Monday, 26 September 2011

The Famous Glenshee Devil's Elbow

Landscape photographer Colin Prior and BBC's Dougie Vipond continue their exploration of the ever-changing Scottish landscape. Dougie attempts to negotiate Glen Shee's notorious double hairpin bend known as the Devil's Elbow in a traditional form of transport which has royal approval.

The original photo they use shows the Queen’s Daimler being driving up the Devil’s elbow with Prince Philip at the wheel.

The road leads up to the Cairnwell Pass, the UK’s highest main road, travelling along the Devil’s elbow was quite an adventure.  This is how the old road looks today:

The sharp hairpin bends and the 1 in 3 gradient where not for the faint hearted.

In the 1960’s the road was straightened, but some of the original road is still visible next to the main road.

The Devil's Elbow was the name given to the double hairpin road as it steeply climbs through Gleann Beag near its highest point at the Cairnwell pass.

In the space of 5 miles (8 km) the height above sea level doubles from 335m (1100 feet) at Spittal of Glen Shee to 670m (2200 feet) at the highest point on the road from Blairgowrie to Braemar. The old road was bypassed by a wider modern road without such dramatic hairpin bends.

This historic road is a lonley forgotten place today, overgrown with weeds and slowly disappearing, yet still heavy with the memories of its earlier life.


  1. Starting in 1953,Three times a year my father would set out from his East Kent farm to drive to my grandmothers home in Glen Gairn by Ballater. As a small boy ( dob 6:12:52) I usually accompanied him and highlights of the trip were the Firth of Forth car ferry, the very tall beech hedge between Perth & Blairgowrie and of course the Devils Elbow, which even then was less than an hour from my grandmothers home.

  2. I drove round the Devil's Elbow in September 1976 while the new road was under construction. I was married in July 1976 and I was visiting family members, who had not been able to come to the wedding, with my parents and my wife. The new road would have been completed in late 1976 or early 1977.


  4. Possible visitors centre for The Devils Elbow!