Fresh damage to Gairnshiel Bridge in Royal Deeside prompts renewed calls for replacement

Councillor Geva Blackett inspects the latest damage inflicted on the 18th century structure

Fresh damage to a historic bridge in Royal Deeside has fuelled demand for a replacement to be built.

The A-listed Gairnshiel Bridge on the A939 Tomintoul to Ballater road is once again in need of repair following a recent bump which loosened stonework.

A weight restriction has been in place on the 18th century structure since December 2016, but Aboyne, Upper Deeside and Donside Councillor Geva Blackett says this is being “ignored”.

“The next hit could mean a closure”, said Mrs Blackett. “This beautiful bridge is constantly being damaged. My worry is that one day the cumulative damage will be so great the council will have no alternative but to close the road to allow for urgent structural repairs.”

The bridge is part of two proposed new tourist routes – the Snow Road and the NE250 – and Mrs Blackett thinks its closure would have a “huge” economic impact on the area.

Mrs Blackett said: “Drivers would be forced to take a 40-mile detour from the A93 back on to the A939 going north and vice versa.”

In a plea to drivers of vehicles over 18 tonnes, she said: “Please stop using this bridge because it is extremely destructive.

“This beautiful Grade A-listed bridge has a weight limit imposed which is sadly being ignored by drivers and consequently is constantly being badly damaged.”

Mrs Blackett has long been the advocate of a new bridge in the area to ensure the sustainability of tourism traffic.

She said: “You wouldn’t allow people to keep sitting on and breaking a Chippendale chair; you would encourage people to admire the craftsmanship of the 18th century chair and provide a functional one to sit on.

“This bridge is no different and is an important part of our heritage.”

The bridge was created in 1753 to form part of the Old Military Road, which connected Blairgowrie and Fort George, following the Jacobite Uprising eight years earlier.

Aberdeenshire Council’s bridges and structures manager Donald Macpherson last night said: “We are regularly monitoring the structural condition of the bridge and are presently determining remedial options and appropriate timescales.

“In the meantime, there is an 18-tonne vehicle weight restriction in place on this bridge and we would urge all affected drivers to observe this, use the clearly signed diversion route if necessary and respect this historic bridge.”