Life at the end of the road

September 24, 2012

The old A87 :-)

Filed under: daily doings — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 6:28 am

Well we made it, the ‘Old Girl’, Thompson Glenelg and I are now being buffeted by a rising wind from the east just a few hundred yards from the North Sea. I might as well be on a different planet, my forty year old home looking grossly out of place amongst the chick statics, gleaming white tourers and massive motorhomes. Sure is immaculate, clean, centrally situated and secure.


To me however it feels more like ‘The village’

and I feel like ‘Number 6’ Smile in the surreal 1960s TV series that got its first airing some 45 years ago this week. Though my pitch here is number 3 and not 6 Smile


I may have only been eleven but I can still remember the registration number of Patrick Mcgoohan’s Lotus 7, KAR 120C

This morning I left the calm of rural Perthshire around 10:00am


the rolling hills, mixed woodland and burbling Braan



replaced by a hectic and at times misty  A9, then A1 southwards.



The contrast from yesterdays journey could not have been more stark, long gone the leisurely pace of stopping every few miles to admire something, have a rest and let traffic by. This leg of the journey was short on beauty, or at least my vision of it, seldom on stopping places and much busier. In truth it was probably far quieter than normal but to me it was hectic, and whilst I pulled over as often as possible to let folk by it was not until Dunbar that I found a large and empty stopping place where I could relax for a while.

The flooded glens

When I awoke on Saturday morning prior to leaving Arnish I imagined, or should I say thought I’d imagined the distant roaring of a stag. I dismissed it as ‘wishful thinking’ and after doing all my final ‘pre flight checks’ headed south for the ferry. I had all day to get to the highly recommended Invermill caravan park so was going to make the most of it. The weather was perfect and for once in my life I had no deadline or ferry to catch.


Map picture

My first stop was a lay by on the A87 on the shores of a much depleted Loch Cluanie, this fresh water loch having been greatly enlarged in the 1950s by the construction of the Cluanie dam a few miles to the east. As part of the electrification of Scotland in the post war years both the lochs of Cluanie and Loyne to the south had been dammed.



Leaving the Land Rover I ventured down to the waters edge across the remains of several clumps of what must once have been substantial trees. The short bursts of traffic along the road being interspersed by spells of silence punctuated by a solitary roaring stag somewhere up one of the glens to the north.


So long had the loch been dry that green growth had started to appear on the fertile peaty soil.


And here it is, the original A87 from sixty years ago looking much better than some of the roads on Raasay in places.


So much for ‘the wettest summer in 100 years’ Smile 021more likely from the new road that the old but this ‘cats eye’ I found in the loch looked quite sad Sad smile Smile


This is one of the old bridges now visible

but I couldn’t stop so used a picture taken by just a few weeks ago.

This is how the area looked in 1939 


Here’s a map from 1939 and you can see the A87s original route from Tomdoun to the Cluanie hotel.


Map picture

If you zoom in on the map you can clearly see the old road where it crosses Loch Loyne where the island is.

File:The "Road to the Isles" - Loch Loyne - Large Bridge, from south side - - 969197.jpg

This is one of the two bridges that once used the wooded island as a ‘stepping stone’, usually well under the water this picture was taken when the loch was exceptionally low a few years ago.

Here’s the smaller Loch Loyne bridge from Trevor Wright’s picture here


The public road network in the West of Scotland was not developed to its current standard until relatively recent times. Many roads used to be improvements on former drovers tracks, and narrow, twisting and steep as they crossed mountain passes.
One famous old road was the "Road to the Isles", a segment of which ran from the current-day Tomdoun Sporting Lodge Hotel north-west past Cluanie Lodge to Cluanie Inn. This passed over two rivers which were dammed and flooded to form Lochs Cluanie and Loyne in around 1957. A new road, the current A87, was constructed around the edge. The old tracks to Loch Loyne are now gated and in private ownership but accessible by walkers and mountain bikers.
Where the "Road to the Isles" crossed what is now Loch Loyne, there were two bridges and a small wooded island. The road, and the small (shown here) and large bridges still exist but are usually wholly or almost wholly submerged below the waterline for much of the year and unreachable and unpassable. However, in September each year, Scottish Hydro Power reduce the level of the water in the Lochs and in early September 2008 it was at exceptionally low levels. The old road and bridges were reachable and indeed passable by walkers or mountain bikers. It should be noted the larger bridge is, from a formal Health and Safety viewpoint, far too dangerous to walk across but many do at their own risk.
The story of the "Road to the Isles" or "The Roof of the Highlands" was covered by Nicholas Crane ("Mapman") in one of his 2007 BBC 2 TV series "Great British Journeys" about the writings of early travellers, in this case H.V. Morton’s tours of Scotland in 1929-33 in a Bullnose Morris car.

Taken from the same source


Anyway it’s 7:25 on Monday now so I’d better get ready for the first day at college Sad smile


  1. Hi Paul
    glad to see you made it OK.
    Good luck at the college.
    Regards Angus

    Comment by angus — September 24, 2012 @ 7:22 am

    • Made it just fine Angus, it’s all a little bewildering at the moment but I’m sure I’ll get used to it, certainly glad that I’ve got my own little bit of space. It’s a bit like bringing a piece of Raasay down with me, specially with A & J next door 🙂 Good luck in Shetland, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 25, 2012 @ 5:16 am

  2. welcome back to the land of your birth, Paul

    Comment by cazinatutu — September 24, 2012 @ 7:39 am

    • welcome back to the land of your birth, Paul

      I was born in Lancashire Caz not ‘the republic’ 🙂 I had to hand my passport in at the Tyne tunnel 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 25, 2012 @ 5:19 am

  3. As soon as I heard the theme to the prisoner I got “goosebumps” down my back, I like the way he doesn’t wait for the barrier to go up, just drives under before it starts to lift.

    Comment by Kev — September 24, 2012 @ 7:52 am

    • Years ahead of its time Kev, I never understood it despite watching the series several times. To be honest I don’t think that the makers knew what it was about but that opening is a classic bit of TV, and in colour too something very rare in a 1967 British TV series.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 25, 2012 @ 5:23 am

  4. Claunie will be full again by Wednesday if that area gets the rainfall we are getting presently :-). Looks like the old A87 climbed higher than the Bealach na Ba where it crossed the mountains. All the best for your stay down south of the border.

    Comment by Andy — September 24, 2012 @ 8:18 am

    • Apologies.I was wrong about the height climbed.

      Comment by Andy — September 24, 2012 @ 8:07 pm

  5. Welcome back to England Paul, I might have to pop in and see you with a bottle of Uisge Beatha since you are only two hours away. Don’t be walking around Newcastle city centre on a Friday evening with your Calmac boiler suit on, they might get the wrong idea!
    Great stuff about the old A87. I investigated a few years ago, you can indeed cross that bridge on foot, it was quite solid when I looked. There is however another one close by which is a little more dodgy, shame because it would be a great bike ride.

    Comment by Simon — September 24, 2012 @ 11:26 am

  6. Glad to hear you have arrived safely Paul.
    very interesting info on the old A87. It does show just how much things have changed in the last 60+ years on Scottish roads! Amazing to see just how well preserved this old road is and yes it does seem in better condition than many of the roads around the country. Then again back then there was a great pride in building things to last!
    To me the Thomson does not look out of place, then again I am biased (-:
    I’ll bet you get plenty of admiring glances and just a few conversations from previous Thomson or other classic caravans during your stay. I know we always get folks asking about ours and often when told just how old it is the look of amazement is testament to just how well these vans stand the test of time!
    Thanks again for yet another very informative and wonderful blog!

    Comment by Thomson Caravans — September 24, 2012 @ 1:36 pm

    • Hi Graham,

      right enough I had a couple of admirers of the old Thompson whilst at Invermill, one chap who the very same model as his first van some thirty or so years ago and another former Miniglen owner. 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 25, 2012 @ 11:04 am

      • Yes there seems to be a lot of former Thomson owners, when we where at Killin at the start of the month our next door neighbour was a former Thomson Glen2 owner, bought new in the sixties and kept for 15 years before getting replaced. I think every time we go away we bump into someone who was an owner, hired one or knew someone with a Thomson. (:

        Comment by Thomson Caravans — September 27, 2012 @ 3:52 am

  7. PS In case you haven’t noticed I am a late riser, usually around 1pm, first thing I do each afternoon is switch on the PC and check for your latest update! It always makes the start to my day a good one! (-:

    Comment by Thomson Caravans — September 24, 2012 @ 1:39 pm

  8. Paul on tour! Glad to see you made it to Geordie land safe and sound, also hope your first day at school goes well.
    How you finding the accent ? When I moved up here I didn’t have a clue what anyone was saying, maybe a bit easier if your used to gaelic.

    hope your settling in , and give me a shout if your not or need ANYTHING.

    Comment by mike — September 24, 2012 @ 4:42 pm

    • Hi Mike, I love the accent but it wouldn’t matter what language they were speaking as I’d forgotten my hearing aid 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 25, 2012 @ 11:06 am

  9. Paul
    you were 100 yards away from the house at Inver, you would have been welcome to pop in for dinner on sunday and say hi to millie. call in on the way home.

    Jackie & Cara

    Comment by jackie — September 24, 2012 @ 5:37 pm

    • Hi Jackie, well that sure is a beautiful part of the world you live in, wonder if I went by your house as I was walking about. Gosh that would have been funny if I’d bumped into Millie and yourselves out for a walk 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 25, 2012 @ 11:08 am

  10. Very wet and windy here. Hope you are settled in and cosy x

    Comment by SOTW — September 24, 2012 @ 6:16 pm

    • Yup She, wet, windy yet cosy in the van. I’m only guessing but I reckon the tide has just turned as the wind has just picked up and the heavens opened once more. Better get my skates on and head for the college now, it’ll be a good half hour walk with this headwind 😦

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 25, 2012 @ 11:13 am

  11. The poor Thomson Glen Elg, accustomed to open spaces and majestic mountains filled with stags calling….now surrounded by fence bars and sweaty people packed cheek to jowl in cities. Might be time to put up some tartan privacy curtains. Dear Molly, having wonderful time, wish you were here.

    Comment by drgeo — September 24, 2012 @ 6:53 pm

  12. Dear Paul
    Have I missed something or are Calmac too tight to put you up in a hotel? Not that your Thomson is not fab but … Anyway hope you are as settled in as possible and the course goes well.

    Comment by Jo — September 24, 2012 @ 8:29 pm

  13. Good to see the accidental crofter has made it to this fair part of blighty….anyting to declare sir….please submit your passport at the booth…… While the border gaurd frisks you…

    Comment by The Peoples Republic of Northumbria — September 24, 2012 @ 9:41 pm

  14. I love those old roads, especially that section from Tomdoun to Cluanie. I remember the road from Cluanie to Kyle being widened the first time I went to Scotland in the late 60’s with my parents. The roadworks were endless and we had to drive over all sorts of temporary surfaces, some of them probably Telford’s original foundations! It’s fascinating that there was no bridge at Dornie until 1936 – just a ferry, so people living in the triangle between Dornie, Kyle and Stromeferry may as well have been on an island, with a ferry needed to get off in any direction.

    Comment by Nick Bennett — September 24, 2012 @ 10:36 pm

    • Don’t forget Kintail before the causeway !

      Comment by SOTW — September 25, 2012 @ 1:17 pm

    good viewing

    Comment by Chris Humphrey — September 24, 2012 @ 11:06 pm

    • Chris, that video was superb I’ve often driven past there and marveled at the masonry on the turbine house, truly amazing to watch it being built, what a find 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 25, 2012 @ 2:07 pm

      • Excellent footage. A generation of people that certainly knew what it was like to tough it out.Modern H&S would have a fit 🙂

        Comment by Andy — September 25, 2012 @ 7:21 pm

      • Aint it just priceless Andy, I never realized just how much work was still done with a pick and shovel. I’ve always thought that these 1950’s hydro plants should be catalogued, photographed and saved somewhere, their architecture is amazing. You just have to look at that edifice on Loch Lomond, Cluanie, and even Nostie to see that they were built with real skill.

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 25, 2012 @ 11:07 pm

  16. Speaking of old maps, the National Library of Scotland has the entire 1920’s 1 inch to the mile series for Scotland online at Fascinating stuff. It’s got an overlay showing the modern roads, which can be rather confusing, but you can turn it off.

    Comment by Nick Bennett — September 24, 2012 @ 11:53 pm

  17. Hello Paul. I discovered you after reading and then googling Calum’s Road. Thank you for an evocative and stimulating blog. I guess its time for me to learn how to do it, I’ve just been posting newsletters so far and yours is the first to make me think I’d better catch up with the 21st century (while not letting go of the 1950’s).

    Comment by Jim Hewlett — September 25, 2012 @ 11:11 am

    • Hi Jim and welcome,

      don’t let go of the fifties whatever you do, ration books, Suez crisis, farthings and Kilkof kilkof love the Land Rovers by the way

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 25, 2012 @ 2:50 pm

      • Thanks Paul, the weather is keeping me in just now, nothing like the wind on the old man of Storr on the 15th, but computers seem very effective at preventing things that need doing from being done. Reading about your Sciatica, sounds like a ruptured disc. (I used to be a Radiographer) Have you cleared that up? I did the same thing lifting roof tiles. I can recommend a good man at I started working on smaller vehicles after that, so as not to aggravate it,

        Comment by Jim Hewlett — September 25, 2012 @ 3:29 pm

      • Hi Jim, apparently my discs are just fine, though I’m not convinced. It seems to be more of a posture problem related to a broken leg some 42 years ago 😦

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 25, 2012 @ 6:53 pm

  18. Hi Paul, If it’s a posture problem you should be seeing Winnie for Alexander Technique regularly, she’s even on your doorstep when you are home! I started going over a year ago when my wonderful physio retired and it makes an amazing difference. It was a Sheriff from glasgow that suggested it to me and he said at first you will wonder what it is all about and think it is just a way of emptying your pockets. I am so glad he said that because that was exactly what I thought as it seems such a subtle technique but the effects have been very profound. Winnie was addressing the middle part of my back the other week, she stood me up and put one hand across my chest and the other in the middle part of my back then asked me to walk forward. I couldn’t move a muscle!!! just couldn’t offer to walk, panic!! Then she told me to bend my knee! DOH, then i could walk. Seems I was starting walking by using my middle back!! not by bending my knees, how do we get into such bad ways without realising? Winnie was holding me in such a way to stop me doing it and so I couldn’t walk!! I was starting lots of movements that way and now I don’t all the pain there has gone. You have to go regularly though to learn the technique. If you have lots of spare time you could find a teacher down there and make a start.
    Did you download the skype it is a really great way of keeping in touch and you could ask Barbara to walk the laptop around so you could see everything at home.
    Hope you are fine after yesterday’s storm.
    Take Care

    Comment by Carole and Finnie — September 26, 2012 @ 7:48 am

    • Hi Carole, I do use a lot of Winnies techniques, but you’re right i really should go and see her again, if only to stop wifey nagging me to go 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 27, 2012 @ 4:53 pm

  19. Who is Number One? You are Number Six. I am not a number, I’m a free man (laughter)

    Oh yes it seems like only yesterday Paul…and so futuristic…not THAT dated even today

    All the best


    Comment by cogidubnus — September 26, 2012 @ 11:53 pm

    • Hi Dave, yup, years ahead of its time and in colour too 🙂 I watched it as a child when I was eleven, was hooked but then totally confused with the ending. It was a full ten years before i saw it again and I was even more confused, ten years later I watched it again and was no wiser, ten years later I bought the boxed DVD set and I’m still just as confused, only now I know where Amy Winehouse got that look from 🙂

      the girl who was death

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 27, 2012 @ 5:13 pm

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