Historic bridges and part of scenic route to close for emergency repairs following vehicle damage

Two historic bridges and an important road linking Royal Deeside and Donside will have to close for up to three weeks later this month for work to ensure their safety following a series of vehicle strikes.

The A939 Ballater to Tomintoul Road is important to local communities, particularly moving into the tourist season, and bridges on the route have been damaged over autumn and winter.

While the Gairnshiel and Milton Bridges are closed for emergency repairs, the council will use the opportunity while the road is closed to repair carriageway damage caused in recent bad weather.

The closure is from Monday, May 14 and the council will ensure appropriate signage is in place showing the official diversion. The dates have been chosen to minimise any impact on local events.

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

The additional distance travelled when journeying between Braemar and Tomintoul will be 24 miles through some of Scotland’s finest scenery, including the town of Ballater and its attractions.

While the road closure is scheduled to last for three weeks, council teams will attempt to finish the work more quickly, especially if weather conditions are favourable.

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.

Aberdeenshire 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, following the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745/46. Carrying the A939 over the River Gairn, it is a nationally important structure, given Category A historic listing by Historic Environment Scotland.

The bridge is part of the council’s Historic Bridges Trail, which aims to highlight 2,800 years of history on a 300 mile circular route around Aberdeenshire: http://bit.ly/BridgesTrail

The parapet of the bridge regularly needs to be reset after being knocked off by large vehicles negotiating the sharp corner at the North end of the bridge.

It is monitored monthly by engineers and repairs carried out as soon as practicable.

Recent works have included partial rebuilding of the south end of the bridge and widening of the approach at the north end by rock blasting. It has also been weight restricted at 18T.

Despite these efforts, the bridge has continued to deteriorate and structural capacity continues to be an issue.

The council has written to over 20 bus tour companies to make them aware of the weight restriction, which currently only effects very large coaches with a plated weight greater than 18T.

Details of road closures and restrictions in Aberdeenshire can be seen at: http://bit.ly/roadrestrictions

You can also follow Aberdeenshire Council’s roads and bridges teams on Twitter: @AbshireRoads