Kylesku Bridge

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Kylesku Bridge

Drochaid a' Chaolais Chumhaing
Kylesku Bridge on a sunny day cropped.JPG
Kylesku Bridge in October 2016
Coordinates58°15′01″N 5°00′40″W / 58.2503°N 5.011°W / 58.2503; -5.011Coordinates: 58°15′01″N 5°00′40″W / 58.2503°N 5.011°W / 58.2503; -5.011
grid reference NC233330
CarriesA894, one footway
CrossesLoch a' Chàirn Bhàin (Caolas Cumhann)
DesignPrestressed box girder
Total length276 metres (902 feet)
Longest span79 metres
No. of spans5
Clearance below24 metres (78 feet)
Engineering design byOve Arup
Construction startAugust 1982
Construction cost£4 million
Inaugurated8 August 1984
OpenedJuly 1984
ReplacesKylesku and Kylestrome ferry
Kylesku Bridge is located in Highland
Kylesku Bridge
Kylesku Bridge shown within highland

The Kylesku Bridge (officially known since 2019 by its Gaelic name Drochaid a' Chaolais Chumhaing[1]) is a distinctively curved concrete box girder bridge in north-west Scotland that crosses the Loch a' Chàirn Bhàin in Sutherland. It is listed as category A, the highest grade.


In June 1978 the Highland Regional Council asked Ove Arup & Partners Scotland to prepare a feasibility study for a bridge, in their capacity as consulting civil engineers, and was prepared by March 1979.[2]

Construction for the approach roads, costing £4 million, began in summer 1981. Construction of the bridge began in August 1982, with Morrison Construction and Lehane, Mackenzie and Shand the chief contractors.[2]

It was constructed by building out the supporting legs and then lifting into place the central span, which had been constructed on land and then moved onto a barge by rail and weighed 640 tonnes (630 long tons; 710 short tons).[3][4]

The cost of the bridge was £4 million, although was earlier budgeted at £2.75 million. The bridge opened to traffic in July 1984, and was formally opened by the Queen on 8 August 1984.[2]

In 2019, the bridge was classified by Historic Environment Scotland as a Category A structure, recognising it as "visually striking and technically innovative". It was also officially renamed to the Gaelic translation of its name, Drochaid a' Chaolais Chumhaing.[1]


The bridge crosses water which is approximately 120 metres (390 ft) wide and up to 25 metres (82 ft) deep, leading to fast tidal currents.[2] It replaced the ferry between Kylesku and Kylestrome, which was 400 metres to the east.


The bridge is 275 metres (902 feet) long with a 79 metre long main span. The bridge deck is at a height of 24 metres (79 ft) above high water to provide navigation for ships.[2]

The bridge deck is supported by V-shaped inclined piers, with eight inclined legs, in order to reduce the length of the main span.[2] The lateral forces from each leg balance, so the total force on the foundations is vertically downwards.[2] The spread of legs supports the bridge in winds which can exceed 100 miles per hour (160 km/h), and also loads resulting from the curvature of the bridge.[4][2] There is no joint between the legs and the deck of the bridge, with the expansion joints and bearings being located at the abutments to facilitate straightforward maintenance.[4] The legs are formed from reinforced concrete and the deck from prestressed concrete using cables tensioned at up to 52200 kN.[2]

The bridge is designed to be sympathetic to the surrounding country, and the approaches were chosen to minimise changes to the landscape.[2]


  1. ^ a b "Kylesku Bridge given A-list status and legal Gaelic renaming". Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Stears, H.S. (January 1985). "The Kylesku Bridge - Design and Construction". The Journal of the Institution of Highways and Transportation & HTTA. 32 (1): 16–20.
  3. ^ "D-block GB-220000-933000 Bridge Building at Kylesku". Retrieved 3 February 2015.
  4. ^ a b c Martin, J. M. (1986). "The Construction of Kylesku Bridge". ICE Proceedings. 80 (2): 317. doi:10.1680/iicep.1986.737.

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