Bridge of Awe
|Bridge of Awe|
|Location Map ( geo)|
|To:||Pass of Brander|
|Bridge of Awe|
|Transport Scotland • Argyll and Bute|
There have over the years only ever been two road bridges across the River Awe, both standing at Bridge of Awe and both still visible today. Further downstream stand a Railway Bridge and unusual Suspension Footbridge, but it is the interesting history of these two road bridges that we are interested in!
The Old Bridge
The old bridge may still be standing, but that does not mean that it is crossable by any stretch of the imagination! Sadly the two arches that spanned the main channel of the River Awe have collapsed in the last forty years (Historic Scotland's listing report implies that they were intact in 1971). However, the arch over the lesser channel still stands to give an idea of what the whole structure may have looked like.
The date of the bridge is uncertain. Two eighteenth century documents suggest different dates and different builders. Perhaps they are both right and the first bridge was short lived. Anyway, the earlier date given is 1756, while the later document ties the building of Bridge of Awe in with Dalmally Bridge, which was erected in 1780-1. It is this date which is generally adjudged to be correct, with construction taking place in 1778-9 by the same Lewis Piccard.
However, even the construction proved to be ill-fated, with a sudden storm surge of floodwater washing away the timber formwork just after the keystones had locked the arches into place. It appears that at least one of the arches collapsed, and the builder had to start from scratch. However, the second attempt was to prove more successful with the bridge standing for roughly 200 years before another surge of floodwater at the beginning of 1990 caused the eastern two arches to collapse.
This collapse has, however, given us an insight into the construction methods used. The two open holes where the arches fell from have revealed the interior of the bridge, within the stone facework, to consist of rubble earth and 'rubbish'. Such lax construction would not be allowed today of course, but it did last for over fifty years after it had been replaced!
The New Bridge
The new Bridge of Awe was built in 1938-9 as part of the general improvement works undertaken on the A85 route in the late 1930s. It is probable that once again construction took place in conjunction with the new Kilchurn Bridge over the River Orchy. The bridge is a single shallow concrete arch - thus hopefully reducing the risk of floodwater forcing a collapse - faced with rubble stonework to help blend the structure into its surroundings. The parapets are also stone, although at either end large concrete extensions to the parapet form bench seats, similar to those found at Kilchurn, although on all four corners and significantly larger.
Sadly, at time of writing (2010), the roadway is in poor repair with a couple of damaged sections of kerbstone and gutter and the parapet taped off in places where the concrete has broken, probably after an impact.