Photo of the Month

Rannoch Road

From Roader's Digest: The SABRE Wiki

Jump to: navigation, search
Rannoch Road
Cameraicon.png View gallery (4)
From:Rannoch Station (NN423578)
To:Kingshouse Hotel (NN258548)
Length:12 miles (19.3 km)
Met: B846, A82
Now part of:A vague, meandering footpath
Traditional Counties

Argyll • Perthshire

This road was originally proposed in c1810, if not before, and then several times before being canned, seemingly for good, in the 1960s. Considering it is just 12 miles, only 2 of which are not already passable by off-roaders, this lack of progress is perhaps surprising, until you spend the day crossing Rannoch Moor to take a closer look!

Contents

Today's Route

Rannoch Forest

The Forest Road

The route today can be split into three distinct parts. Starting at Rannoch Station, we retreat through the car park towards the Hotel, and at the end of the B846, just past a white cottage on the right a drive leads down to a level crossing. This, presumably, would have been the start of the new road, as a continuation of the B846. The track beyond the level crossing is unsurfaced, but in good condition as it passes Cruach Cottage and on into Rannoch Forest on the north shore of Loch Laidon. Just before the forest is entered, a small bump on the edge of the loch provides a fine viewpoint of the distant Blackmount range and so our destination, the A82 which passes along their foot.

The forest road proceeds for approximately four miles without deteriorating in standard, and could be cycled with ease. However, after passing through a gate into a much younger forest area, the road soon ends at a large turning area. For much of the route, it has been a wide road, albeit with only one half showing the signs of vehicles passing, potentially suitable for surfacing as a two way road. Whether this is an accident or intentional is not known.

The Wilderness

The meandering path under the power lines

A low gap in the bank at the back of the turning area shows the onward route, which is nothing more than a boggy, muddy path. While there are tyre tracks proving the bikes are brought across the moor, it would take a real mountain biking expert to be able to cycle the route. You are much better off on foot! The path runs across the open hillside above Loch Laidon's western end, closely following the overhead power line. While it is known that this is an ancient right of way, you can't help wondering whether the power line has been erected over it, or the path realigned to follow the inevitable track created by the power companies vehicles.

For two miles, we wend our way eastwards, constantly drawn forward by the magnificent view of the Black Mount and latterly Buchaille Etive Mor ahead of us. To the left, across the moor are the mountains above Achallader, but apart from a small ruined cottage just outside the forest there is no sign of human habitation in this remote wilderness.

Black Corries

A plank bridge dwarfed by the landscape

After two miles, give or take, the end of the Black Corries Estate Track is reached. It is still 6 miles to Kingshouse, but most of the track is now ridable with care. We start off on a boggy grassy depression in the moor, but soon firmer patches are found and as we continue westwards, the surface steadily improves. Nature has, of course, tried to reclaim this roadway but for the most part she has been unsuccessful so far. After a mile a small Lochan is reached, and beyond that the track becomes better, with easier gradients. Another mile leads us to a junction with a track leading up to a communications mast. From here on, apart form a handful of fords, the track is much better as far as the Black Corries.

Whilst the track continues through the Black Corries plantation, we must respect the privacy of the residents who live within the trees (there are about 3 houses in there!), and take the path around the edge. Soon, however, the estate road is found on the far side and this, whilst not tarred, has a fine surface allowing for rapid progress as we complete the last couple of miles or so to the old road at Kingshouse.

History

pre 1900

The first known survey of this route was undertaken in the first decade of the 19th Century by Thomas Telford as part of his commission on Highland Roads. From the information available it appears that he quickly dismissed the idea, in favour of a route via Loch Treig (later used by the West Highland Railway), but this road also failed to progress beyond the drawing board.

It is possible that fifty years earlier, General Caulfeild had also investigated this route, to connect the barracks at Rannoch with his new road across the western fringe of the moor (now the A82). However, while it is probable that soldiers did indeed traverse the moor in the years between and after the Jacobite Rebellions, no road was ever constructed for them.

The route was also used as a droving route for cattle, which is probably why Telford surveyed it. However, it appears that it was not one of the favoured routes, as it offered the worst of both worlds - crossing Loch Leven or the Devils Staircase and missing the popular resting place at Killin.

Twentieth Century

Whilst the road had been proposed and dismissed by Telford, and again later in the century, it was still regarded as a possible future project. In the late 1920s, when surveyors were out plotting the new route of the A82, the road across the moor was again in discussion. It is understood that the route was at the very least walked by 'men from the ministry' to see if it was suitable. With the amount of money that was spent upgrading routes across Scotland in the 1930s, this was perhaps the routes best chance at becoming a public highway, but alas it was not to be. For whatever reason the project was never progressed.

Whilst locals on both sides of the moor were split over whether the road should or shouldn't be built, it stayed at the bottom of a to-do tray somewhere until the 1960s. Again, in this decade, a number of projects in the Highlands were undertaken to connect remote communities - such as the A896 from Shieldaig to Torridon, the A861 from Kinlochmoidart to Lochailort - but the Rannoch Road was finally ditched.

Today

With the volumes of traffic using the A82 and the major east-west routes it is perhaps more important than ever that an extra route be created to spread the traffic out. However, there are a great number of reasons why the Rannoch Road is unlikely to ever be resurrected (in no particular order):

  • The eastern approach along the B846 and B8019 or B847 would need to be heavily upgraded to cope with the extra traffic.
  • Environmental concerns would make such a project unthinkable.
  • The cost is almost certainly prohibitive, as the same money could be spread much further on more congested routes further south.




Rannoch Road
Related Pictures
View gallery (4)
Rannoch-rd1.jpgRannoch-rd2.jpgRannoch-rd3.jpgRannoch-rd4.jpg