Black Mount Military Road
Start location: Bridge of Orchy (NN 296 396)
End location: Kings House Hotel (NN 260 549)
Geographical area: Lochaber
Path Type: Military Road
Path distance: 25km
Accessibility info: Suitable for pedestrians
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Cross the Bridge of Orchy and go northwest uphill through forest over the Mam Carraigh and down to the Inveroran Hotel. Follow the road north over Victoria Bridge to Forest Lodge, then either go by the 19th century Old Glencoe Road (now used by the West Highland Way) or take the quieter and harder to find military road, which is on the north side of the small piece of forestry surrounding Forest Lodge. This section of military road then joins the Old Glencoe Road at NN282469 and deviates again just north of Ba Cottage at NN280499, before rejoining the Old Glencoe Road just short of the Glencoe Ski Centre.
OS Landranger 50 (Glen Orchy & surrounding area) & 41 (Ben Nevis, Fort William & surrounding area)
There is a fascinating evolution of routes in this area. On Roy's Military Survey (1747-52), the route north from Bridge of Orchy runs to the east of Loch Tollie (Loch Tulla), but then appears to veer northwest and its exact line is difficult to determine. Soon after Roy's endeavours, a replacement was built - it is reported in William Taylor's The Military Roads in Scotland (1976) that in summer 1752, 1100 men were working on the Black Mount part of the military road from Stirling to Fort William. This is the road described here, it travels from Bridge of Orchy via Mam Carraigh to Inveroran in order to go to the west of Loch Tulla, then heads north over the moor to Kingshouse. It sits on the high ground in order that the many water courses could mostly be forded, rather than require bridges. The military road's replacement in the early 19th century was a product of Thomas Telford. Now known as the Old Glencoe Road, this followed the general alignment of the military road and even coincides with it either side of Bà Bridge. It was placed lower on the hillsides to improve the gradient of the route, so necessitating more bridges. This road in turn was replaced by the present A82 in the 1930s. The new road reverted to a line east of Loch Tulla, so although it is initially similar to that mapped by Roy, overall the present road is much further east than the older roads.
There is a long history of droving across Rannoch Moor. Drovers frequented the Kingshouse and Inveroran too had a drover's inn - in 1803, Dorothy Wordsworth's journal describes the latter's kitchen where "about seven or eight travellers, probably drovers, with as many dogs, were sitting in a complete circle round a large peat-fire in the middle of the floor, each with a mess of porridge, in a wooden vessel, upon his knee"; the Kingshouse with its crowds of men (drovers, carriers, horsemen and travellers) was described as wretched and dirty. The OS 1st edition 6" map (1843-82) marks a Drove Stance at Bridge of Orchy; this had replaced an earlier stance at Inveroran. Bà meaning cows or cattle may give placename evidence too. Sheep were reportedly driven this way once the trade in cattle declined.
The Old Glencoe Road is now probably better known as part of the route of the West Highland Way. As the old military road is boggy and indistinct in places, Telford's road can be recommended as an alternative to it and after all, as described here, it has an interesting history of its own.
Between the old military road and the Old Glencoe Road, near their highest points, stands a 2m high cairn (NN280511). It was erected in memory of the writer Peter Fleming (1907-1971) and although it carries no plaque, reportedly previously it was inscribed Author, Soldier and Traveller. He was the brother of Ian Fleming, creator of the James Bond stories; their family owns Black Mount Estate across which this old military road passes.