Highland’s oldest bridge celebrates 300th anniversary

The Bridge of Carr during floods in 1978. Picture: Contributed

The Bridge of Carr during floods in 1978. Picture: Contributed

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THE Bridge of Carr - unsurprisingly located in Carrbridge - is thought to be the oldest surviving bridge in the Highlands and was built between around May and November 1717.

A series of celebratory events will run throughout the village from the 19-21 May.

This iconic landmark was built by John Niccelsone - or Nickolson as he signed himself - a mason from Ballindaloch, at the behest of Brigadier-General Alexander Grant of Grant.

Ross Coulter, marketing manager of Landmark Forest Adventure Park, in Carrbridge, said: “The area had been hit hard by famine during the 1690’s, which made it difficult for people to travel.

“During this time the river Dulnain was also experiencing an unusually frequency of spates, which delayed many funerals on the south side of the river. This led to many of the leading men of the parish to ask Brigadier Grant for permission to use some of the stipends from the Parish of Duthill to build a new bridge.

“It probably for this reason that the bridge is often referred to locally as ‘the coffin bridge’.

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“At this time there was no Minister of Duthill, which meant that the patrons of parish could utilise the ‘vacant stipends’ for ‘pious uses’ within the boundary of the parish.”

He added: “Niccelsone refused to build the bridge initially for less than 1,000 merks - around £55 at the time - and eventually Brigadier Grant consented to the building of the bridge at the cost of £100 sterling on the 23rd of May 1717.

“The bridge was definitely completed by the 1st of November 1717, but many say that it was finished even early than this in October. The specification for the bridge stated that it should be of “ane reasonable Breadth and Height as will Receive the water when in the greatest speat.”

“It’s a good job too, as the Bridge of Carr has survived many floods to become the oldest bridge in the Highlands.

“Perhaps the most infamous of these was the Muckle Spate of 1829, when only the parapets of the bridge were washed away.

“In order to mark the special occasion, the community has put together an impressive tercentenary programme that will run from the 19th-21st of May. This will include an exhibition of local artefacts, silent auction, family ceilidh, lots of live entertainment and much more.”

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The plaque on the bridge itself reads as follows: “At the beginning of the eighteenth century, to the inconvenience of both travellers and local people, there was no point at which the River Dulnain could be crossed when it was in spate, and burials at the Church of Duthil were often delayed. Brigadier-General Alexander Grant of Grant, Clan Chief, commissioned John Niccelsone, a mason from Ballindalloch to build a bridge at Lynne of Dalrachney. Built between May and November 1717, the bridge was paid for out of stipends of the Parish of Duthil. Its parapets and side walls were badly damaged in the 18th century and again in the famous flood of 1829, giving the appearance it still has today.”

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