A typical scene on the B8005
The B8005 is one of the most tantalisingly scenic small roads in Scotland, winding through trees and offering glimpses of stunning views on its way from Gairlochy to Loch Arkaig. The road was marked as little more than a track on the 1923 MoT map but the road was obviously important enough to have gained Class II status by 1932.
We start on the B8004 at Gairlochy, where one spur climbs up from the Canal Bridge to meet another which has maintained the contour of the B8004 from Banavie. The road then winds along through trees offering occasional glimpses across Loch Lochy to the hills beyond. On the return (heading south) these glimpses are of Ben Nevis and the Grey Corries. After about two miles, the road finally drops to the loch shore at Bunarkaig, where the private road to Achnacarry, seat of Cameron of Locheil, turns off to the west.
We now weave along the marshy shore of the loch as it forms bays and headlands, watching out for walkers on the Great Glen Way, before reaching Clunes and turning inland again. Along the way we cross three bridges, which until spring 2013 were timber structures. However, as part of a major upgrade of the road onwards along Loch Arkaig, possibly related to the increased felling on forestry land, the bridges have now been rebuilt in concrete with stone parapets. At Clunes, a forest road continues north up the Great Glen to the head of Loch Lochy at Laggan, but we have far more exciting prospects ahead.
The next mile and a half is known as the Dark Mile, or Mile Dorcha in Gaelic. it is a very atmospheric route, with the trees slowly closing in on you as the road winds its way through the gorge that was cut millions of years ago by a previous course of the River Arkaig (or so I am led to believe). At the far end we suddenly emerge from the trees to find the spectacular falls of Eas Chia Aig. The road crosses the 200-year-old bridge over the Cia Aig and becomes unclassified as it reaches the junction with the other end of the Achnacarry Estate Road at the foot of Loch Arkaig.
Intriguingly, some modern maps mark the end of the B8005 as being at Clunes, while most of the estates in the area show the whole length along the north shore of Loch Arkaig as being the B8005, doubling its length. The road along Loch Arkaig is, however, the C1153 according to the Highland Council.