Three Generations of the A82

Rannoch Moor is a bleak, inhospitable and lonely place, the sort of place that you wouldn't fancy building a road across, which makes it even more surprising that the Moor is crossed by no less than three routes.

These pages tell the story of those three routes, and how we came to have the spectacular and rugged route the A82 follows across the moor today.

Three routes together: the Military Road in blue, Telford's route in green and the modern A82 in red. Click to enlarge
Three routes together: the Military Road in blue, Telford's route in green and the modern A82 in red. Click to enlarge

The first of these was built after the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. One of the major problems that the government had was the inaccessibility of the Highlands, making it difficult to deploy troops. As a result, over 1000 miles of Military roads were built in the ensuing 50 years.

By the turn of the century, however, these military roads were in need of a major upgrade, and so Thomas Telford was invited to survey the routes and make some recommendations. When it came to Rannoch Moor, the route he suggested involved building a new roadway for over half the distance.

With the advent of motor traffic, it soon became clear that even Telford's road was insufficient, and in 1931-3 as part of the unemployment relief schemes that saw mass roadbuilding across the country, yet another new road was built. Today, even that route is under threat as modern volumes and speed of traffic far exceed the roads designed capacity.

Rob Riley braved the wild moors to uncover the history of the mighty A82.

250 years ago, a new path was laid through Glen Coe, taming the landscape - but still sometimes wary of its surroundings.

In the nineteenth century the Military Road couldn't meet the needs of communications with the north. Thomas Telford replaced it with a new one.

Even Telford's road was found wanting when motor traffic started making its way to Inverness. The 1930s saw construction of a third way across the moors.

Rannoch Moor isn't the only trial the A82 faces, and the A82 isn't the only impressive road in the Highlands.

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Routes
A82

With thanks to Toby Speight and Clive for corrections to this section.

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