|Length:||11 miles (17.7 km)|
|Meets:||B8077, B8074, A82|
|Route outline (key)|
After the long string of villages that have characterised the A85 so far, the route changes dramatically beyond Dalmally. No longer are there houses and driveways every few hundred metres along the road, instead we head out into open moorland, climbing steadily through Glen Lochy past the very occasional property until we finally reach the A82 at Clifton above Tyndrum. The sweeping bends, gentle gradient and stunning scenery make this an incredible drive.
Dalmally was the point where the Military Roads from Inveraray and Bonawe met, to follow the same route east to Tyndrum. The junction is still in use, where the B8077 joins the A85, with the combined road being followed by the modern A85 as it runs through Glen View and so begins the long gentle ascent of Glen Lochy. About a mile beyond Glenview, the B8074 turns off to climb through Glen Orchy to Bridge of Orchy. There is nothing at present to suggest this was ever a Military Road however.
Just beyond the unmarked driveway to Strone Farm, the military road forks off to the left, climbing the hill more sharply before a lengthy level section to rejoin the modern road. The Forestry Commission have left this old road clear as a forest ride, and part seem to be in use as Forest Roads, 250 years after it was built. The old and new routes then rejoin, with the River Lochy almost as close as it can get, and climb as one once more.
The next section of 'new' A85, leaving the old Military Road to meander across the hillside is the two miles between the cottages of Arrivain and Arinabea. This section is still well surfaced at either end - over half a mile around Arrivain and about 100m at the eastern end! There are a number of bridges still intact too, and these show up something interesting. While at first glance these old bridges are normal 'Victorian' rubble stone arch bridges, a closer look shows that the arches are in fact concrete, with the shuttering lines from the planks visible underneath. The facings and parapets are stone, but the parapets are then capped by a concrete slab. Furthermore, this is not the smooth concrete we are used to today, but very pebbly in nature and looks rough and ready like the concrete poured as paving or balcony/walkway slabs in 1960s architecture.
It seems probable that the A85s new alignment through here was constructed in the later 1930s, possibly even the early 1950s as the post war maps seem a little vague, and this concrete is a lot less refined than that used on the A82 in the early 1930s. However, these bridges do pose an interesting chronological question which is yet to be answered. One thing that is clear, however, is that they were not constructed by Thomas Telford!
It is then just two more miles before the descent into Tyndrum. Here the original junction with Cauldfeilds road north across Rannoch Moor lay outside the Post Office, next to the shop, with the A82 not assuming its current alignment until 1931-2.
Unlike the first section of the A85 out of Oban, from Dalmally to Tyndrum the old military road was rebuilt by Thomas Telford at the very beginning of the 19th Century. This was part of his role in charge of the Commission for Highland Roads and Bridges, and saw him building many hundreds of miles of road across the Highlands. The section from Dalmally to Tyndrum was reconstructed as part of the Inveraray - Tyndrum route, and the neglect of the road west to Oban suggests that either the c1780 road was still in good enough condition, and the section from Taynuilt to Dalmally suitably maintained, or that Oban was still seen as a backwater of little note - it is only in 2011 that Oban is celebrating 200 years as a town.
Whilst it is clearly recorded that Telford rebuilt and improved this section of the road, what is not known is to what extent his work went. Elsewhere in the Highlands, the military roads, little more than 60 years old, were in total disrepair and needed complete reconstruction, often on new alignments. However, at present no detail on this stretch is known. The early 20th century maps suggest that the original A85 still used the historic alignment, so suggesting that Telford did not realign the road. However, the scale is not really big enough to be certain. Investigation on the ground also suggests that the longer sections were still in use recently enough to receive a modern surface, but some of the shorter loops and kinks have very definitely returned to nature.
As noted above, the route through Glen Lochy appears to have been little changed between the 1750s when Cauldfeilds men first constructed it and the early 1930s. However, as with so many roads in the West Highlands, the A85 saw considerable investment in the wake of the crash and strikes, leading to a thorough upgrade of the route to make it fit for the motoring age. The most notable changes on this section of the route were the two sections of new alignment noted above, and the new junction with the A82 above Tyndrum. Other than that, the road would have been widened, surfaced with modern material and many of the bridges and culverts would have been reconstructed to take heavier loads, and the wider road deck. However, unlike some of the other routes, these changes were relatively ordinary!
From Tyndrum to Crianlarich, the A85 multiplexes with the A82, so we shall pick up the story of the A85 again in Crianlarich, as we pass through the scenic Glen Dochart.