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A82 Tyndrum to Glencoe Village

This road, built between 1928 and 1932, replaced an unsurfaced track and is an outstanding example of work to open up the Highlands to motor traffic

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Bridge of Orchy Hotel

Station Brae,

Bridge of Orchy 

PA36 4AD
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About A82 Tyndrum to Glencoe Village

Following the great depression, national strikes and the other issues that so greatly affected the economy of the UK in the 1920s, a programme of national road building was instigated. In some areas, roads were already being started in 1928-9, but in Scotland things were a little slower to get underway. However, in an era where road improvements had displaced railway schemes from the forefront of government attention, upgrading of the A82 throughout, from Loch Lomond to Inverness, came at a time when carborne tourism was increasing owing to the decline of steamers and the fame of the Loch Ness Monster.  The A82 across Rannoch Moor was probably in planning when the thirties dawned, but it was not until 1931 that construction is recorded to have got under way, with the road opening to the public in 1932-3.

The modern route from Altnafeadh through to Loch Leven was constructed in 1929-30 and open before work started on the moor. From Ballachulish Ferry, the onward route to Fort William was not completed until 1933, while the route to Oban has bridges dated 1939 along it.

Work was underway in spring 1931, with the road taking a completely new alignment for the ten miles from Bridge of Orchy to the Kingshouse Hotel and then roughly following Telford's route as far as the Coe Bridge near The Clachaig Inn.

The road as built was a standard 1930s two-way single carriageway that takes a wide loop around the eastern side of Loch Tulla, initially on the alignment of the estate track that leads to Achallader Farm. The records suggest that this road was heavily improved in the 1880s and 90s when the construction of the West Highland Railway was underway, providing access to the various works along the line.

After diverging from the Achallader road, the modern route takes a long straight section across the lower moor, crossing the River Orchy at the further end on one of the magnificent bridges that are familiar to any travellers along the route. A huge hairpin then climbs the hill onto the upper moor, where the road passes between Lochan na h-Achlaise and Loch Ba, as opposed to the older routes which ran to the west of the lochan. Another long gradient then lifts the road to its summit of 350m, before a series of straights and sweeping bends drop down to the Kingshouse, where the second iconic bridge crosses the River Etive.

Before reaching the Kingshouse Hotel, the modern road crosses Telford's route by Blackrock Cottage where the Glencoe Ski Centre junction lies. A new road now provides access to the hotel, while another half mile further on the modern A82 finally assumes Telford's alignment at the Glen Etive crossroads. Here Telford's road joins from the east as the first section of the access road for Black Corries Lodge.

For the next eight miles, the modern road either follows or runs alongside Telfords route. The variations mainly occur where modern (1930s) equipment was able to create a straighter and more level route than Telford had been able to a century earlier. Where Telford had followed the contours, wiggling along the hillside, before climbing round the many rocky obstacles that lie at the head of Glen Coe, the modern road builders were able to blast through the rock and create a much smoother route for modern traffic.

The most spectacular section is where the road passes through the narrow rocky chasm known as The Study. Very short straights are linked by long curves curling round the rocky buttresses, with the river charging through the small area left for it, in places almost covered by the road. Even the wide section where the new bridge (built 2007) has provided a viewpoint for the waterfall is only half way, with the rock walls closing in once more before you are finally rewarded with the view down Glen Coe.

Beyond The Study, Telford's road can be seen dropping sharply down the hillside to meet the modern road, behind a parapet wall, and within half a mile it has emerged on the left, running through the glen as a major footpath providing access from the car parking to the mountains on the other side of the glen. The two re-converge by the farm of Achtriochtan, passing Loch Achtriochtan as one. The short access loop for Achnambeithach is part of Telford's old road as it turns off to follow the River Coe into Glecoe village. Meanwhile, the modern road crosses the river (with a new replacement bridge opened in 2009) to sweep down the western flank of the lower glen and so bypass the village.

Transport minister Leslie Hore-Belisha officially opened the new road at Abriachan by Loch Ness on 27 September 1934.  Accepting a sgian dubh with which he cut a ribbon of Cameron tartan, he said that it was a symbol of Britain's recovering strength, like the liner Queen Mary which had been launched days before at Clydebank. 

The completion of the Glen Coe section was also celebrated with a banquet at Ballachulish, where guest of honour was Major W A Hunt the engineer in charge who had cut his engineering teeth on the railways of Canada. Less than ten years ago, declared Major J A Struthers, a mere mountain track made in 1752 had linked Ballachulish to Tyndrum, and now there was a fine road that would bring in more tourists. There had been determined opposition led by the Society for the Preservation of Rural Scotland, but this had been withdrawn after several meetings in Edinburgh and Glen Coe itself, and those who had feared the intrusive newcomer were now said to be loud in its praise. 

The Red Wheel heritage plaque was unveiled by NTT Vice President John Cameron CBE  on 24th April 2024.


John Cameron CBE unveils Red Wheel plaque


A82 Bridge of Orchy unveiling party





Photos: John Yellowlees; Gregory Beechcroft; Jamesfcarter, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons, Anne Burgess (cc-by-sa/2.0); Gil Cavalcanti, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons; Bridge of Orchy Hotel via Geograph

the A82 is the main road from Glasgow to Inverness via the Great Glen. The section through Glen Coe begins with the climb from Bridge of Orchy onto Rannoch Moor. 



Miller, James; The Finest Road in the World - The Story of Travel and Transport in the Scottish Highlands, Birlinn, 310pp

National Transport Trust, Old Bank House, 26 Station Approach, Hinchley Wood, Esher, Surrey KT10 0SR