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Mam Ratagan Pass

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Mam Ratagan Pass
Bealach Ratagain
Location Map ( geo)
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From:  Shiel Bridge (NG934188)
To:  Glenelg (NG820198)
Distance:  9 miles (14.5 km)
Highway Authority
On road(s)
C1223 (Highland)

The Mam Ratagan, or Bealach Ratagain is a pass from Shiel Bridge on the A87 over the hill to the village and surrounding communities of Glenelg. It is a popular tourist route, linking with the Glenelg - Kylerhea Ferry service to the Isle of Skye, and providing a scenic and interesting alternative to the Skye Bridge. However, what few people perhaps realise is that this is the old road to Skye. The road was first built by Major Caulfeild as a military road to the barracks at Glenelg, but followed an older route used by drovers. The road was then rebuilt by Thomas Telford in the early 19th Century as part of his commission on Highland roads and bridges. The modern route, however, owes much to the 1980s, when it was again rebuilt to make it more suitable for modern traffic levels, and also better able to cope in winter conditions.

The Route

Starting at Shiel Bridge, the road curves around the southern end of Loch Duich, before starting the long climb at the junction with the coast road to Ratagan, Letterfearn and Totaig. The road climbs into the trees, easily at first, with plenty of S2 sections around bends between the older single track straights. A couple of old bridges, perhaps those built by Caulfeild, lie on the uphill side of the road, replaced by culverts on easier bends. The road is still climbing through the forest, the bends getting sharper, but the gradient remaining steady most of the time. A forestry car park on the right provides a view, but keep climbing and the road emerges from the trees with a car park offering a stunning view across Loch Duich.

The car park lies just below the summit at 350m above sea level, which is reached with a couple more bends. The road soon starts to drop again, however, plunging back into the forest on the Glenelg side of the pass, a couple of sharp bends, and then the road straightens up. As it emerges from the forest it drops to single track for the long steady descent down the side of the glen, reaching a junction with the side road into Glen More. Beyond the junction the road levels off, and has a comparatively easy run for the last couple of miles to the junction at Glenelg.

This junction has recently been realigned, giving priority to traffic heading right for the ferry. The village proper, and the easier route to the barracks is left, but it is unclear which way the military road ran, and Telfords road headed for the ferry.

Mam Ratagan Pass
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