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Butter Bridge

Bridge (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Butter Bridge

Classification Bridge (Period Unassigned)

Alternative Name(s) Glen Croe; Glen Kinglas; Kinglas Water; Kinglass Water; Butterbridge

Canmore ID 23752

Site Number NN20NW 2

NGR NN 23417 09514

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2020.

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Administrative Areas

  • Council Argyll And Bute
  • Parish Lochgoilhead And Kilmorich
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Argyll And Bute
  • Former County Argyll

Archaeology Notes

NN20NW 2 23417 09514

See also NN20NW 12.

See Architecture, manuscripts.

Location formerly entered as NN 233 095.

Military bridge.

Visited by OS (DWR), March 1973.

This is a fine old bridge carrying the old road across the Kinglass [Kinglas] Water at Butterbridge.

W Taylor 1976.

Butterbridge: A handsome single segmental arch over the Kinglass [Kinglas] Water, rubble built. Now used as a footbridge only.

Visited and photographed by J R Hume, Strathclyde University, 29 April 1971, 10 May 1976.

NMRS, MS/749/80/1, 2.


Field Visit (October 1988)

The construction of this road was proposed in 1743, shortly after the succession of the 3rd Duke of Argyll, and in the following spring a line was surveyed and marked out by the military engineers Dugald Campbell and Brereton, with the assistance of Archibald Campbell of Stone field, Sheriff depute and Chamberlain of Argyll. The initial estimate of £4258 12s was the first of many to be queried by the Treasury or military authorities, but work on the Dunbartonshire section began under the direction of Major William Caulfield shortly before the 1745 rising. The Argyll section, 34km in length, was executed mainly between 1747 and 1749, up to 450 soldiers being employed as well as contractors and workmen for tasks such as bridge-building. The road was the subject of expensive annual maintenance during the second half of the 18th century, but no major alterations were made to the route as shown on Roy's Map of about 1750, and a proposal of 1766 for a link-road through Glen Fyne to Glen Falloch was not carried out (en.1).

In a memorial submitted to the Commissioners for Highland Roads and Bridges by the Argyll Estate in 1808, it was argued that the original line took little account of the needs of carriages, including those of the judges. A survey by Charles Abercromby for an alternative road costing £6,890 was submitted, the memorialists offering to pay half, but the Commissioners considered that 'a mere improvement' to an existing public road lay beyond their powers, and the project was not revived when in 1814 they assumed responsibility for the military roads (en.2*). Thereafter the road was carefully maintained, with the construction of retaining-walls and replacement of open fords or cross-drains by culverts (en.3) and some re-alignment of the ascent to Rest and Be Thankful (infra), but the OS maps of 1865-70 indicate only a few significant alterations to the line. Most of the road remained in use as the A83 trunk road until the 1930s, since when there have been extensive alterations, especially in Glen Croe and Glen Kinglas. Even the abandoned sections have therefore been much altered, and since there are few early features other than bridges, only the more substantial deviations from the route of the A83 are noted below.

The road enters Argyll 0.5km N of Arrochar by a modern bridge (NN 297050) spanning the Loin Water a few metres downstream from the site of a bridge of 15.3m span built in 1747. The main divergence from the A83 on the NW shore of Loch Long is a loop to the SE of about 0.9km, part of which coincides with the approach-roads to the Loch Long Torpedo-range. Some short abandoned sections have been cut through by the modern road, exposing up to 0.8m build up of later metalling. At Ardgartan Cottage (NN 275031) the road turns NW along the NE bank of the Croe Water, the modern road bypassing 400m of the old line at Larachpark, and 1km further WNW is 'Little Rest'. This is probably the area described by Caulfield in his report of 1748 that Ensign McCorkel with fifty men was in Glen Croe 'blowing away a rocky point of a mountain, which projects into a rapid river' and saving the expense of two bridges (en.4). In the 1930s, however, the A83 was diverted to the S of the river, leaving a 500mloop, still used by vehicles, which climbs above the rocky river-gorge. The roadway in this section is about 6m wide and there are possible quarry-pits and, at the Wend, a length of battered revetment-wall of massive roughly-coursed rubble up to 3m high bounding the lower (S) side of the road.

At NN 248045 the A83 begins its steady rise along the NE slope of Glen Croe while the older road runs NW along the valley-bottom for about 2.7km before the steep ascent to Rest and Be Thankful. It was formerly used for motor hill-trials and remains in use for farm-access, being bounded in part by the stone-walled enclosures of Laigh Glencroe farm. There are a number of minor culverts carrying streams, and very few quarry-pits, but much loose rock on the hillside. Near the approach-track to High Glencroe cottage there is a quarry-pit 5m wide and 3.5m deep, and from this point (NN 235070) there is a rise to the summit of about 90m in a distance of 900m. The exposed SW side of the road has several lengths of revetment-walling incorporating culverts, and at the 200mcontour (NN 233072) there is a bridge 16m long and 6.3m high, with an arch of 4.3m span and 4.9m high, having abroad scarcement for centering 1m below the springing-level; its roadway is 4.5m wide within 0.45m parapets. Some 90m to the WNW a lime-mortared revetment 20m long and up to5m high incorporates a segmental arch of 2.3m span and3.2m high; the roadway has subsequently been widened. To the NW there is a short cutting, then the road curves S into an acute hairpin-bend with a parapet-wall and retaining walls up to 2.5m high. There are traces of possible old tracks E of the S point of the hairpin, but these are not likely to belong to the military period, although Southey in 1819 and Dorothy Wordsworth three years later noted recent alterations to the road-line (en.5*).

At the summit (261m OD; NN 230073) there is a round-headed granite headstone inscribed 'Rest & Be Thankful I Military Road Rep(aire)d I by 93rd Reg(imen)t 1768 I Transferred to Comm(issione)rs for H(ighland) R(oads) & B(ridges) I in the Year 1814'. An earlier stone with the date 1748, set into 'a semi-circular seat made in turf', was described by Pococke in 1760, but the existing stone may be the one seen in 1819 by Southey, beside 'a seat in the greenbank, looking down Glencroe’ (en.6*). Beyond the summit carpark the old line rejoins the A83 for l.5km for its descent N along the E shore of Loch Restil, although there are traces of old tracks in the field E of the road. At NN 233088 the new route loops to the NE, while the old line, much destroyed by surface-water, descends for 0.8km along the E bank of a stream before spanning the Kinglas Water at Butter Bridge (NN 234095) (en.7*). The bridge measures 34m in overall length, with a segmental arch 9.3m in span and 3.4m high, and the roadway is 3.85m wide within 0.5m parapets having rough slab-copings.

Some 30m N of the bridge the old road, maintained in parts for farm-access, turns Wand runs a few metres S of theA83 for almost 5km through Glen Kinglas, but no early features are preserved except for some culverts. The old line is encroached on by modern embankments in the area W of the much-altered junction with the A815 road to Strachur, but from NN 181101 it is preserved as the local road through Cairndow. Rejoining the A83 at NN 184113, it runs NE along the shore of Loch Fyne for 1.75km to the now by-passed Bridge of Fyne (No. 266), whose siting was the object of argument with Sir James Campbell of Ardkinglas (en.8*). For the next 2.5km, along the NW shore of Loch Fyne, the military road coincides with the A83, but from immediately WSW of Ardgenavan (NN 173112), for 1.8km to a point SW of Drishaig, there are traces close to the shore of the older line. Bypassed before 1865, this has been preserved for house access in some parts and heavily eroded in others. For the remaining 8km to lnveraray the A83 follows the old line, except for a possible slight loop to the S at Dunderave Castle (No. 126), which along with Ardkinglas Castle (No.110) was used as a base by Caulfield and his officers (en.9*), and a modern bridge bypassing the Garron Bridge (No. 268), which was built at military expense in 1747-9 to the designs of' the 3rd Duke of Argyll's architect Roger Morris. The final250m of the original road turned W from the loch along an earlier avenue to the old Town Bridge (see No. 199) across the River Aray, but in 1757-9 a new embankment was built and the 'King's Bridge' (No. 255) was erected to John Adam's design linking the road with the new road to Dalmally (No.269) (en.10).

RCAHMS 1992, visited October 1988


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