The 25-mile Corrieyairack Pass, which connects the villages of Fort Augustus, at the southern edge of Loch Ness, and Laggan, which sits on the banks of the River Spey, a few miles west of Newtonmore, is the longest surviving stretch of General Wade’s military roads in Britain today.
When built, in 1731, it was the also highest road in Britain, climbing to around 2500 feet in height. General George Wade was given the task to construct a road across the Corrieyairack Pass to link the forts on the Great Glen with Ruthven Barracks, the aim being to strengthen the military presence in the Highlands and to civilise its people – at least that is what the Government of the day hoped. Over 500 soldiers were employed to build the road and a number of bridges and it is considered to be one of the Highland’s greatest feats of engineering.
The route passes through a wild and scenic landscape where a superb display of flora and fauna resides. The tarred 4-mile section from Garva Bridge to Melgarve Bothy provides a simple but historic and beautiful walk along a good portion of the River Spey’s early stages. The walk can be continued all the way to the river’s source at Loch Spey but with some rough, pathless and remote ground to cover, Melgarve makes for an obvious and fine place to culminate this walk.
This route has been utilized by people for hundreds of years as it provided the shortest course between the Great Glen and Badenoch and Speyside. From the 17th century drovers came this way from the Highlands and Islands to the great cattle trysts at Falkirk and Crieff and this continued well in to the 19th century.
The glen changes throughout the seasons – the warmer air of spring and summer bring out an incredible amount of flora and fauna while winter can be pretty bleak. Possibly the best time to visit is during autumn when the russet colour of the glen and hills is beautiful and when red deer are prevalent, even down to lower levels – the roar of the stags can be heard through out the walk. Golden eagle, peregrine falcon, skylark, dunlin, mountain hare, sphagnum moss and crowberry may well be spotted at various times throughout the year.