|To:||Fort Augustus (NH379091)|
|Length:||33.6 miles (54.1 km)|
|Meets:||B865, B861, B8082, B852, B851, B852, A82|
|Route outline (key)|
Section 1: Inverness - Whitebridge
The B862 starts on the B865 Academy Street, just a short distance from the A82 in the centre of Inverness. It then heads straight down to the bank of the River Ness, and follows the river eastwards along what is called one of the finest riverside vistas of any town or city in the country. This epithet is given due to the soaring towers and spires of the numerous churches that line the banks of the Ness in the Highland Capital.
We then pass under the mound of Inverness Castle, and depart from the river bank opposite the Cathedral. It is only a short deviation, however, as the two reconverge near the Ness Islands, before splitting once more as the Victorian Villas of Lower Drummond gain the better view. Before long we reach the Inverness Eastern Relief Road (possibly the future A82, currently the B8082) at Holm Roundabout. Almost immediately the speed limit ends and the road leaves the urban sprawl of this northern city.
From the edge of Inverness, we follow a series of long straights over undulating ground to the village of Dores, where the spectacular B852 turns off. Initially after leaving Inverness the road drops back to near the bank of the Ness, but then climbs over a series of low hills to descend Strath Dores to the village of Dores at the northern end of Loch Ness. We then climb steeply out of the village, crossing more hills to reach the southern end of Loch Duntelchaig. A narrow ravine filled by Loch Ceo Glais then takes us south to Torness where we cross the River Farigaig.
From Torness, the road climbs a little and runs through a narrow pass between hills, before starting a long gentle descent. At the junction with the B851, it takes over the role of windfarm access road, and so there are periodic improvements to the route. A mile or so further on and Loch Mhor is reached, and soon the straggling village of Errogie. Here, a sharp bend at a junction has been replaced by the demolition of a derelict house with a sweeping bend. The road continues southwards along the loch side, passing through Gorthleck and Lochgarthside with improvements here and there, largely dictated by the garden walls and other property boundaries of the houses strewn along the roadside. Eventually, however, the loch comes to an end and a mile or so further on the B852 is met once more.
Section 2: Whitebridge - Fort Augustus
The junction with the B852 actually lies a little way to the north of the bridge at Whitebridge, where there is also a hotel. We then start climbing across open hillside with good sightlines (most of the time) and only a few (nasty) bends. The road is all S2 for now, with the long straights identifying this section as one of General Wade's Military Roads. The road is so empty that even the bends are of little concern, but soon we reach the summit car parks, with excellent views, and almost immediately we are down to single track.
Although the road ahead may look clear and empty, there are several invisible blind summits/bends, from which oncoming traffic can emerge unexpectedly. It is therefore a very good idea to keep your speed down along here! Anyway, the road drops back down the hill, quite sharply at the end to reach a small lochan where the water seems to lap on the tarmac. The road along the lochside has recently been widened to S2, but the tight twists and bends remain, making it difficult to stay on the correct side of the road, and maintain any speed! Doubtless it was designed to allow the large vehicles for the windfarm to proceed more easily though.
Beyond the loch, the road remains mostly S2, although there is no white line, and the width of the road varies enormously. We twist and turn through trees, passing the new Hydro scheme at Glendoe, and then reach a very rare thing on this road - a junction! The narrow road is signposted for Ardachy, but actually provides a short cut to the southbound A82. The B862 itself turns round to the right and emerges in Fort Augustus near the Abbey.
As mentioned above, the B862 can for the most part trace its history back to the 1720s when General Wade built his Military Road through the Great Glen. The extent to which the road has changed in the intervening centuries is minimal, as is evidenced by the fact that it still passes Inverness Castle at the northern end, and terminates outside Fort Augustus Abbey (the old fort) at the southern end.
Obviously, the road has been resurfaced several times, the first recorded instance being in the 1810s when Thomas Telford is known to have worked on the route, despite building what is now the A82 to replace it on the opposite bank of Loch Ness. The width of the road has also changed, as it would have been built at the standard 15-18 feet used on Military Roads. The narrower width was only used on steep gradients, sharp bends and bridges. However, while the S2 sections of the road are probably now wider than 18 feet in places, the single-track sections are considerably narrower than 15 feet, even when the passing places are taken into consideration. Whilst it is believed that Telford rebuilt the whole width of the road, subsequent repairs presumably only concentrated on the rutted carriageway on this lightly used route.
Along the route of the B862, many streams and rivers are crossed. Most appear to have older bridges carrying the road, although how many date back to Telford or even Wade is uncertain. What is clear, however, is that the Whitebridge that stands along side the modern road bridge was built by Caulfeild in 1732 while he was still working under Wade.
In 1922 much of the Military Road was given the B851 number, although the classified road followed the higher route out of Inverness, via Loch Ashie. The lower road was clearly the more obvious route, however, and when it was upgraded to Class I status, becoming the A862 in the mid-1920s, the route was revised to follow the other Military Road through Strath Dores. It is this route that has been downgraded without changing its number, to become today's B862.
Although previously thought that the route was downgraded when the A9 across the Black Isle was opened, to release the A862 number for the former route of the A9, it is now clear that this is not strictly the case. The 1979 OS Routemaster map shows the B862 in place, with the A9 still running via Beauly and Dingwall, proving that the route was downgraded in anticipation of the changes to the north.