Drove Road to Callert Ferry
Start location: A82, Callert, north shore of Loch Leven (NN 095 603)
End location: Lairigmor, on the Old Military Road to Fort William (West Highland Way) (NN 122 641)
Geographical area: Lochaber
Path Type: Drove Road
Path distance: 5.1km
Accessibility info: Suitable for pedestrians
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A wood lies on the north side of the A82 between Callert House and Callert Cottage. Here the right of way starts at a wicket gate and signpost at NN095603, and goes through the trees near the edge of the wood, crossing the line of an old wall at NN097607 (height 61m). From there it continues straight up the grassy hillside in a northerly direction towards the skyline and close to the corner of a conifer plantation. There is no definite path, so the marker posts are invaluable. From the top of the bealach the route turns northeast and descends steadily across the hillside on a more definite path to Lairigmor on the Military Road to Fort William, now part of the West Highland Way.
OS Landranger 41 (Ben Nevis, Fort William and surrounding area)
William Roy's Military Survey (1747-52) shows clearly two ferries across Loch Leven, one at Ballachulish, and another at Callert, from which a 'road' is marked going up towards Larigmor. The first edition of the OS 6" map (1873, surveyed in 1870) shows the line of the Callert Ferry to Invercoe, but by the second edition (1903, surveyed 1899) the ferry is omitted.
Dr William Taylor in his book The Military Roads in Scotland (1976) refers to the track from Callert to the cottage at Lairig Mor as being an unofficial summer route often used by the soldiers once the Devil's Staircase had been abandoned in 1785 in favour of the military road built through Glencoe to Invercoe. However, he also separately noted that the Callert route pre-dates the Devil's Staircase; this old route has a long civilian history as well as its relatively brief military one.
Even once the ferry ceased following route improvements elsewhere in the area, this old right of way from Lairigmor to Loch Leven remained in use, albeit that use having dwindled considerably. The files of ScotWays contain accounts of its use by walking groups, some of whom used to stop at Caillart Cottage for tea. The public clearly never gave up their right of passage.
In the 1960s, a request was made for sign posts at both ends of the route and another on the summit of the intervening ridge. A dispute was brewing as to whether this old route was a public right of way, so requests were made first to Inverness-shire County Council and latterly the Highland Region to vindicate the public right, but both authorities failed to take action. In 1978, the landowner threatened interdict proceedings against the Holiday Fellowship for use of the route by parties of their members, so the Scottish Rights of Way Society requested information from people who had walked it and an overwhelming response was received. The following year, in light of the negative attitude of the local authority, the Society served on the landowner a summons for declarator and interdict in respect of the right of way. In 1981, a few days before proof was due to be heard in the Court of Session, the landowner conceded that there was a right of way. Yet despite appearing to have settled, a year later the defender had failed to return the signed Joint Minute, and it was necessary to arrange another Proof date; fortunately this time the matter was successfully settled.
The Society's press release following settlement stated: "The right of the public is now acknowledged and the route joins the public highway a little to the west of Ferry Cottage... Sign posts will also be erected and it is hoped that the public will follow the historical route, avoiding the mansion house and steading at Callert and enjoying the wonderful views across Loch Leven up Glencoe and the magnificent range of the Mamores to the North. The Scottish Rights of Way Society wishes to express its appreciation to all those who gave statements". Upon request, Highland Regional Council subsequently made a contribution towards the legal costs incurred by the Society in vindicating this public right of way.