Major detour when bridge work starts

Historic Gairnshiel Bridge
Historic Gairnshiel Bridge

Motorists are facing delays for up to three weeks when two historic bridges and part of a scenic route are closed for repairs.

They will also have to undertake a 24-mile detour while emergency work is carried out on the Gairnshiel and Milton bridges from Monday, May 14.

The structures on the A939 Ballater to Tomintoul road have been damaged by vehicles over the autumn and winter months.

While the bridges are shut, repairs will take place to the road following damage caused by recent bad weather.

A diversion route will be in place via the A93 (Crathie, Ballater and Dinnet), A97 Dinnet to Donside and A944 through Strathdon to Colnabaichin.

It will mean a 24-mile detour for drivers but Aberdeenshire Council says its teams will attempt to complete the work within the three-week timetable.

The dates have been chosen to minimise any impact on local events.

The work to the bridges requires the use of traditional lime mortar, so repairs had to wait for suitable weather.

Damaged stonework will be taken down and rebuilt and the Milton Bridge will be strengthened by the addition of concrete backing to the old masonry arch.

The council’s bridges manager, Donald Macpherson, said: “Carrying out repair of the two bridges in the same vicinity and at the same time, as well as any road repairs, is intended to minimise disruption for road users and the effect on tourists visiting the area.

“Hopefully this will also mean the road doesn’t have to be closed for repairs later in the year.

“Given this work has to take place in better weather, we’re doing it at the earliest opportunity to minimise the impact on tourist traffic, hopefully ensuring the road remains open in the peak summer season.”

Gairnshiel Bridge is the larger of the two bridges and was constructed in 1751 as part of the Military Road Network.

Carrying the A939 over the River Gairn, it is a nationally important structure, given Category A historic listing by Historic Environment Scotland.

The bridge parapet regularly needs to be rebuilt after being damaged by large vehicles negotiating the sharp corner at the north end.

Local Councillor Geva Blackett said: “Once again residents, businesses and tourists have to suffer a painful closure and diversion because vehicles far too large for this beautiful old bridge continue to smash it in their attempts to cut time off their journeys by using this route.

“This behaviour has to stop before the bridge collapses and we have a much bigger problem on our hands.

“In the meantime, I look forward to working with my fellow ward councillors and officers on developing a long-term sustainable solution that protects this historic structure and allows businesses of all sorts to use the route.”