down to the A835 near the telephone exchange. However, there is scant evidence on the ground for any such path, save the post of an old sign on the roadside. The road itself continued ahead, crossing the steep gulley, as can be seen from its continuation beyond on aerial photography. However, beyond that we need to look at old maps. These show the road meeting the old A835 at Wester Aultguish, now behind the dam. The modern road climbs up to cross the old road somewhere near where the modern hill track starts, but if this does follow the old road at all, it soon diverges from it.