The River Spean is a long Highland river, in Inverness-shire, to the south of the Great Glen, where it carves a distinctive east-west glen; Glen Spean. After passing through a number of lochs on its course, it falls into the Great Glen and joins the River Lochy. The whole course of the river, until its final miles, is followed by the A86 road, which runs up the glen on its way towards Strathspey. The East Highland Way long-distance route also follows the river for a good deal of its course.
The River Pattack runs off the Ardverikie Forest and drops down through a series of waterfalls, notably the Falls of Pattack, to Glen Spean. It is the main feeder stream for Loch Laggan, which it enters at Kinloch Laggan.
The loch is seven miles long, lying within the upper reach of Glen Spean, and it is as the River Spean that the waters emerge from the foot of the loch, at Moy Lodge (56°55’12"N, 4°33’36"W). From here the river flows eastwards through the glen, but after just a mile it is swallowed in a long reservoir, formed by the Laggan Dam (56°53’24"N, 4°40’12"W).
From below the dam, the river has a more liberated course in a generally eastward direction, swallowing the River Treig at Tulloch Station and the Allt Làire a few hundred yards below it. Below this point is a stretch of the glen known as "the Braes of Lochaber", where the river courses through a craggier valley: it is a little below the station that it tumbles over the Inverlair Falls.
At Spean Bridge the A82 crosses the river. Just below the village was the site of a Royal Marines commando training school during the Second World War, from which trainees underwent rigorous testing in the woods and in and over the river. A monument stands close to the river today. An older bridge, after which Spean bridge was named, was the Highbridge a mile downstream, which collapsed in the early twentieth century.
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