The Corrieyairack Pass is an Old Military Road, built by the government troops under the command of General George Wade. The road was built over a summer in the year 1737 prior to the 1745 Uprising and stretches from Dalwhinnie to Fort Augustus. The Corrieyairack was one of a series of roads which linked various government barracks together, hence adopting the name ?The Chain?. The old road from Dalwhinnie to the Melgarve Bothy can still be traced as it follows the A889 to Laggan, but is tarmac now instead of the old surface of stones. Where the road is broken there are the occasional Wade?s Bridges which reminds us of the line which the road actually took joining the new road from Laggan. The road then follows the River Spey to the bothy, it is at the Melgarve Bothy that our walk begins.

After turning off the A86 at Laggan, we followed the 6 mile single track road to Melgarve Bothy, the road is quite narrow in places and although only 6 miles it seems to go on for a lot longer, no complaint though as the weather and the scenery was fantastic, the further we drove the more into the wilderness we got, a landscape which hasn?t really changed in centuries. On route there is a place of interest, ?Garvamore? in 1745 an Inn stood here, where some of the deserters from Cope?s army waited for the Prince and where the Prince held council and stayed the night after crossing the Corrieyairack.

At the end of the tarmac road we reached the bothy, beyond this is point there are no public vehicles allowed, we were the only ones there so got the first choice of what the simple and basic accommodation had to offer. Although bothies are quite basic they are usually found in remote areas surrounded by fantastic scenery and Melgarve is no exception. Within 10 minutes of unloading the gear we were joined by a party of 6 guys from the Middlesborough area and lucky enough there was plenty of room in the inn and after settling in we gathered communally outside for a cold beer. There was a heat in the sun and the scenery was breath taking, with only the sound of our own voices being heard as we took the time to educate our foreign friends to the history of the Corrieyairack Pass. As the sun disappeared we retreated into the bothy to enjoy some music and a dram in front of the warm and hypnotic flames of the fire.

Day of the walk, we rose early and had breakfast, then washed in the fresh water of the burn running nearby. As there was still a couple of hours before setting off I took the opportunity to get a few pics. I was told the last time I walked the old road where the remains of General Wades headquarters stood in 1737 while the work on the Corrieyairack was being carried out and also of an old General Caulfield bridge that was built in 1750, which was hidden away in a clearing in the trees, these were about a quarter of a mile back, so having a bit of time I went to find them.

10am, set off from the Melgarve Bothy heading west towards the Corrieyairack Forrest rising slowly on the straight and mild incline with the heat of the sun on our backs. The road passed between the hills of Carn Leac on the left and Gairnbeinn on the right with both their majestic peaks nearly three thousand feet high.
Military roads tend to be long and straight where possible, and looking back to the Melgarve bothy is a prime example, whether this was adopted from the Romans I don?t know, but in any case it was to make it as easy as possible for the manoeuvring of large volumes of soldiers and equipment.

Veering right and out of view of the bothy still climbing mildly, the only thing that reminds us of 21st century life is the unsightly pylons which blot the landscape. Due to the dryness of the weather there were a few little burns and fords to cross which other wise might have been in full spate, in sight was the twisting road about a mile in front which winds its way up to the plateau at the summit of the Corrieyairack, seventeen steep zig-zags in all, this was made in such a way that it was easier to get to the top particularly with heavy artillery.

Reaching the top of the plateau there are magnificent views east towards Laggan. It is a this point on the plateau in 1745 where Lord George Murray states that when he and Lochgarry arrived here at the highest point of the pass they expected to see General Cope and his red-coated army slowly wending its way across the plain beneath, much to their surprise though there was not a creature to be seen. Fearing an ambush they proceeded cautiously until they got half way down the southern slope they noticed a party of armed men some distance off, which they took for Cope?s advance guard of Highland soldiers; upon more careful observation Lochgarry came to the conclusion that whoever they might be they were not enemies. As they came closer they made signs of friendship and satisfied that they were no enemy the two officers rode down the hill to learn what they wanted. It transpired that the strangers were a body of forty soldiers who had deserted from Cope?s army the day before and on their way to offer their services to Prince Charles. The spokesman, a MacPherson told Lochgarry that Cope had held a council of war the day before [August 27th ] at Dalwhinnie, when it was determined to abandon the idea of attempting the passage of the Corrieyairack as it was considered too dangerous. The army had already began to march on the road to the pass, but were ordered to wheel about and most likely headed to the Barracks at Ruthven instead. [ Murray and Lochgarry were sent forward to reconnoitre in front of the 1800 or so Jacobite Army which were behind them]

Taking in the magnificent views on top of the plateau we decided to stop for some refreshment, sitting at the roadside surrounded by the glorious purple heather, with the view of the peaks surrounding Glen Affric away in the distance. There is another blot on the landscape, the towering wind turbines on the other side of the Great Glen on the hills above Invergarry.

Making our way from the plateau the road heads down towards Glen Tarff and like most of the road behind us the road is covered with quite loose hardcore making it quite slippy at times, especially when descending. A few miles on we came across another of Wades bridges an old favourite from a previous walk over the Corrieyairack where we stopped for lunch and like a tradition we did the same as before, even making time to have a dip in the cool clear water of the burn. With the weather being so fine it was with reluctance that we were willing to move, but we knew that we had to as there was no other way to go.

From the Wades Bridge the road was undulating for the next few miles, passing through the Culachy Forrest you come to a new bridge of good structure crossing the Allt Lagan a Bhainne, which flows into the River Tarff, looking left here there are traces where the old bridge and road went, but now is re-diverted for a short distance. The military road from here begins to run parallel to the River Tarff down Glen Tarff, here we bumped into an Australian couple, the first people we had came across in the last 10 miles, we chat briefly and I give them a wee bit of a history lesson about the road etc, on leaving them we cross a few small burns and a ford and its was not long before the buildings of Fort Augustus came into view. Approaching the slopes of Glen Mor the road veers slightly left passing Creag Dhubh, from this point there is a magnificent view of Fort Augustus and Loch Ness. Dropping down into Fort Augustus the road changes a bit to what looks more like a forestry or access road never the less the scenery is outstanding. Entering the last mile or so, the power lines that had escorted us all the way from the Melgarve Bothy now leave us and head away into the hillside of the Inchnacardoch Forest. Nearing the end the pink coloured building of Culachy House, set in its magnificent grounds comes into view, skirting the edge of the extensive grounds the last few hundred yards of the of the path runs down the side of a dyke towards the end or starting point. As we came in view of the finish and of those who were waiting for us, I couldn?t help but think as I had done through out the walk to the history and the soldiers who had used the old military road since it was built in 1737. For It was on the Corrieyairack that the first prisoner was taken in the 1745 uprising, a Captain Switenham of Guise?s regiment, taken by a party of Glengarry?s men under the command of Glengarry and it was the Corrieyairack that Charles Edward Stewart crossed with his army of some 1800 men, the likes of Lord George Murray and Lochgarry.

As we were greeted at the end I had only one request [a cold pint of lager shandy] It then became apparent with having my shirt off for most of the walk that my back had turned a bright shade of red and could feel a wee bit of tenderness on it, which took the emphasis away from the fatigue of my feet and legs. Once sitting in the comfort of the Spean Bridge Hotel enjoying a cold pint the aches and pains were soon forgotten and as I write the memoirs of the walk I find myself being pulled into the urge for doing it all over again.

By Jim Singer

Old Wade bridge with Melgarve Bothy behind.
Round the fire in the bothy.
The Room we slept in.
Room within the bothy depicting Wade's office.
Melgarve East Bridge built by Caulfield
Plaque at Megarve East Bridge.
Remains of General Wade's headquarters used during the building of the road.
A close view of the military road
Looking back at Melgarve Bothy
Easterly view looking back towards Laggan
James and Connor looking at the road ahead
The road ahead
The road twisting to the Plateau, through the Corrieyairack Pass
Unsightly blot on the landscape
Another Wade bridge approx halfway
James and Connor take a well earned break.
Westerly view towards Fort Augustus from the plateau

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� Crann Tara 2006