A83: Is there a planning issue in Transport Scotland’s intent to revise the old military road below Rest and Be Thankful?

Yesterday we published an article on the Transport Minister’s formal information to Jamie McGrigor MSP that Transport Scotland is to use the old military road in Glen Croe – whose steep and winding nature at the Rest and Be Thankful end – in the days when radiators boiled – gave the top of that pass its name.

The Minister confirmed that Transport Scotland’s contractors will start this work in August and complete in November.

The resulting emergency diversion would be used when either landslides or an imminent threat of them closed the A83 higher up the hill.

Rest hillclimb 3

There are practical issues in this plan which do not seem to have been discussed on consulted upon:

  • the likely (and undeclared) need still to send trucks on the hour long diversion via Crianlarich, Tyndrum and Dalmally to Inveraray, leaving the business sector continuing to carry heavy additional fuel costs;
  • the fact that, as our photograph (above) shows, the single track old military road starts its climb to the final set of chicanes to the current car park at Rest and Be Thankful on the sane side of the hill as the A83 and lies below it – in a position to collect debris from landslides first crossing the trunk road above.

These substantial issues notwithstanding, there is another issue not being discussed at all.

What is the heritage position of the old military road – centrally  since its specific challenges to drivers and cars named the area?

It is unlikely that, even for an emergency use restricted to cars, Transport Scotland would not have to  perform some radical revisions of this road, particularly, for safety reasons and in winter conditions, at the historically important chicanes.

Can this simply be done without consultation?

Certainly, a couple of years ago, the section of the old military road on the far side of the Rest, down Glen Kinglas between Butter Bridge and the junction with the A815 to Dunoon,  suffered substantial amendment in the process of works to create a private hydro scheme.

It seemed strange then and still does, that such a significant physical legacy has no status in planning issues.

In the case of the Glen Croe section, now the focus of an ad hoc ‘solution’ to the A83’s unreliability, the next question is whether the appropriate planning authority is that of the National Park of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, which, we understand, includes this territory?

The National Park – which is its own planning authority – might be expected to have a specific interest in this historic road – which has real potential for use as a visitor attraction – which could make good use of the large informal car park at Butter Bridge, close beside the neglected but beautiful old stone bridge, created by an engineer called Butter, employed for the purpose by the Duke of Argyll of the time. This again names the area in which it sits.

We are drawing this matter to the attention of relevant  members of Argyll and Bute Council – but it seems an issue on which there may be considerable public interest  – and which would require to be resolved before it is too late.

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Related Articles & Comments

  • And on the tenth anniversary of Scotland’s first National Park it would be sad indeed if this, the guardian of Glen Croe and all else around, had no control over the work proposed to provide an emergency route. The historic road is part of the character of the glen, and there must be some very severe problems with upgrading the alternative forestry road – particularly as this would avoid any risk of the emergency route being closed by trouble on the very same hillside as the A83.

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    Robert Wakeham July 21, 2012 2:32 pm Reply
  • Any sensible cost/benefit analysis would surely find that bringing the old military road back into use for modern motor transport would not be a sensible way of proceeding here. Finding a way of recompensing road users for any additional costs associated with the existing diversion might make more sense. Finding a way of stabilising the hillside even more.

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    Loki July 21, 2012 4:20 pm Reply
  • Whilst digressing from the subject, perhaps For Argyll might get some information from the “Friends of the Rest” folks – okay, they’re car people, but may have access to some useful info?

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    Jade July 21, 2012 7:03 pm Reply
  • Is there a source for this story about naming the Rest? I was under the impression the naming was older than the era of the motor car…

    I once walked up the remains of the old road from Butterbridge, and it occurred to me that it would be a very worthwhile part of a long distance route/cycle route into Argyll.

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    Stephen Mackenzie July 21, 2012 7:55 pm Reply
    • It would be a fabulous cycle route – an excellent idea.

      And anyone of us driving the A83 when the hazard warning and Wig Wag signs are on either foot to the floor to get through it asap or v-e-r-y slowly, just in case… – has our own reason to ‘Rest and Be Thannkful’ when we make it to the top.

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      newsroom July 21, 2012 8:10 pm Reply
  • Stephen (no 4)

    From Wikipedia (with the usual caveats):

    “Rest and be thankful are the words inscribed on a stone near the junction of the A83 and the B828, placed there by soldiers who built the original military road in 1753, now referred to as the Drovers’ road. The original stone fell into ruin and was replaced by a commemorative stone at the same site.
    The section is so named as the climb out of Glen Croe is so long and steep at the end that it was traditional for travellers to rest at the top, and be thankful for having reached the highest point.”

    I can imagine that getting a horse-drawn loaded cart or coach up the old road, with what would be dodgy brakes by any modern standard, would certainly require the odd prayer of thanks at the top. Getting the same down would be even more fun!

    A boiling radiator pales by comparison!

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    Scott July 21, 2012 9:54 pm Reply
    • Wikipedia is pretty accurate; according to the ancient monuments record (Argyll volume 7, RCAHMS 1992) the original stone was dated 1748; the replacement reads: ‘REST & BE THANKFUL MILITARY ROAD REPd BY 93rd REGt 1768 TRANSFERRED TO COMMRs FOR H.R.& B. (highland roads & bridges) IN THE YEAR 1814’

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      Robert Wakeham July 21, 2012 10:41 pm Reply
  • There’s a story I heard from Ardrishaig folk many years ago of the trials & tribulations of the bus journey from Glasgow before the present road was built. There was one snowy day when the buses (at that date it was the Link Line, with the bus known as the ‘flying sausage’) unable to get up or down the hill just below Loch Restil on the Inveraray side, so the passengers were required to get out and walk between the two buses.

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    Robert Wakeham July 21, 2012 10:49 pm Reply
  • The Rest And be thankful was so named when the road was first built in the 18th century – Boswell and Johnson in their Tour of the Highlands reported on the inscribed stone with that name in the later part of the 1700s!

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    Neill Campbell July 22, 2012 6:36 am Reply
  • Pingback: Argyll News: Russell favours forestry route for the A83 G;en Croe emergency diversion | For Argyll

  • Whilst I am in favour of a alternate route for the A83 I am really not seeing the point to resurrecting the old road, if there is a large debris flow it falls onto it so is that not defeating the purpose, also this appears to be a RUSH job is that because the A82 Pulpit Rock is closing for 14 weeks to also rid it of temporary traffic lights, whole thing seems pointless but they have had months to look into possibilities with no real results, other than they are putting more netting up wow !!!!!

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    Liz Munro July 23, 2012 10:46 pm Reply
    • Liz: the old road lies predominantly on the glen floor and so is indeed vulnerable to debris flows. However, and unlike the modern road, the road itself is not vulnerable to damage by flows (except where it climbs but that doesn’t seem to be an active slip area). So all that is needed to get the old road running again after a slip is to clear the debris with a digger as the road surface itself is unlikely to be damaged. Whereas the new road will need to be assessed to ensure that its structural integrity has not been damaged by the slip (either by the whole slope shifting or undermining of the road.

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      Dr Douglas McKenzie July 28, 2012 5:11 pm Reply
  • In answer to Jade’s comment.The Friends of The Rest Committee have not been invited to attend discussions regarding proposals for an alternate route utilising the Old Rest road but would be able and willing to attend any such meetings at short notice in order to air our viewpoint.
    I would also point out that we were only made aware of such plans today, July 26th 2012

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    John Buchanan .Chairman Friends of the Rest July 26, 2012 11:38 pm Reply
  • I am a member of the internationally known MG Car Club – Caledonian Centre. We have used, as others have in the past, the “Rest” on a number of occasions as a feature of an event. There always seems to me lots of obstacles put in the way of solutions to such problems. We have snow that we can’t cope with and the debris falling on this very busy road. On past trips to the ski resorts I have seen similar “hillsides” that need a solution for the same kind of terrain, building a “roof” over the road with open sides might be one, not the prettiest I admit but it keeps the road clear. Large amounts of properly installed netting is probably the best from a visual sense. Why are we not just spending the money on a tried and tested system, go to the Alps and see how they do it. As to the “old road” are they proposing to widen and straighten it, if so it will lose its character, the narrow bridge and the chicane for instance would probably be removed. It would be a shame to do this as it has a Motor Sport history as well.

    From Wikipedia
    The first known use of the road for a hill climb was in 1906. The event used to run as a National counter in the British Hill Climb Championship.
    In 1952 Motor Sport described the course: “The three danger spots on this course which is 1,425 yards long, and rises over 400 feet, are Stone Bridge, Cobblers Corner and the hairpin bend at the finish and of course there is always the occasional sheep that has to be driven off the road.”
    On July 1, 1961 Jackie Stewart drove a Ford 105E-engined Marcos at an event here. He said: “it’s a special place for me, the cradle of my life in motor racing.”

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    mg man July 28, 2012 1:15 pm Reply

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