From Roader's Digest: The SABRE Wiki
|Length:||147.6 miles (237.5 km)|
|Meets:||M9, M90, A8, A92, A96, A98|
|Former Number(s):||A85, A972, A929, A94, A92, A947, A952|
|Aberdeen • Dundee • Edinburgh • Fraserburgh • Perth • Peterhead •|
|Route outline (key)|
Section 1: Edinburgh – Forth Road Bridge
The A90 starts in Edinburgh, turning off the A8 (Princes Street) through Charlotte Square, before returning to the A8 at a bizarre cannon – bizarre because there is no access between the A8 and A90 here. The A90 then sets off purposefully down Queensferry Street and across the Water of Leith and onto Queensferry Road. As the City Bypass stops short at the A8, the only access to the A90 avoiding Edinburgh itself is by the A902 from Leith to the A8, which has a lengthy multiplex with the A90 in the north western suburbs. After the A902 parts company, the A90 gains primary route status. It first crosses the River Almond by a viaduct and then becomes dual carriageway – all the way to Aberdeen (including the M90 section). On the Edinburgh-bound carriageway there are very heavy restrictions, including traffic light controlled slip roads and a long bus lane (unlike the M4 taxi lane, this one does seem to be used by buses).
Just north of Cramond Bridge the dual carriageway veers away slightly from the original line of the A90 and passes under Burnshot flyover, a grade-separated junction with an unclassified road from Kirkliston. The southbound slip from the flyover actually follows the original line of the A90 for several hundred metres, merging with the dual carriageway just north of the Cramond Brig Bar and Restaurant.
Near Dalmeny Park the original route diverges again as the B924 down to Dalmeny and Queensferry, whilst the new road sweeps round above Dalmeny and through a grade-separated junction with the M9 Spur. The reason for the new road now appears – the Forth Road Bridge. This was built in the early 1960s, and was the first main estuary crossing to be built in the motorway era, although unlike the Severn Bridge it is an "all-purpose" road. Despite longer bridges having been built subsequently, the two bridges across the Forth (road and rail) remain an impressive combination: the railway bridge impresses by its sheer massive bulk, hugely over-engineered in the immediate aftermath of the Tay Bridge disaster, and is a striking comparison with the much more graceful lines of the road bridge. The engineering problems are different, of course: a road bridge does not have to cope with such huge concentrations of weight as the railway bridge, with a single train often weighing several hundred tons and individual axle weights of 20 tons.
The northern approach viaduct passes over the western edge of North Queensferry village, and then reaches a junction with the old road from the ferry, now the B981. This junction was limited access until 2001, with access to and from the A90 in the direction of the bridge only – a nasty trap for southbound traffic missing the previous junction, as they had no choice but to cross the bridge. New slip roads have now been built, in conjunction with the construction of a Park and Ride facility.
The old A90 continues through Inverkeithing, Cowdenbeath and Kinross as the B981, B917, B996 and A912 to Perth. The present A90 runs in a cutting bypassing Inverkeithing to a junction at Rosyth with the A921 for the Fife Coast, and A985 along the Forth. The A90 becomes the M90 here, continuing north towards Perth. Because of its age, several sections of the M90 are not up to modern motorway standards. In particular there is an 8 mile stretch around Kinross without hard shoulders.
Original Author(s): T1(M)
Section 2: Perth – Aberdeen
Until the 1980s, the A90 stopped in Perth. After completion of a dual carriageway route right through to Aberdeen, the A90 number was extended along it, incorporating parts of the A85, A972, A929, A94, A92, A947, and A952.
Between Perth and Aberdeen, the current A90 follows closely the traditional route. The road was improved gradually through the 1960s and 1970s, with fast single carriageway and a few short stretches of dual carriageway. With 1980s expansion of oil-related traffic to and from Aberdeen, and fish traffic to and from Peterhead and Fraserburgh, the entire route to Aberdeen was dualled, with bypasses for the remaining communities. Since renumbering as A90, there have been selected improvements with grade separated junctions.
Kinnoull to Ardgath
Single carriageway until the late-1970s, it was dualled at about the same time as the M85 Friarton Bridge. There was one grade separated junction installed, at Glencarse, but otherwise, junctions were mainly at-grade, including right-hand turns across the carriageway. An increasing number of accidents along this section in the early 2000s resulted in a number of grade-separated junctions being installed, and the remaining gaps being closed off. The final junctions to open were at Kinfauns and Glendoick in 2007. The new junctions are definitely an improvement, but this stretch of road is relatively busy, with lots of agricultural traffic and goods vehicles – large signs warn traffic coming off the M90 of turning traffic.
The original road at Kinnoull Holdings ran due west through the site of the junction, and can be seen as a short dead-end to the west of the motorway.
Ardgath to Invergowrie
Dualled in the late 1960s, several junctions have now been grade separated, most recently the turning for Inchture.
The road originally continued to a large roundabout on the west side of Invergowrie, with the A85 continuing through to Dundee. Invergowrie has been bypassed, and the dual carriageway swings north to a new roundabout. The original roundabout still exists, and can be accessed through a lay-by on the westbound side.
The Kingsway was built in two parts in the 1930s. The eastern part was dual carriageway with a broad central reservation (in a similar style to the Brodie system roads in Liverpool), the western part was a rural single carriageway. Junctions on both parts were either simple crossroads, later with traffic lights, or roundabouts. In the 1980s, the western half of the Kingsway was dualled, with two large grade-separated junctions, although the speed limit reduces as you travel eastwards. The eastern half remains almost as built, although it has seen some modification in recent years. A double roundabout replaced the lights at the A929/A972 crossing (where the A90 now turns north), until 2008, when the junction was redesigned with traffic lights again due to the high volume of traffic. (There may have been a single small roundabout at this junction in the 1980s.)
Dundee, Forfar Road
When the double roundabout at the Kingsway junction was built, the A929 Forfar Road was realigned slightly further west. A very short length of the original route survives as a service road just north of Kingsway, but the rest of the road has been landscaped. The housing estates to the east of the road were never among Dundee's best: The school was demolished a few years back, and some of the smaller point blocks were taken out in 2002 having been unlettable for more than a decade.
There are three roundabouts on the route out of Dundee:
- Beyond the roundabout next roundabout is the last filling station in Dundee, and the last roadside fuel until Stracathro.
- The middle roundabout serves the Fintry housing areas, and has a reasonable proportion of turning traffic. For many years this was the last roundabout, and the approach from the north was the usual mile of yellow stripes, but since it's now the second southbound roundabout these have been removed.
- The third roundabout has a three lane approach northbound, with a left-turn-only lane which seems never to be used. The two lanes going through seem unnaturally narrow and tightly curved, and I can never find a line through the roundabout that I'm happy with. Southbound, it's much better designed. This roundabout also gives access to the old A929 road leading out of Dundee.
Fintry to Tarbrax
The old road out of Dundee used to go north up the Hill of Balmuir – until the gradient got too much, then it turned sharply east to take a more gradual line towards Pourie.
At the next left hand bend, up onto the ridge, is a monument to Dundee soldiers lost in war. When the dual carriageway was driven straight through the Hill of Balmuir in a deep cutting, the monument was relocated to a new plinth so that it would still be passed by those leaving the city. However, the greatly increased traffic noise was deemed inappropriate for a war memorial, and the statue has been moved back to its original setting at Pourie.
The new A90 cutting continues down the back of the hill, with the Pourie road crossing over on a bridge (no junction), and the dual carriageway regains the original line of the route descending to Muir of Pert.
The small village of Inveraldie, on the west side of the road, has the appearance of military or forestry housing – there is a disused wartime airfield less than half a mile west of the road, and the buildings were used as a POW camp in the latter part of the war. Now there's a large electricity sub-station and poultry sheds on the airfield site, and the village is just a small community, just outside Dundee but joined only by the busy dual-carriageway.
Just after Inveraldie, at Balmuir, the dual carriageway swings slightly west, with the old road continuing straight ahead. The old road is still open, and can be followed for about a mile through Todhills. Just north of this is the junction for Tealing, signposted to a Souterrain and Dovecot. The original Tealing turn-off was a large triangular junction, and still survives in the woods to the east, but with a dead-end at the modern road.
North of Tealing, the road curves steadily eastwards, climbing up to the A928 Glamis turning at Petterden, but first passing the other end of the old road through Todhills. There are actually three generations of road at Petterden. The original road is the furthest east, now a dead end track to the south. It turned sharply east at Petterden, with the Glamis road junction on the bend, and ran around the east of the small wood. (There have been several new cottages built here in recent years, and some of the old road may now be in private gardens!) The road was straightened in the early 1970s, forming the current minor road from Todhills. It can be followed for about half a mile north of Petterden, before being cut by the dual carriageway. A further section can be traced beyond, with a 45 degree right hand bend, and yet another section around the outside of the next left-hander.
The dual carriageway north from Dundee originally ended just onto the straight at South Tarbrax.
Tarbrax to Invereighty
The road north from Tarbrax was improved first to a broad single carriageway. Only when it was a single carriageway connecting dual carriageway at either side was it upgraded.
When the dual carriageway was built, there was a minor problem with a business premises at Muiryfaulds. The business trades and services Iveco agricultural machinery and trucks, and therefore needed access for long vehicles to and from both carriageways. The new road was aligned slightly further east than the old, so that Muiryfaulds could be redeveloped with its own slip roads from the northbound carriageway only – signposted as No Vehicles (except for access). An extremely broad central reservation allowed cut-throughs to be placed a hundred metres north and south, allowing HGV-sized traffic to make U-turns, without causing an undue hazard.
North of Muiryfaulds, the road descends steeply past Gateside. The current line of the road dates from the early 1970s, avoiding sharp bends at the top and bottom of the brae, and by-passing Gateside itself. Most traces of the original road were lost when the current line was dualled and the GSJ added in the 1990s. One unusual feature is that the footpaths leading up to bus stops on the main road are lit – and the steepness of the lights is deceptive when driving on the otherwise unlit road at night.
The road north to Invereighty was the scene of an interesting problem during construction of the dual carriageway. For many months, one small cottage along the route remained occupied – apparently due to legal problems with the compulsory purchase order. The new road through the site was to be on an embankment, some 15–20 feet above ground level, and the fill was completed to full height right up to the boundary fence on both sides and the dual carriageway surfaced right up to the edges of the gap. The new bridge over the B9127 had been completed just a short distance away, so there was no question of the road not being completed as planned. When the purchase finally went through, and the cottage vacated, completion of the road took little more than a couple of weeks!
At Spittalburn, there is again a length of old road, with another bend being bypassed in the 1970s. The north end of this old road marks the southern end of the Forfar Bypass.
Forfar Bypass: Invereighty to Quilkoe
Built as dual carriageway when the adjoining sections of road were improved single carriageway, the Forfar Bypass had one of the worst safety records of any part of the road. (The other parts of dual carriageway all started with a poor safety record, most notably the Laurencekirk section, but only the Forfar Bypass failed to improve after the initial learning curve.) There are only four junctions on is part of the road, with one additional flyover carrying a local road.
The opening of the bypass led to several changes in the road numbering around Forfar. The A94, which had previously run all the way into Forfar from the west, was diverted north along the bypass. The A929, which had previously met with the A94 in the centre of Forfar, was diverted along the southern part of the bypass to the A94 junction, then followed the old A94 into Forfar, with a cannon off the A94. The A932, which came into Forfar from the east, was extended south along the former A929 to the new junction on the bypass.
Where the dual carriageway veers left off the original A929 route, the first junction is a simple T-junction with a short link back to the original road into Forfar. This road is numbered as A932 for some reason, extending the number of a route from the east of Forfar. (The A929 number was taken out to the bypass on the Glamis road instead.) There's a café just off this junction at Lochlands, which is worth a stop in summer.
The second junction is where the bypass crosses the A94, the original main road from Forfar to Perth. The section of former A94 between the bypass and Forfar is now A929 (the former number of the Dundee–Forfar road).
The fourth junction is where the former A94 rejoins the dual carriageway. The original road ran slightly further north, with a long tight bend to the east.
The two staggered junctions for the A94 and A982 have had an extremely poor accident record. Traffic on the dual carriageway reaching 80 mph, and the crossing traffic included a significant proportion of HGV and agricultural traffic. The first changes, made to both junctions, was the addition of auxiliary exit lanes on both sides, thus enabling crossing traffic to get clear of the carriageway instead of joining in lane 1 and then turning left. When this proved insufficient, the speed limit was lowered to 50 along the entire two mile length between the two junctions, with camera enforcement.
Work was finally completed in 2003 to install two new grade separated junctions. The A94 Glamis junction features an underpass, with the Kirriemuir junction involving a new bridge crossing the A90. Both junctions feature a small pair of roundabouts, and, presumably for reasons of economy, relatively short sliproads. The 50mph limit was removed after completion of the new junctions, and the cameras removed. The B9128 junction did not get an upgrade, but the centre reservation gap was closed. The same has been proposed for the A932 junction, but as of 2011 has not yet been implemented.
There's a McDonald's on the corner of the Glamis junction.
Quilkoe to Careston
This section was also improved as a single carriageway before being dualled at a later date. The road was always very fast, starting with two long straights joined by a long smooth bend. After the 100mph straights, the bends at Finavon slowed things down again. The original bends went through the village, then cut northwest to a bridge (missing), with a sharp turn back to the hotel. Even the improved bends were a shock for those cruising at well above the speed limit. There are now GATSOs on the straight to keep speeds under control on the dual carriageway.
Finavon Services, beside the Inn, used to include a filling station and a transport café (excellent bacon rolls), but the filling station closed many years ago and the café went last year. A new café, in a completely new building, has recently opened on the site - I've yet to visit.
Beyond Finavon, the road reverted to long straights, with a sweeping double bend just east of the Careston Castle entrance. The road was realigned further south, with much smoother bends, and the original is still used for local access.
Careston to Kintrockat
Just beyond the double bend at Careston is one of the older stretches of dual carriageway on the whole road, dualled in the late 1970s. It's recently been resurfaced, and a barrier installed in the central reservation. For some reason, both ends of this dual carriageway had acres of hatch markings, far more than any of the later dual carriageways along the route.
There's a Little Chef at the Careston crossroads.
Brechin Bypass: Kintrockat to Keithock
The Brechin Bypass was built as single carriageway in the 1970s. Starting at a notorious bend on the old road, the by-pass takes a direct line across the northwest of the town. There were simple T-junctions for the old A94 into Brechin.
The bypass was dualled, with grade separated junctions at either end, in the 1990s. The dual carriageway has a concrete cement surface, and the central barrier is a reinforced concrete Jersey barrier. The sides of the road slope away into shallow ditches.
The new junction at Keithock consists of a deep underpass with a roundabout on either side.
Keithock to North Water Bridge
The road beyond the Brechin Bypass was also dualled fairly early, probably in the late 1970s, although again it's been improved since.
The most notable feature along this part of the road is the Stracathro services – a favourite with HGV drivers, with a selection of traditional transport café food combined with local home baking. The dual carriageway runs around the back of the service area, with a new grade separated junction (Stracathro Hospital, on the other side of the old road from the Services, is the main primary care hospital for the whole of Strathmore.)
In the woods to the north of the road is the disused Edzell airfield, for many years a radio communications and monitoring station for the US military. The golf balls have now gone, but the site is still off-limits to visitors.
The dualling here ended immediately west of the North Water Bridge.
North Water Bridge to Oatyhill
At North Water Bridge, the road follows a completely new line. The original road ran east into the village, then sharp north over the bridge (traffic lights!). After half a mile due north, it turned right towards Luther Bridge before regaining a NE heading.
The new line, on a direct route to Luther Bridge, was opened in the 1970s as single carriageway. The North Water bridge was closed to traffic, and Luther Bridge became a dead end.
A mile beyond Luther Bridge is the turning for the B974 to Fettercairn and on to Banchory via Cairn o' Mount, and an altitude of 455m (1488ft). This is one of the first roads in Scotland to be closed by snow each winter, but is worth a detour in fine weather. The turning was originally a direct crossroads, but replaced with a long stagger when the A94 was dualled.
When this section of road was dualled in the 1990s, the North Water bridge was reopened to local traffic, thus avoiding the need for a second access off the dual carriageway.
Laurencekirk Bypass: Oatyhill to Meikle Fiddes
The longest stretch of new dual carriageway built in a single contract on the A90 was the Laurencekirk Bypass, much of it on a completely new line. Several lengths of the old road were left in use for local traffic or as service access.
The dual carriageway began just west of Oatyhill, and was the only dual-carriageway ending ever to be obviously a temporary terminus. The dual carriageway leaves the line of the old road just east of Oatyhill, crossing the railway line on a new bridge. The junction with the A937 is a staggered crossroads, similar to those previously found at Forfar, and has a very bad accident record. Sadly, fatal accidents continue to occur here, with a 50mph speed limit enforced by GATSO introduced in 2005. Locals have campaigned for a flyover to be installed, but so far Transport Scotland do not have any plans to do so.
The bypass carves a new line on a smooth curve around the east side of Laurencekirk, with another staggered junction for the B9120, to regain the original line northeast of the town. For some reason, the varying width of the central reservation is very obvious along this piece of road, as the carriageways spread apart to allow crossings, etc. The old road through Laurencekirk is still open as a local road from Oatyhill, crossing the railway with a bridge set between tight double bends. The A937 joins the road, the junction having been realigned to give priority to the A-class road, but the rest of the route through Laurencekirk is on the obvious line. There are some local services.
Between Laurencekirk and Fordoun, the dual carriageway was mainly an on-line upgrade, but from Fordoun it again takes a new line. The old road can be followed for about two miles from the Fordoun turning, crossing under the railway then back over again – apart from through the village, and the tight bends crossing the railway, the road is a perfectly good A-class single carriageway.
The dual carriageway continued on a new line, crossing and recrossing the earlier line, to Meikle Fiddes. There's a filling station (southbound only) and large parking area just beyond.
Meikle Fiddes to Grasslaw
This was one of the last parts of the route to be dualled, a last bastion of single carriageway trapped between the Laurencekirk Bypass to the south and the Stonehaven Bypass to the north.
Stonehaven Bypass: Grasslaw to Logie
The Stonehaven Bypass begins high up on the hill to the south of Stonehaven, and finishes high on the hill to the north.
The Kirkton of Fetteresso is accessed by a bridge which was built at the same time as the bypass, but it could also be reached with a staggered crossroads. After a number of serious accidents, the gap here was closed up to prevent crossing traffic, but leaving restricted access from either side. Crossing traffic now has to use the bridge.
The A957 Slug Road crosses the bypass with no access whatsoever. It leads back to Banchory, so any traffic from the south would have gone over the Cairn o' Mount instead.
However the B979, to Maryculter and Cults, does have access to and from the northbound A90. There's a T-junction halfway round the loop. The northbound access is on the steepest part of the climb, so the acceleration lane continues as a climbing lane almost to the brow of the hill.
Logie to Bridge of Muchalls
A very short stretch of dual carriageway from the early 1970s.
Bridge of Muchalls
The earliest dual carriageway along the whole route was at Bridge of Muchalls: just half a mile of new road, and three of the worst bends to be found on any NSL dual carriageway anywhere in the country, with two T-junctions thrown into the bargain. As might be expected, the old route was considerably worse: the southernmost of the three old bends can still be seen alongside the dual carriageway, although heavily overgrown, and the bottom bend at Bridge of Muchalls is still open to local traffic.
Bridge of Muchalls to Bourtreebush
Dualled in the 1960s, this road has seen minor improvements since.
Bourtreebush to South Damhead
Although planned in the 1970s, this section wasn't dualled until much later. OS maps actually removed the proposed route.
South Damhead to Bridge of Dee
This is another very early section of dual carriageway, improved to remove a series of bad bends, and also to allow overtaking on the steep climb out from Bridge of Dee.
The Bridge of Dee itself is narrow and has a 7 foot width limit. Goods vehicles must divert on a well signposted route to the next bridge downstream, then return up to the far side of the bridge on the north bank.
Original Author(s): David D Miller
Section 3: Aberdeen – Fraserburgh
Aberdeen, Anderson Drive
The middle of three ring-roads planned for Aberdeen in the 1940s, Anderson Drive was the only one built. Originally single carriageway, the road is now mostly dual-carriageway, but there are still eight roundabouts and three signal-controlled junctions between the Dee and the Don bridges, and much of the road has access to houses on both sides.
The roundabout at the Bridge of Dee is very large and very busy. The land to the west of the roundabout is now the home of a large Sainsburys, Boots superstore, and a B&Q - and the congestion is predictable. The road west leads to Cults, and affluent suburb of Aberdeen that's still a cut above the city proper. To the east is the main road into the commercial centre of the city, and to the north is Anderson Drive.
This first bit of Anderson Drive was dualled from when it was first built, and has a 40 mph speed limit. The lamp standards are typical for Aberdeen, and form a long graceful curve out over the road. This design of the lamp standards was reputedly developed with by the corporation tram company, who had suitable equipment for making curved tram rails that they could use. To the left of the road is an area of recent flats. This was the site chosen in pre-war years for Aberdeen's Ice Rink, and construction was almost complete when war broke out in 1939. Unfortunately, the brand new building was badly damaged when a German aircraft which was shot down on top of it. It was not possible in the post-war years to repair the structure, and it was eventually removed and the flats built.
Around the corner, with the speed limit reduced to 30 mph, is the most traditional part of Anderson drive. It's two lanes undivided, with direct access from private drives on both sides of the road. The next roundabout is small, but busy, and you learn very quickly that Aberdonians don't hang around! Good lane discipline is essential, as there are normally two streams of traffic around the roundabout throughout the daytime hours.
The next junction, where the A93 crosses, is signal-controlled. The lights are phased so that A90 traffic always gets green with green arrows for left and right turns. There are only two lanes on the approach to the junction, and a considerable proportion of turning traffic.
Roundabout after roundabout follows, as the road climbs steadily. The only clue of a change in the pattern is a smooth left hand bend. In the woods to the left at this point is the Rubislaw Quarry, the great hole from which most of the granite which built Aberdeen was taken. The quarry was Europe's largest man-made hole, eclipsed only by modern strip mining, and is the largest man-made hole which sits with no current use.
Just as you're getting used to the bend comes the sudden shock of another set of traffic lights. The land to the north of the quarry was used to build the headquarters of one of the Aberdeen oil companies, and the junction with the lights provide the only access.
To be continued ...
Original Author(s): David D Miller