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Location Map ( geo)
Cameraicon.png View gallery (62)
From:  Glencoe (NN053604)
To:  North Ballachulish (NN097587)
Via:  Kinlochleven
Distance:  15.9 miles (25.6 km)
Meets:  A82, A82
Former Number(s):  A829, A82
Highway Authorities


Traditional Counties

Argyll • Inverness-shire

Route outline (key)
B863 Glencoe - North Ballachulish
This article is about the current B863 around Loch Leven.
For the former B863 on the Black Isle, see B863 (Black Isle)

About a third of the B863 was built by prisoners of war during WW1. A dozen years earlier, there hadn't even been a need for the road, as the only real settlement on the road is Kinlochleven, a town which was founded in the early years of the twentieth century around the Aluminium Smelter that was built at the head of Loch Leven, harnessing the power of the Blackwater Reservoir to provide the necessary electricity. For obvious reasons, when you drive them, the two arms of the B863 are known as the High and Low Roads.


The High Road

The Viaduct in Kinlochleven

Starting in Glencoe village, the High Road leaves the A82 at Glencoe Crossroads, before skirting along the shore of Loch Leven through Invercoe, where it crosses the River Coe on Invercoe Bridge. The road then turns into the narrow valley that is filled by Loch Leven. Almost immediately it starts to climb up the lower slopes of the distinctive Pap of Coe, twisting and turning as it winds its way eastwards. The only noticeable settlement along the seven miles to the head of the loch is the caravan park at Caolsnacon, with a picnic site and viewpoint a mile or so further along between Caolsnacon and Kinlochleven. After the initial climb, the road dips again to Caolsnacon, the narrowest point of the loch, before climbing again past the picnic site to a summit of around 70m.

Before Kinlochleven is finally reached, the road drops sharply down through a series of tight twisty bends before crossing 'The Viaduct' into the town. This viaduct once carried the road over the tramway that connected the smelter with the harbour. The last bridge before the descent has a small date stone on the southern parapet, declaring that it was built by prisoners of war in 1919. Presumably before that it had been politically incorrect to permanently state such a thing. The road finally straightens up after The Viaduct and follows Leven Road past the village shops to the bridge over the River Leven, with the outflow from the old Smelters powerhouse still discharging a foamy white surge just above the bridge.

The Low Road

The Low Road

Starting in North Ballachulish, the Low Road leaves the A82 half a mile north of the Ballachulish Bridge and runs eastwards through the village before climbing over the hill at Carness and dropping to the shore at Callert. At the highest point, around 45m, the road passes a forest road opposite which a small Mausoleum lies hidden in the trees at the top of the knoll. Callert Houses then stands up on the left, a pair of prominent gateposts sitting either side of the B863 marking what was once presumably the entrance to the driveway to the house. Just beyond, the road meets the shore, with some stunning views across the Loch to the Pap of Coe and the summits of Glen Coe behind. The road curves around the back of the beach and there are a good selection of laybys and parking areas as it winds eastwards.

A little further along, a series of new houses have been built along the shore, including a renowned Seafood Restaraunt and some holiday accommodation, all enjoying the expansive views across the loch. As the road winds its way along the lochside, it passes small bays with shingle beaches. There are occasional rocky points to climb over, but the road is predominantly on or just above the shore as it continues towards Kinlochleven. After the narrows at Caolasnacon, where the loch is barely wider than a river, the road climbs steeply up through a cutting, before plunging back to the tree lined shore. After another mile or so, the road leaves the loch shore and climbs gently through woodland before dropping down into the small town of Kinlochleven.

Kinlochleven was little more than 3 or 4 houses until 1902 when the works for the Smelter were first proposed. Within a decade, a community of 1000 people were housed here in new houses, initially mostly on the south side of the River Leven, in Argyll. The houses to the north of the river, in Inverness-shire, came later as the town grew, and for many years had two post offices, two police stations, two schools, two registrars, simply because it spanned the county boundary. The north side was the favoured side to live, because it recieved more sunshine - houses on the south side famously don't see the sun at all for many months over the winter. There are a few new properties as the village is entered, but then as the road swings round to the right, it passes some of the larger management houses, enjoying the sunshine! A short run along Lochaber Road leads to the bridge over the river.

Along the low road, there are a number of streams to be crossed. However, with the road being so close to the shore most of the time, these streams are crossed on low single-span concrete structures, often little more than culverts. This is in stark contrast to the tall arches that span the mini ravines cut by the streams crossed on the High Road.


Before the roads were built, Kinlochleven was either reached by the old military road climbing the Devils Staircase across the hills from Kingshouse on the A82 on Rannoch Moor, and then continuing through the Lairig Mor to Fort William, or by Steamer up Loch Leven. The High Road to Kinlochleven was built during the war and became the A829 in 1922 when the roads were first classified. At this time, traffic was able to pass along the north side of the loch on what appears to have been a very rough track, with a memorial stone found at Callert commemorating a car accident in 1916. However, by 1924 work was underway on building the Low Road, and the number took over the whole road once it was completed, at some point before 1932. In 1935 the A82 was rerouted around Loch Leven to avoid the ferry at Ballachulish; when this was replaced by the Ballachulish Bridge in 1975 the A82 was rerouted back over it, with the old road becoming the B863.

Although Kinlochleven had been served by the military road since the 1750s, very little of its route is followed by the B863. To the south of the village, the route up to the Devils Staircase is now initially lost under the pipes for the Hydro plant, but mostly followed by the West Highland Way and road to the Blackwater Dam. The old road crossed the river somewhere near the current footbridge, and then followed Wades Road along the north bank of the river around to meet the B863 at the northern edge of the village. The next section is difficult to trace, although it is generally considered that the West Highland Way path follows the old road as it climbs up, there is little evidence on the ground to support this, or indeed any other possible route. Either way, the B863 seems to follow the old road line for at least 250m, and at most a kilometer.

Related Pictures
View gallery (62)
N-balla1.jpgB863 Invercoe Bridge - Aerial from east - April 2021.jpgB863 Kinlochleven Viaduct - aerial from north.jpgB863 Invercoe Bridge - bridge deck - October 2022.jpgAllt-criche1.jpg
Other nearby roads
Fort William
B800 – B899
B800 • B801 • B802 • B803 • B804 • B805 • B806 • B807 • B808 • B809 • B810 • B811 • B812 • B813 • B814 • B815 • B816 • B817 • B818 • B819
B820 • B821 • B822 • B823 • B824 • B825 • B826 • B827 • B828 • B829 • B830 • B831 • B832 • B833 • B834 • B835 • B836 • B837 • B838 • B839
B840 • B841 • B842 • B843 • B844 • B845 • B846 • B847 • B848 • B849 • B850 • B851 • B852 • B853 • B854 • B855 • B856 • B857 • B858 • B859
B860 • B861 • B862 • B863 • B864 • B865 • B866 • B867 • B868 • B869 • B870 • B871 • B872 • B873 • B874 • B875 • B876 • B877 • B878 • B879
B880 • B881 • B882 • B883 • B884 • B885 • B886 • B887 • B888 • B889 • B890 • B891 • B892 • B893 • B894 • B895 • B896 • B897 • B898 • B899
Former versions: B801 • B805 • B808 • B810 • B812 • B814 • B817 • B825 • B828 • B834 • B835 • B837 • B848 • B851 • B852
B854 • B855 • B857 • B858 • B859 • B860 • B862 • B863 • B864 • B865 • B866 • B867 • B869 • B870 • B872 • B873 • B874
B875 • B876 • B877 • B879 • B880 • B883 • B887 • B889 • B891 • B892 • B893 • B895 • B896(N) • B896(W) • B897 • B898

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