A82, Glencoe, UK

This Great Road, written by Ali Cusick, was initially published in issue 60 of Total 911.

Now the UK has some great views, but as far as we’re concerned, England takes a back seat. For a drive through scenery to remember, you need to head north. A long way north; to Scotland, which has so many A-road gems it can be hard to choose a single one. This edition, though, we look at the finest road with a view – the A82 to Glencoe.

To reach it takes most of the day at the wheel. It’s most likely several hours crossing up through England and into Scotland on seemingly never-ending motorways. After threading between Glasgow and Edinburgh, trickling through village after village, civilisation slowly thins out as the longitude increases with each mile.

Scenery slowly unfolds, hills appear, and the road weaves around lochs as the views simply get better and better. However, this is but a taster. It is not until a sleepy Scottish village named Tyndrum that the journey really begins.

Turning right onto the A82, after a sweeping right-hander the road straightens out and presents a truly awesome view. It’s like driving through a Lord Of The Rings film set. The road points ahead, sitting in the bottom of a valley a good half a mile wide, with forests either side, and the West Highland Way footpath alongside. Every time, we can’t help myself easing off the throttle at this point simply to allow time to take in the enormity of the landscape.

Trees quickly end, the roadside opens to far off hills and dead ahead are the Grampian Mountains. Shooting past all 901 metres of Beinn Odhar on the right, the road begins a long, fairly straight section towards Bridge of Orchy, a remote whistlestop, and pretty much the last one on the route.

LOCATION: Glencoe, south of Fort William, Scotland.

LATITUDE: 56:26:05N/4:42:30W

LENGTH OF DRIVE: 29 miles

POINTS OF INTEREST:
Glencoe Ski Centre
Historic Glencoe, Signal Rock
Walking on the Highland Way

FOOD AND ACCOMMODATION:
Clachaig Inn, Glencoe
www.clachaig.com

King’s House Hotel, Glencoe
http://freespace.virgin.net/kings.house

The road surface isn’t smooth, thanks to yearly rhythms of summer heat followed by lingering winter snow, but despite the long views of the road ahead don’t be tempted to keep adding to the numbers on the middle dial; mobile speed cameras are commonplace, and the surface can be greasy. Loch Tulla appears on the left, and then a long, third-gear left-hander materialises, suddenly rising in altitude.

At the top there’s a car park and it’s worth a stop to look back on the road, seemingly arrow straight disappearing into the distance. One of the few places it’s possible to enjoy such scale within the UK.

Pressing on, there are a few more curves before it straightens out yet again, passing through Rannoch Moor, a desolate, inhospitable peat bog carved in the Ice Age. A left-hander hooks around the edge of Loch Ba, before a long straight blast, with superb sight lines for overtaking. Heading on to the final, twistier section, the road weaves through one of Scotland’s most savage landscapes, Glencoe.

A broad left presents a picture postcard view around the pyramid-shaped Stob Dearg, then a right-hander points to the Pass of Glencoe as the scenery briefly closes in. Apex after apex appears in relatively swift order, and great fun can be had setting the car up for the entry, then exit more third-gear curves around the rock formation known as The Study, and past the waterfall on the left; a good place to lower the windows and hear the exhaust note reverberating around the ancient hills.

Opening out the steering, the higher gears get their call as the road passes the triple peaks of The Three Sisters – site of Scotland’s infamous clan massacre in 1692. The only tartan around today is from a bagpiper in the car park, conducting his own massacre to The Tunes Of Scotland, Book 1, raking in cash from coach-loads of vomiting tourists.

Not being a fan of the tartan agony bag, a flat six on a trailing throttle may be just the instrument to drown him out, as the car is positioned to enter a nice double radius. Soon after the 29-mile run ends, as the hubbub of Glencoe village appears. Remote, basic in places, it’s the perfect place to stop for a good lunch, and drive the route again. Or, while the oil is still hot, carry on to the next run, just up the road…



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