Craigellachie Bridge / Telford Bridge

Written by Chris Thornton | 6th of December 2023
Craigellachie Bridge / Telford Bridge

This iconic iron bridge is a common sight from the A941 main road passing Craigellachie. Spanning the River Spey, it is a picturesque bridge in form and function and a magnet for local photographers at all times of the year.

We have often driven past the bridge on our way to Aviemore but have never stopped. Today was different; it was the eve of my 40th birthday, so my wife and I left the kids with their grandparents, and we set off on an adventure to visit local beauty spots to write about for this website. Craigellachie Bridge was the first stop on my birthday tour, which was absolutely lovely.

Let's learn more about one of Scotland's finest cast iron bridges.

Highland Bridges
Looking back towards the bridge from the north side.

History of Craigellachie Bridge

The construction of the Craigellachie Bridge occurred between 1812 and 1814 and was built near Craigellachie and the larger settlement of Aberlour.

In October 1812, an appeal was made to construct a bridge across the Spey at lower Craigellachie after many deaths of those trying to cross the Spey. The full appeal can be read on the Friends of Craigellachie Bridge website.

A number of subscribers answered the call for funding, with the largest donation given by Colonel Sir W.Grant of Seafield Estate, with a mighty £1200. Many other generous locals donated large sums of money, and by October 1813, £4000 had been raised - 50% of the funds required. Luckily that was all that was needed, as a government grant was available to fund the remaining £4000.

It was completed at the cost of £8200, only £200 over budget (raised by local subscribers and Parliamentary Commissioners).

Craigellachie Bridge / Telford Bridge
Main lead up to the bridge, formerly the main road over the Spey!
Craigellachie Bridge / Telford Bridge
Approaching the castellated turrets.
Castellated terminals with false arrow slits!
Main frontage from the road on the south side.

A Thomas Telford bridge

The renowned civil engineer Thomas Telford designed the bridge, and it is a testament to his masterful engineering skills. This "Telford Bridge" was only one of more than one thousand bridges he designed and built throughout his life.

Telford's skills as an architect, surveyor and stone mason were known nationwide, and he gained the nickname "Colossus of Roads". Although he is most famous for his bridges, he was also responsible for many canals, aqueducts, drainage systems, harbours, roads and churches.

Dean Bridge in Edinburgh is likely Telford's most famous bridge and still exists today on the A90 road to Queensferry.

Craigellachie Bridge Aerial view
Aerial view by John Luckwell.

The design of the Craigellachie Bridge

The design of the bridge is really interesting. There are two castellated rustic ashlar towers on either side of the bridge... they look like mini castles! Between these two points span the bridge's main arch and iron parts. It is a very slender design, only possible with the tensile strength of the extra strong cast iron ordered by Telford.

Some of the major features of the bridge:

  • A single 150ft / 45.7m cast iron arch span.

  • Rubble wing walls.

  • Rustic ashlar abutments.

  • Four lattice arch ribs.

  • Diamond lattice spandrels.

  • Stone arches.

Craigellachie Bridge / Telford Bridge
Heritage Plaque.

A cast iron bridge

The iron parts of the bridge were not made in Scotland. The ironwork was cast at Plas Kynaston in Wales by William 'Merlin' Hazledine (Telford's normal ironmaster) and transported all the way to Craigellachie via canals, and aqueducts, sea and horse-drawn carriage! That must have been an epic undertaking transporting these enormous sections of cast iron, many hundreds of miles.


William Stuttle, Telford's foreman, was responsible for erecting the ironwork; stonework was completed by John Cargill and John Simpson from Shrewsbury.

Amazingly in 1962, the bridge's cast iron was tested and found to be 50% stronger than commonly cast iron. The tensile strength was 194 N/mm2. It is assumed that Telford ordered an exceptionally high-quality cast iron for this bridge.

Thomas Telford
Plaque showing designer and builder and restoration date.

Flood of 1829

Telford had been wise enough to design the bridge to withstand anything the River Spey could throw at it. The Spey tried its best in 1829 with a huge flood. Still, Craigellachie Bridge easily withstood the 4.7 m / 15 ft high torrent of water while many smaller bridges and structures were destroyed completely... although the bridge did lose its flood arches.

Telford allowed for floods by placing the bridge on high abutments far above the normal water level, even in high floods.

Craigellachie Bridge / Telford Bridge
Looking over the central part of the bridge.

Craigellachie Bridge in modern times

1902 saw the bridge strengthened to accommodate "extremely heavy" military vehicles which would pass over it from 1939 to 1945.

Amazingly it was used as a road bridge until 1970, with a traffic light system to control traffic flow, as it was only wide enough for one direction of traffic at one time. The bridge had a 14-ton weight restriction.

Banff, Moray and Nairn County Councils joined forced to restore the bridge in 1964.

Craigellachie Bridge / Telford Bridge
View from the bridge looking east towards the modern bridge.
Craigellachie Bridge / Telford Bridge
Looking west over the River Spey.

Craigellachie Bridge spans the River Spey and was the only crossing point in central Moray until it was by passed by the modern replacement in 1970! The bridge was considered no longer feasible due to:

  • Only one direction of traffic at one time.

  • The north side has a 90-degree turn, much harder to manoeuvre in modern vehicles.

  • The north side cliff was prone to rock falls.

The new bridge, while bigger and stronger than Telford's, is nowhere near as beautiful.

Cliff side with recently fallen rocks.
North side of the bridge showing freshly fallen rock.
Craigellachie Bridge / Telford Bridge
Looking back at the turrets from the north side.

1994 saw a parade take place upon the bridge to amalgamate The Gordon Highlanders and The Queens Own Highlanders, forming "The Highlanders (Seaforth, Gordons and Camerons). The plaque below was fitted to commemorate this event.

Craigellachie Bridge / Telford Bridge
The Highlanders Plaque.

Today, Craigellachie Bridge is only used as a picturesque foot/cycle bridge; vehicles no longer cross it. It exists as an essential structure in Scotland's civil engineering heritage and is a thing of beauty in its own right.

Craigellachie Bridge is Scotland's oldest surviving iron bridge and is a Category A listed structure. It is recognised as historically significant by the Institution of Civil Engineers and American Society of Civil Engineers and is held in similar reverence to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

Craigellachie Bridge from the air.
Looking west from the air - Photo by John Luckwell.

Friends of Craigellachie Bridge

The Friends of Craigellachie Bridge is a fantastic charity dedicated to raising money for bridge repairs, maintaining the area around the bridge and promoting its history. Please visit their website for in-depth information on the bridge, and become a member for only £10!

The group is a non-profit organisation and seeks to raise £400,000 for restoration work.

Craigellachie Bridge / Telford Bridge
South side turret and heritage plaque.

River Spey

The River Spey is the fastest flowing river in Scotland and the second longest, winding its way through Speyside and out to the Moray Firth at Spey Bay. Building a bridge to span the Spey was a significant task, as the water level can rise significantly after heavy rainfall.

Ordinance survey benchmark carved into the rock.
Ordinance survey benchmark.

2015 Royal Stamp

Craigellachie Bridge was featured on its very own Royal Mail stamp in 2015 with the head of stamps and collectables. Andrew Hammond was quoted as saying, "The story of Britain's engineering genius can be found in its bridges".

When was Craigellachie Bridge built?

It was built between 1812 and 1814 and further strengthened in 1902.

Walking to the beach below the bridge.
Walking through the trees to the east side of the bridge.

How old is Craigellachie Bridge?

It is 200 years old, built in 1812 by Thomas Telford.

Who owns Craigellachie Bridge?

It is currently owned and maintained by the Moray Council. The Friends of Craigellachie Bridge help raise funds and keep the area tidy. Moray Council only works to maintain the bridge with minimal upkeep; therefore, funds need to be raised to maintain it to a high quality and stop it from falling into serious disrepair.

Granite Abutments, arched span.
Following the path around the perimeter of the bridge.
Flowers. Historic Environment Scotland.
Nice flowers grow around the grounds of the bridge.

How to get to Craigellachie Bridge?

The bridge is located on the west side of the A941, running parallel to the modern bridge currently in use. If you are coming from the south east approach, you will see it on your left; if you are heading south, you will see it on your right.

The entry point to the small car park and picnic area is on the south side of the Spey (Google Street View Link) directly off the A941. The car park has picnic benches, a rubbish bin, and a Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival installation marking all the locations of distilleries in Speyside.

The car park right next to the bridge.
Car Park at Craigellachie Bridge.
Distillery locations!
Distillery locations around Speyside.
The picnic areea at Craigellachie Bridge.
Picnic spot right next to the car park.

Are there toilets at Craigellachie Bridge?

No, the nearest public toilets are across the road on the A95.

Where can I eat near Craigellachie Bridge?

The following options are fantastic if you want to get something to eat after your visit to the bridge:

  • The Craigellachie Hotel

  • The Craigellachie Lodge

  • The Copper Dog

  • Highlander Inn

Craigellachie Bridge / Telford Bridge
The old and new bridges at Craigellachie. Photo by John Luckwell.

Where are the best spots to get a photograph of Craigellachie Bridge?

The views from either side of the shore of the Spey are great for a picture; the pebbled/sandy shores afford great foregrounds. The best spot is actually from the modern bridge (A941); you can get a great overall view of the length of the bridge.

Crossing Craigellachie Bridge, you can get a nice picture looking back towards the bridge from the old roadway. The bridge does have lighting in the evening, which can give a tremendous ambient quality to your picture.

Autumn is a beautiful month to visit as the cliffside is covered in many shades of gold and brown. The bridge is also a fantastic subject for drone photography.

Craigellachie Bridge at night.
Craigellachie Bridge at night. Photo by Alan Butterfield.
Cast iron bridge in Scotland.
Craigellachie Bridge. Photo by Alan Butterfield.


So there we have it, the lovely Craigellachie Bridge, definitely worth a stop if you are passing Craigellachie and an ideal place for a picnic and some selfies.

If you are interested in bridges, the spectacular Carron Bridge, which is 5 miles south of Craigellachie, has picnic and photography options. You can also drive or walk across it to visit the Dalmunach Distillery. Linn Falls is a short distance to the south within Aberlour and offers a great forested walk.

Our next stop was Aberlour to visit The Spey Larder for food and then to Inveravon Church to see some ancient Pictish stones.

Craigellachie Bridge Location

All information was correct at the time of writing, please check things like entry costs and opening times before you arrive.

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Steve Stec
14th of July 2022 @ 18:17:31

Just found your website/blog. My wife and I will be visiting Aboyne this August and it looks like the info on this site will be very handy for us. Thanks