Every now and again one encounters a real mystery. This is the story of that mystery and how it was eventually solved.
I was out with a group on the south side of Loch Tay a few years ago and had chosen to follow a small river. Pushing through some undergrowth, I was surprised to see a beautiful, old, moss-covered bridge of the kind pack horses would have crossed many centuries ago. There was, however, no sign of this bridge either 1:50,000 or 1:25,000 Ordnance Survey maps.
Old Bridge on Loch Tay
Surprised and mystified, I resolved to investigate further. I visited the RCAHMS website and that of Historic Scotland and searched their records. I could find evidence of the old communities that had once existed beside the river (the farmsteads, the field systems, the shielings and roadways) but there was no sign of the bridge. Next I visited the National Library of Scotland and trawled through all the old maps of the area. This is a fantastic resource as it’s now accessible online. So what did my research show up? Well, there was no sign of the bridge on the early Ordnance Survey maps produced during the last Century. These form a series of maps produced on a scale of one inch to the mile and all failed to show any bridge or road.
So, I went back through the archives into the mid 18th Century to consult the earliest maps. The road was not present on one of Scotland’s oldest maps, the Roy Map (1747- 1755). But then, lo and behold, on the James Stobie map printed in 1783, depicting the counties of Perth and Clackmannan on four sheets, I found the old road that ran along the south side of Loch Tay. It was again present on the 1805 edition (imprint) of the same map. And again, on the Perthshire Sheet LXXX (Survey date 1861, Publication date 1867), I found the trace of the old road that had run through those parts and served the ruined farmstead of Chraoibhe. After that the trail went dry. Somehow the road and the bridge had been erased from history.
Excited by the find, I contacted Historic Scotland and told them of the bridge, providing a six figure grid reference and a set of photos. They confirmed that they had no record of it and that they would register it as part of Scotland’s heritage.
The trees and the passing of time had hidden the bridge. But it was there to be discovered and investigated. Maps are wonderful things and will continue to serve us well as sources of information… although you may have to do a bit of digging!!