Culloden Viaduct / Nairn Viaduct

Written by Chris Thornton | 27th of July 2021
Bridges & Viaducts Highland
Culloden Viaduct

Culloden Viaduct, also known as Culloden Moor Viaduct, Clava Viaduct and Nairn Viaduct is a double-track railway viaduct crossing the river Nairn. This is the longest masonry viaduct in Scotland at 549m long and is a really impressive sight. With its 29 arches and curved design, it cuts a unique Victorian-era line through the picturesque Scottish countryside.

Culloden Viaduct | Inverness shire

Culloden Viaduct or Nairn Viaduct?

Even though some people call it the Nairn Viaduct as it spans the River Nairn, it is closer to Culloden and Inverness. The plaque on the actual viaduct does say "Nairn Railway Viaduct", but I prefer Culloden! The viaduct is definitely worth a look if you are visiting the historic battlefield of Culloden, or the stones at Clava Cairns.

The road running past the viaduct is a fairly narrow single-track road with many corners, there are passing places where you can stop to take a photo.

Culloden Viaduct

When was Culloden Viaduct built?

In 1891, Highland Railway requested tenders for the project of building the viaduct. The chief engineer was Murdoch Paterson who was based in Inverness. Initially, it was to be a girder viaduct but under the recommendation of Sir John Fowler the consulting Engineer, it was decided it should be a masonry viaduct. The contract was awarded to Mackay & Mackay who was unfortunately bankrupted due to the high cost of the project in 1894, Charles Brand & Sons was chosen to take over construction.

Train crossing Culloden Viaduct

Red sandstone stone was quarried from Leanach Quarry for use in the construction of the viaduct, the foundations were made from concrete.

The project was delayed further in 1897 when Highland Railway decided to double the track so two lines would pass over the viaduct instead of a single track.

Culloden Viaduct was completed and opened in 1898 at a cost of more than £70,000. It is now a category A-listed building.

Culloden Viaduct

Where is Culloden Viaduct?

It is about 6 miles East of Inverness in the Highland Scotland, but closer to Culloden and Clava. Please see the location map at the bottom of this page, or on the Live Breathe Scotland Map.

How old is Culloden Viaduct?

Culloden/Nairn Viaduct was built in Victorian times and is about 120 years old.

How high is the Culloden Viaduct?

The Culloden railway viaduct is 132 ft / 40 m high.

Culloden Viaduct

What's the difference between a bridge and a viaduct?

A viaduct is built to span a valley or gorge, whereas a bridge is to span a major obstacle. Viaducts are more suitable to cover longer distances with shorter spans. The viaduct is almost a combination of the two with the viaduct spanning the majority of the valley, but a larger arch/bridge to span the River Nairn.

Is Culloden Viaduct still used today?

Yes! The viaduct is on the Highland Main Line on the route between Perth and Inverness. The viaduct now only uses a single track with the 2nd track being retired in 1968.

Culloden Viaduct

Was this the railway viaduct from Harry Potter?

No, the railway viaduct used in the Harry Potter series is the Glenfinnan Viaduct in southwest Scotland, which is another masonry viaduct in Scotland home to the Jacobite Steam train journey/experience.

Can I camp near Culloden Viaduct?

Culloden Moor campsite is a short distance to the northeast of the viaduct and Culloden Battlefield. It is a pretty little campsite ideal for caravans and motor homes too.  Clava Lodge nearby offers some nice self-catering accommodation.

Conclusion

Culloden / Nairn Viaduct is a fantastic structure to visit when visiting the Inverness area, try to visit Culloden Battlefield and Clava Cairns too as they are all close to each other.

All drone photography by John Luckwell.

Culloden Viaduct
Culloden Viaduct Map

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