|To:||North Ballachulish (NN097587)|
|Distance:||15.9 miles (25.6 km)|
|Former Number(s):||A829, A82|
|Route outline (key)|
Much of this road was built by prisoners of war during WW1. Ten years earlier, there hadn't even been a need for the road. 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.
To start with, the town was either reached by the old military road climbing 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 became the A829 in 1922, which number took over the whole road within the following ten years. In 1935 the A82 was rerouted this way to avoid the ferry at Ballachulish; when this was replaced by the bridge in 1975 the A82 was rerouted over it, with the old road becoming the B863.
The High Road
For obvious reasons, when you drive them, the two arms of the B863 are known as the High and Low Roads. Starting in Glencoe village, the High Road leaves the A82 before skirting along the loch shore through Invercoe, where it crosses the River Coe on Invercoe Bridge. The road then turns into the narrow chasm 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 is the caravan park at Caolsnacon, although there is also a picnic site and viewpoint between Caolsnacon and Kinlochleven.
As Kinlochleven is finally reached, the road drops sharply down through a series of 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 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 and dropping to the shore at Callert. A series of new houses have been built along the shore here as the road winds its way along the lochside, passing 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 we continue towards Kinlochleven. After ten miles the small town is eventually reached.
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.