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Torgyle Bridge

Road Bridge (19th Century)

Site Name Torgyle Bridge

Classification Road Bridge (19th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Glen Moriston; River Moriston

Canmore ID 12227

Site Number NH31SW 1

NGR NH 30909 12923

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Urquhart And Glenmoriston
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Inverness
  • Former County Inverness-shire

Archaeology Notes

NH31SW 1 30909 12923

Torgyle Bridge [NAT]

OS 1:10,000 map, 1971.

Location formerly entered as NH 3092 1292.

Built Telford 1808-11: rebuilt Mitchell 1828.

J Close-Brooks 1986.

Torgyle Bridge, 1825-6, by Joseph Mitchell. Three spans, of ashlar. Over the cutwaters rise round towers pierced by crosslet arrowslits, and finished with a suggestion of battlements.

J Gifford 1992.

This bridge carries the A887 public road over the River Moriston in upper Glen Moriston.

The location assigned to this record indicates the midpoint of the structure. The available map evidence indicates that it extends from NH c. 30890 12948 to NH c. 30923 12906.

Information from RCAHMS (RJCM), 8 June 2006.


Publication Account (1995)

This handsome three-span bridge across the River Moriston was designed by Thomas Telford to carry the parliamentary road that runs west from Invermoriston to Shiel Bridge and on to the ferries to Skye; an important link in communications to the west coast. Like other Telford bridges, it suffered in the great spring floods of 1818. Four thousand birch timbers, intended for making barrel staves for the fishing industry, had been left on the banks of the river ready to float down to Loch Ness, and thence to be shipped through the Caledonian Canal and up to the Caithness coast. These timbers were swept away by the flood and hurled against the bridge like battering rams, reducing it to ruins. A wooden bridge was erected as a temporary measure, and the stone bridge rebuilt in 1828 under the supervision of the young Joseph Mitchell, who at the age of twenty-one had just succeeded his father as Chief Inspector of Roads, responsible for the upkeep of Highland toads and bridges. He was also put in charge of constructing new fishing harbours 111 the Highlands, and building many of the new parliamentary churches and manses, and later on, with Murdoch Paterson, he was responsible for engineering almost the entire Highland Railway system .

It is not clear what alterations if any Mitchell made to Telford's original design for Torgyle Bridge. Mitchell later wrote 'I made a plan for the new bridge, which had 140 feet of waterway, with circular towers over the piers'. Both bridges had three arches. The present bridge has triangular cutwaters protecting the base of the piers which are carried up as rounded buttresses to parapet level, and decorated with cruciform arrow slits and castellations. These are almost identical to those on the grandest of Telford's bridges at Dunkeld, Perthshire and Kinross (NO 026424), whereas most of the other large Telford bridges, such as Helmsdale Bridge (ND 025153) and the Lovat Bridge at Beauly (NH 516449), are plainer and have angled buttresses.

Much of the A 887 west of Invermoriston is on the line of the parliamentary road with little alteration save for the surface. An old bridge of rubble without ashlar dressings, and now by-passed, can be seen near Invermoriston (NH 419165) and another Telford bridge, also by-passed, near Ceannacroc (NH 227106). Here the old military road from Fort Augustus through Inchnacardoch Forest (a 10km walk with fine views) came down into Glenmoriston and took more or less the present route to Glenelg, though in places, as shown on the OS map, it ran north of the A87.

In 1773 Dr Samuel johnson and James Boswell rode along the military road from Fort Augustus to Glenelg, it no longer being passable for wheeled vehicles, on their way to the Western Isles. They stayed overnight in Aonach, somewhere between Torgyle and Ceannocroc: 'a village of three huts, one of which is distinguished by a chimney'; this latter was the inn. As described by Boswell it was built of turf and thatched with heather. 'It had three rooms in length and a little room which projected. Where we sat, the side-walls were wainscotted, as Dr Johnson said, with wicker, very neatly plaited. Our landlord had made the whole with his own hands.' Mitchell fared rather better in 1828 when the foundations of the new Torgyle Bridge were laid; he stayed overnight at Invermoriston House where he shared a doublebedded room and, despite his youth, as engineer he was allotted a bed to himself, while the county clerk and the factor were expected to share the other. As in army barracks, single beds were not then considered essential in the Highlands.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: The Highlands’, (1995).


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