|To:||Lix Toll (NN545302)|
|Length:||11 miles (17.7 km)|
Argyll • Perthshire
|Route outline (key)|
After a 5 mile multiplex with the A82 through Strathfillan, the A85 regains its independence at Crianlarich, indeed it does so at a TOTSO junction, forcing A82 traffic to turn off. We soon curve round to the east and start the scenic journey through Glen Dochart to Lix Toll, where the A827 continues east to Killin, and the A85 starts the short sharp climb up Glen Ogle.
Cauldfeilds military road south to Loch Lomond turned off the modern road to the north west of Crianlarich, but the road east passed through the village. A short section is marked on maps to the south of the modern road just beyond the houses, and rejoining at the entrance to the forestry car park. There is another short loop in evidence just beyond the house of Inverardran, where the new road takes a gentler bend.
There are many more pieces of road through Glen Dochart which date back to Cauldfeilds time, and still bear tarmac from the 1970s improvements. These are noted below, here we shall deal with the sections that were abandoned long ago!
A little beyond the entrance to Auchessan, the modern road narrows, and twists round to Allt Coire Chaorach. Shortly before the bridge (indeed next to the traffic lights that are present in 2011) a bridge on the left crosses the old railway line. This is a slight realignment to join the old military road, which is now a grassy track through fields. It soon peters out, and becomes invisible beyond the stream, although aerial photography does show a rough track on the right alignment. This passes the cottage of Tigh an Fhraoich, and stays between the river and the old railway until the two squeeze together just before Luib. Beyond Luib Hotel, aerial photography suggests a short loop to the north of the modern road that was abandoned long ago, just before the bridge over the Luib Burn.
There are then several miles before the next significant divergence between the modern road and the old military route, and this happens at Ardchyle, where the old route strikes off up the hill on what is now a rough track until it reaches the old Killin branch line. Here, the two seem to merge for a short distance, before the military road forks off as a more substantial track to Wester Lix, and so rejoins the modern A85 on the ascent of Glen Ogle.
Whilst it is known that Thomas Telford included the road through Glen Dochart within his role as Commissioner for Highland Roads and Bridges, as with the Glen Lochy section, it is uncertain how much work was carried out on the route. That sufficient work was done to maintain the road into the twentieth century is clear, but no significant new alignment is visible until after the bridge to Auchessan. Even here, it may be that the road was realigned when the railway was constructed to stop the two crossing each other too often, but we shall assume it was Telford for now!
Before we reach Auchessan, Telford appears to have built a new bridge and alignment at the entrance to the Loch Iubhair car park. However, mapping evidence, and exploration on the ground suggest that the River Dochart may have changed course slightly here, eroding away the bank on which the road once sat, meaning that this realignment may be of later date. Just beyond Auchessan, Telford seems to have constructed a lengthy new stretch, which is little changed at first as it winds over the bridge and climbs the hill. Then, as the old military road rejoins, a quick dart into the woods on the right reveals where the road once crossed the railway.
Along with many other routes in the Scottish Highlands, the A85 through Glen Dochart was also rebuilt. However, thanks to the work done later, there are only 3 sections which still shown evidence of the 1930s work. The first comes along the shores of Loch Iubhair, where the narrowness of the carriageway penned in by the old drystone wall on the uphill side give it away.
The next section is a little further on at the Allt Coirre Chaorath Bridge, also known as Rob Roys Dip, where the old bridge has been dated to 1937 by Traffic Scotland. In 2011 the embankment next to the bridge partially collapsed, requiring temporary traffic lights until the structure was repaired.
The final section that was not improved in the 1970s is the last half mile or so heading down into Lix Toll, where the road narrows once more, weaves between trees and finally emerges at the junction to turn and climb Glen Ogle.
This section of the road clearly was included in the 1930s improvements to the A85, but it was not until the 1970s that major new alignments were constructed. For much of the route these upgrades were on-line, but there are a number of points where the abandoned railway line was used to make the road wider and straighter. This has left lengthy laybys on the old alignment, and a few totally abandoned pieces of tarmac.
At Portnellan, the old road diverges to briefly cross fields on an alignment that was still in use in the 1970s, as the tarmac and white lines show. The turning to Loch Dochart House then reveals the old route once more, with the new road using the old trackbed to make a straighter route. Another layby opposite Glen Dochart Caravan Park also shows a re-alignment, although here the railway has started its long climb up the hill to cross Glen Ogle. It is then quite clear that the road once ran past the front of the Luib Hotel, rather than round the back as it does now!
The same thing happens at The Old Flax Mill restaurant, but beyond that the road narrows, and seems to follow the road that Telford built all the way to Lix Toll. Here, the A827 continues to Killin and Loch Tay, while the A85 turns right for the short sharp climb of Glen Ogle.