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C1043 (Highland)

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C1043
Location Map ( geo)
Cameraicon.png View gallery (9)
From:  Marybank (NH479536)
To:  Scardroy (NH225518)
Distance:  18.9 miles (30.4 km)
Meets:  A832
Highway Authorities

Highland

Traditional Counties

Ross-shire

Route outline (key)
C1043 Strathconon Road
This article is about the Class III road numbered C1043 maintained by Highland Council.
For other roads numbered C1043, see C1043
.


The C1043 is one of the longest C roads in the Highland region, and in many ways a hidden gen as it stretches west from the A832 at Marybank deep into the beautiful Strathconon. The route finally comes to an end on the banks of Loch Beannacharain, a mile or so short of the estate of Scardroy. Tracks and paths continue up a number of glens to connect to the A890 in Strathcarron.

Route

The C1043 starts at the crossroads in the centre of Marybank village and runs west, the first mile being a straight road, gradually dropping down to the banks of the River Conon. It winds along the river bank for a while, before forking right and climbing up around the dam of Loch Achonachie - the old road line continues to the base of the dam. The road round the dam is perhaps the twistiest section of the whole route, with a number of tighter bends over bridges, before a gentle descent drops it back to the river bank. There are a scattering of houses amongst the trees along the roadside, but the grand Scatwell House is hidden away down a private drive. A long gentle climb then lifts the road through the woodland to the Meig Dam, where a side turning crosses the dam and leads off to the A835 at Contin.

The C1043 on the shores of Loch Meig

So far the road has been a pleasant enough drive, and many people will cross the dam to make a loop, but that misses the best of Strath Conon. Continuing west along the majestic tree lined shore of Loch Meig, there are glimpses of the loch and hillside beyond, before the trees peel back at the western end and reveal the narrow, steep sided Strath - more a glen in many respects here. A sharp right turn carries the road over an old stone bridge, then the road winds around through green fields above the River Meig, dry stone walls, trees and spreads of Bracken lining the roadside while cottages and barns dot the hillside above.

A much larger stone bridge carries the road over a deep gorge on the River Meig, after which, a right turn leads into the small village of Bridgend. The C1043, meanwhile, swings back to the west and runs through the roadside settlements of Dalnacroich and Milton, delightful villages of cottages with expansive views across the valley. Either side of the river are lush looking grazings, with the hills rising up beyond, patches of forestry and woodlands on the lower slopes, before the bare hillsides are revealed above, their flanks cut with deeply indented valleys and craggy rock faces. A temporary 20 limit runs past one of Scotlands remotest primary schools at Porin, before a long straight through Milton.

The narrow pass just east of Inverchoran

The road now turns to the south west, sticking close to the western edge of the valley floor. The river meanders back and forth to the left, as the Strath becomes ever narrower. The lush fields of a couple of miles ago have been replaced by boggier moorland fields, and after passing the old Telford church, there are precious few properties along the roadside. As the road continues westwards, it is passing through some of the most wild and beautiful landscapes in the Highlands, largely unspoilt, and with little tourism development. Indeed, for several miles the only suggestion of human habitation is the ribbon of fresh tarmac and the accompanying electric lines strung between poles. A tight twisty section leads the road through the narrowest part of the Strath, before it opens out again with patches of trees dotted along the river bank and larger forestry plantations on the far side of the river.

Approaching Scardroy at the western end of the road

Valley and road turn west again opposite Inverchoran, the farm hidden away in the folds of the valley floor. A lonely house sits on the roadside a mile further on, and then the road drops to the shore of Loch Beannacharain, winding along just above the waters edge. A large car park on the right marks the effective end of the public road, although it officially continues a little further to reach the gates of Scardroy House, but there is no more parking, and only a turning area at the end of the road.

History

Before Thomas Telford built his road through to Achnasheen in the 1810s, the favoured route between Wester Ross and the county town of Dingwall was through Strath Conon. Indeed, these routes remained in use by drovers and some other travellers probably until the railway opened to Strome Ferry in the 1890s and started to take traffic away from the old routes. There were two main routes west from Strath Conon, the first reaching the A832 west of Achanalt, and the second reaching the A890 south of Achnasheen.

Dalnacroich - Strathbran

A couple of hundred metres beyond the prominent church at Dalnacroich, a forest road turns right and doubles back up the hill. Soon after another forest track branches off to the left, which seems to follow the line of the old route through to Strathbran. This track climbs steadily through the forest and out on to the hillside beyond. It reaches a summit of around 310m, before winding down between low hills to a ford over the Allt Bac a'Choil. On the west bank lie a couple of roofless ruins, and then the path crosses a footbridge over the next stream. The path soon picks up a forest road, and runs west along the south side of Strath Bran for about 2 miles before crossing the river to reach the A832 to the west of Achanalt.

Scardroy - Achnasheen

The C1043 ends at the gates to Scardroy House, but this is just the end of the modern adopted road, the old route over the hills continues west, forking right behind a new cottage soon after entering the estate. A modern forest road climbs up through the forest, but as far as can be ascertained, this follows the line of the old hill path as it climbs. Several sections have recently been improved and rebuilt to facilitate felling operations, but the track climbs westwards, meandering a little above the Scardroy Burn. Most maps seem to suggest that the track gives way to a path in the forest, but the forest road has been extended, and even when this ends, an old track continues out of the forest and on to the open hillside beyond.

Leaving the forest behind

Beyond the forest, the track climbs steadily to the summit above the watershed at just under 400m. This track is a well built stone track, obviously still in use for estate traffic, and while some of the stream crossings have become boggy, others have been repaired with a stone lined channel to control the flow of water. Near the summit, the track passes through a line of old fence posts, which appear to mark an estate boundary, as the condition of the track deteriorates somewhat to the west. It is still easy to follow as it gently descends, but there are no more repairs to find, and old slippages have long since reduced it to a single file footpath in places. There is still evidence that quad bikes and the like use the track, however, with occasional tyre prints set in the mud.

There are a couple of steeper sections as the track descends into the obvious valley of the Allt Mhartuin, a sharp dip in the otherwise undulating moorland. A large stile crosses a deer fence into a thinly wooded area of straggly trees, perhaps newly planted and yet to grow. The track through this woodland gets steadily less well maintained, although there are short stretches where the quality of the first section after the forest is clear to see, showing that this was once a well built track through the pass. The track runs for about a mile through the trees, with a couple of steep descents, and many boggy patches, before crossing another stile to follow the river down to the level crossing at Inver. The original line of the track is now beneath the railway, but a boarded path takes walkers from the lonely cottage of Inver across the river to the A890 beyond.

The age of the track here is unclear. The line of a path is marked on early maps, but whether it was formally constructed in its present shape in the days of droving, or if this is a modern estate road perhaps built in the 1950s or 60s is almost impossible to tell from either mapping records or walking the route. What can be said with certainty is that the track which survives today follows the line of a centuries old hill path, used by generations of Highlanders.




C1043 (Highland)
Related Pictures
View gallery (9)
C1043-scardroy.jpgStrathconon2.jpgC1043-inverchoran.jpgC1043-meig-br.jpgC1043-porin.jpg
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