Start location: Unclassified road 0.5km SW of Ardachy Lodge (NH 373 071)
End location: Garva Bridge (NN 521 947)
Geographical area: Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey
Path Type: Military Road, Drove Road
Path distance: 18.5km
Accessibility info: Suitable for pedestrians, Suitable for Bikes, Suitable for horses
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Please note: this military road is legally protected through its designation by Historic Scotland as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. It is a criminal offence to damage an ancient monument. The Highland Council has issued the following advice: "You can help to conserve the Corrieyairack: Please leave your vehicles before reaching the military road. The Corrieyairack is not maintained as a public road and is not suitable for use as one. Highland Council will not accept responsibility for any accident or injury caused by ignoring this warning. Please take precautions to minimize damage when walking on the road, such as avoiding the shortcuts that are eroding the traverses".
Although the usual eastern starting point of the route nowadays is Laggan village, going from there west along the north side of the River Spey, the original starting point was 2km west along the A86 on the south side of the river. The two variants join at the bridge over the Spey 3km west of Laggan. Continuing west, the military road is briefly cut by an artificial channel associated with the Spey Dam - the original bridge at NN554931 was marooned by this aqueduct's construction in 1946. The realigned road crosses the aqueduct slightly further west at NN553932, at the point where the track coming north from Kinloch Laggan joins the Wade road; this track, the Maria Mahria Way, provides an alternative and slightly shorter start to the Corrieyairack Pass.
About 9km west of Laggan the road passes the old barracks and former inn at Garvamore, recrosses the Spey by Garva Bridge (a Wade bridge) and continues a further 6km to Melgarve. A short distance up the burn just east of Melgarve, another bridge is hidden in the forest. This crossing was originally left as a ford by Wade but was often impassible so was replaced with a bridge by General Caulfeild.
At Melgarve (where the Soft Road for the Hoggs branches off southwest) the Corrieyairack track leaves the Spey and begins the climb WNW along the Allt Yairack to the pass, the last steep ascent in twelve zigzags. The 775m summit provides magnificent views, and there is a steep descent on the west side to the Allt Lagan a’ Bhainne bridge, which has recently been carefully restored to its original state. Continue down Glen Tarff high on the west side of the deep tree-lined gorge of the River Tarff to Culachy, and on reaching the public road go right then first left to Fort Augustus.
OS Landranger 34 (& 35 also useful if starting from Laggan)
The military road over the Corrieyairack was made by Hanoverian troops under General Wade's command in 1731. The military road from Crieff to Dalnacardoch had been built the previous year, and this cross road to Fort Augustus from Dalwhinnie on the north side of the Drumochter Pass was effectively a continuation of that road. Despite Wade's road being built to control the Highlands, it was by the Corrieyairack Pass that Prince Charles Edward Stewart marched south after raising his standard at Glenfinnan in 1745.
However, the route existed before Wade’s time; it is shown on a map of 1725 in the British Museum. This is one of the ways by which large droves of cattle travelled southwards from Skye to market. It continued to be used by drovers until at least the end of the nineteenth century, although the movement of stock became largely sheep rather than cattle.
In 1804, a request was made for a replacement road as that "by Garvamore over Corry-Arrick which from its height is at all times dangerous, and generally impassable for four months in the year, to the prejudice of his Majesty's service, and the loss of the lives of many of his soldiers and subjects". The military road was eventually replaced with great trouble and expense by a lower road from Spean Bridge by Loch Laggan to Kingussie, completed in 1813. This latter more level road is now used by the A86 albeit improved for modern purposes with many realignments. Maintenance of the military road continued until 1830, albeit bridge repairs took place as late as 1850.
Most of the old military road was scheduled in 1994. Its Statement of National Importance reads: "The monument is of national importance as part of the longest continuous stretch of military road built under the direction of General Wade to be substantially unaffected by modern alterations. Wade's roads were the first constructed roads of any length in the Scottish Highlands and formed the first planned post-Roman road system in Britain."
Today much of the route is within sight of an overhead electricity transmission line.
The Highland Council's Corrieyairack Pass map leaflet is now downloadable from their website. It's packed with information to aid understanding and support responsible exploration of this ancient pass's rich heritage.