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A835/History

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A835
Location Map ( geo)
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From:  Tore (NH602527)
To:  Ledmore (NC247125)
Via:  Ullapool
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
Highway Authorities

Highland • Transport Scotland

Traditional Counties

Cromartyshire • Ross-shire • Sutherland

Route outline (key)
A835/History Tore - Ullapool
A835/History Ullapool - Ledmore


When the A835 was originally classified in 1922, it was much shorter than it is now. It started at Gorstan near Garve and ran north west to end on Ullapool Pier. The northermost section of what is now the A835, north of Ullapool, was originally classified as the B860 but had become part of the A835 by 1932. As the A835 originally ended on Ullapool pier, it is likely that the A893 was created when the A835 was extended north of Ullapool. Roll on 50 years and the A835 was extended at the other end. The construction of new roads and bridges north of Inverness saw the A835 extended over the A832 and B9162 (briefly the A834) to meet the A9 at Tore Roundabout. With such a chequered past, it is unsurprising that the history of the route itself is equally intriguing.

The Eastern Extension - Tore - Garve

The old B9162

The B9162 originally started on the B9161 at Artfallie, next to what is now the Munlochy Road End junction on the A9. The first section up to Tore Roundabout therefore has been superseded by the A9, but is still open to traffic. It meets the A832 near Tore Services, and so the section to the roundabout is now the A832. On the west side of the roundabout, the old road line sits immediately to the north of the A835 as a property access road, but after the junction the A835 is an online upgrade of the old road, completely obliterating the old route until just before the B9169 crossroads. A short distance north along the B9169, the old B9162 line can be found at a crossroads, and again it is still open as far as the B9163 junction, while the A835 now takes a sweeping descent of the hill further south west.

The B9162 originally entered Conon Bridge along Lenaig Road, indeed after the roundabout on the B9163, Lenaig Road is still the B9162. The A835 meanwhile crosses the River Conon, and so bypasses the town on a new build section dating from c1980, which leads to the Maryburgh Roundabout. It is this section between the Tore and Maryburgh Roundabouts that was briefly numbered as the A834 when first opened.

Conon to Garve

The next section of the A835 also largely follows a pre-existing road, although there is much more evidence of the old road surviving. It follows Hood Street and Birch Drive out of Maryburgh and into the woodlands of the Brahan Estate, slowly converging with the modern road, all of which can be walked, although the evidence of the old road disappears in the woodland. A short distance after the turning for Tollie, the old road can be found running alongside the A835 immediately to the north under the Brahan Rock, before the two diverge as the old road sticks close to the cliff base to reach Moy Rock. Both of these are busy with climbers at times. Old maps suggest that the Lodge opposite Moy Rock is where the public section of the old road ended (it changes from being coloured yellow to white) but the road itself continued, now back to the south of the A835, as far as the next farm. Here the A835 takes over the line of the old road. This soon meets the A832, which was substantially upgraded for the next two miles into Contin. Laybys and property accesses identify sections of the old road that were realigned.

From Contin to Garve, the A835 largely follows the old line of the A832, the biggest change being the new Contin Bridge, although this predates the change in number. This part of the road therefore largely dates back to the 1810s when it was originally constructed as part of Thomas Telfords road to Achnasheen and Strome Ferry as part of his commission on Highland Roads and Bridges.

Old Military Road

In Contin, we find the biggest enigma in the history of the modern A835. In the 1750s and 60s there are a number of references to a military road being built from Contin to Poolewe, at the time one of the busiest ports for the Western Isles. This road would have been built by Major Caulfeild, successor to General Wade. However, despite a lot of investigation, only a short section of this road has ever been positively found. The section identified starts in the middle of Contin, and follows the side road of Tor View to its end, then into the forest, quickly finding a forest road. It keeps left at the first big junction to dip down to the river bank, and soon after passes the farm of Rogie. Turning westwards, it loosely follows the river to pass under the railway bridge to Loch Garve.

Little Garve Bridge

So far, the forest road seems to broadly follow the old military road line. However, the forest road now takes a big loop away from the loch, which seems less likely for the military road which famously took the straightest line possible. Old maps do, however, reflect this loop without showing any alternative line. Back near the lochside, the road gently winds north west to Strathgarve Lodge. So far it's all possible, but not certain. However, the next mile is undoubtedly a military style road, as it runs dead straight from Strathgarve Lodge to Little Garve Bridge, a structure which is generally considered to have been built by Caulfeild in 1762. A couple of short straights then lead up to the A835 near Gorstan. There is almost no evidence further west of a military road, however.

Garve - Ullapool

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 and opened in 1797? 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 trough 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.

Garve - Ullapool

The current line of the A835, with the exception of the road past Loch Glascarnoch, largely dates from 1840 when the County of Ross replaced the fisheries road from 1797. The road was then thoroughly rebuilt in the 1960s - some of the bridges are dated 1964-1969 - either on line or alongside the old road.

The original route of the A835 therefore started a short distance along the A832 from the current Gorstan Junction, and curved through the small village, doubling back on itself. The old road is cut by the new, but continues as the long straight through Little Garve, but bypassing the bridgehead. This straight leads back to the current line of the road just before Silver Bridge, but the old bridge has no been bypassed and on the north bank, the old road line can be followed on the inside of the bend of the new road. From here to Garbat, and to a lesser extent on to Inchbae, the old road runs alongside the new road almost without a break. Some stretches are still in use by the land owners, while others have become overgrown. A couple of short sections have been fenced off, with new houses built between the road and the river, and some of the culverts have been lost, as well as the larger bridges but the determined walker can follow the old road most of the way for around 4 miles.

The old road rising out of Loch Glascarnoch

From Inchbae to Aultguish, the road is mostly an online upgrade, a couple of laybys and the new bridge at Black Bridge being the exceptions. From the Aultguish Inn, the old road can be seen continuing straight on for the dam, but is gated at the small forestry plantation, and is subsequently obscured by the dam works. The road behind the dam is obviously flooded, but when the water level falls, especially in dry summers, the long straight line of tarmac can be walked down to the waters edge at the western end of Loch Glascarnoch. The loch was flooded in 1957, so the section of road past it dates from the mid 1950s, as it was moved in advance of the main dam works. The OS One Inch map from 1947 shows 'Track of Old Road' running parallel to and uphill of the then-A835 where the loch now lies, so this would have been the 1797 Fisheries road, both now submerged.

Beyond Loch Glascarnoch, the road crosses the summit to the Dirrie Mor, a flat moorland pass with Loch Droma lying near the summit. As the road starts to descend, a lengthy layby on the left hand side marks the old road line, with further straightening at either end almost completely reclaimed by nature. Satellite imagery gives the hints of further sections of old road on either side of the current A835 on the descent to Braemore Junction, but all are overgrown and it is difficult to be certain if these are the road still in use in the 1950s, or perhaps the original 1797 fisheries road. Braemore Junction has seen considerable changes, with the large parking area showing some of the old road line - the new road has been straightened by moving the river.

Old and new bridges at Inverlael

Running down the hill from Braemore to the head of Loch Broom, the old road has been almost completely lost. A couple of laybys survive on the old line, and here and there evidence can be spotted in the bushes along the roadside. Just after the turn for Auchindrean, a group of new houses lie on the old road line, and opposite Braemore Village Hall, an old loop is now a yard. A short distance further along, the old road once ran closer to Foich Lodge (formerly Inverbroom Lodge), but the old road is now lost in the grounds of the house. The old bridge still stands at Inverlael Bridge, and at Inverlael Farm the old road line can be traced, curving with the trees where the new road was built out on the loch shore.

A couple of laybys show realignments along the shore of Loch Broom, and Loch Broom Chalets sit on a longer loop of old road at Leckmelm. As the road drops back to the shore approaching the Braes of Ullapool, there is a loop on the landward side surviving. A little further along, a layby on the shore side is immediately followed by the Braes Bridge, where the old road used to cross further up stream. This is the entrance to Ullapool itself, and while the original 1922 line of the A835 continued ahead along Shore Street, the A893, to the pier, it was fairly quickly turned northwards along the former B860.

The northern extension - Ullapool - Ledmore

So far, most iterations of the road that is now the A835 can be fairly accurately dated, but as the route turns north, this is less true. The road appears to have been widened and improved in the 1960s and 1970s, with further work done more recently, but the dating of the original road is uncertain. The county of Sutherland built many of their roads in the 1820s and 1830s, so perhaps the northernmost section dates from then, but as the new road to Ullapool dates 'only' from 1840, it seems likely that the road in Cromartyshire (Ullapool north) is of a similar date.

As the road heads north through Ullapool, Old Moss Road is quite clearly the original line of the A835, and maps from c1900 neatly mark Ullapool Bridge (Wooden)! As the A835 then crosses the hills to Ardmair, an old loop can be seen just past the Rhue turning, and on the descent back to the coast, there used to be a series of zig-zag bends, which partly survive as property accesses. The long straight through the pass of Glutton is mostly online, but just below the low summit the old road forks right to stay closer to the river, and beyond it runs parallel to the new road for a while before a lengthy loop on the way down to the River Canaird. After Strathcanaird Bridge, a series of old loops can be traced either side of the A835, some still in use as property accesses. Continuing north, the driveway into Drumrunie at Achiltibuie Road End may indicate an old loop, but if so it was already bypassed by the late 1950s. Sections of old road can then be seen alongside the modern road on the way to Knockan Crag, where a much longer loop sits down below the modern road.

The winding route through Elphin village is a lot harder to decipher. Just before the village is reached, a loop of old road lies on the right of the A835, then at the entrance to the village is a large area of hardstanding on the left, which leads to the bungalow driveway on the right. Both of these appear to have started life as the road. After the rockface cutting, a village road loops off to the right, but this was never the line of the A835, which instead carried on to loop behind the layby on the left. This then crossed the modern road at right angles, and follows the grassy track up to the village road, so looping round the shallow valley that the A835 now crosses on an embankment. Apart from the minor realignment at Ledmore Bridge, the A835 then seems to follow the old road line all the way to the end at Ledmore Junction.

The 1922 MOT Road List defines this route as: Gorstan - Ullapool





A835/History
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