From Roader's Digest: The SABRE Wiki
|Length:||101.5 miles (163.3 km)|
|Meets:||A9, A98, A90|
|Aberdeen • Elgin • Inverness •|
|Route outline (key)|
Section 1: Inverness – Nairn
The A96 starts at the Raigmore Interchange on the Eastern side of Inverness, with the A9 flying over the top and the dualled A865 leading into the city centre. As we head eastwards on the long journey to Aberdeen, we start with a dual carriageway. However, within a mile we reach the next roundabout, for the Inverness Retail Park, and immediately drop to S2.
We are now running along within easy sight of the coast, although the railway line provides a barrier between us and the Moray Firth. A couple of side roads have level crossings, the second leading to Alturlie Point which offers some spectacular views across the Firth to the Kessock Bridge. On the landward side of the A96 lie the 'suburbs' of Smithton, Culloden (with the 1746 Battlefield just beyond) and Balloch. The main route through these three settlements links to the A96 at each end. The A96 has now dipped further from the coast, and the next junction is the B9039, which takes up the reins as the coastal route to Ardersier.
The next notable junction is an unclassified route signed to Inverness Airport. After another mile and a half or so, we cross the B9006 at a staggered crossroads, also crossing the railway with a bridge before reaching the B9092. Both of these B-roads also lead to Ardersier, and so its neighbour Fort George. After passing through fields and woodland since leaving Inverness behind, we can now see the outskirts of Nairn ahead, and soon the speed limit drops to 30.
We pass to the northwest of the town centre, through several sets of lights, before turning right and soon crossing the River Nairn. The High Street itself is part of the B9090, and across the river we find the A939 which had wound its way across the hills from Grantown on Spey. If the traffic is light, Nairn can be passed through in no time at all, but when it's heavy you can understand why talks of a Bypass keep on recurring.
Nairn is currently seen as a major dormitory centre for Inverness, and as such there are plans to double the size of the town. These would include the construction of a Bypass, along with huge chunks of new housing. It is almost certain the the whole A96 from Inverness to Nairn would also be dualled.
Section 2: Nairn – Elgin
Section 3: Elgin – Inverurie
Beyond Elgin, the A96 passes through Fochabers where we meet the A98 which returns to the coast. We then turn further inland via Keith (A95), before bypassing Huntly (A97/A920), Kirkton of Culsalmond (A920) and Inverurie.
Section 4: Inverurie - Aberdeen
The A96 becomes dual carriageway at the roundabout with the B993, just after Inverurie. The road is then dual carriageway all the way to Aberdeen, although the majority of junctions are via at grade roundabouts (a couple of grade separated junctions at Kintore being the exception). Much of the old road is still present next to the current dual carriageway here, although it is not continuous and just remains for local access. We bypass Kintore and Blackburn (the old A96 now being numbered as B977 and B979 respectively through each town), and then leave Aberdeenshire and enter the City of Aberdeen, administratively-speaking.
The A96 here is a new, fairly modern stretch, although with a few slightly tight bends as we pass through a cutting through the forest. The old road follows us to the south for a stretch, and can be accessed from the Clintery Roundabout. The B979 has multiplexed with us from Blackburn, and leaves us towards Kirkton of Skene around a mile and a half after Blackburn. Watch out for traffic turning across the carriageway here - no grade separation or roundabout for this relatively busy junction, although there is a deceleration lane if you're heading westbound. There are some nice forest walks in both Kirkhill forest and Tyrebagger forest which are just off the road.
About a mile on, we encounter another junction, with a left turn taking you to an industrial estate, and a right turn taking you south towards Kingswells. There are an increasing number of speed cameras as we get closer to Aberdeen, including one at this junction. The speed limit is still 70mph here, although that's not to say it's always wise to do that around these junctions. A short distance further on we have a junction with access to the Aberdeen campus of the Scottish Agricultural College. Technically, one could argue that this is a grade-separated junction, as there is an underpass connecting the two sides of the road - however, part of this is a private road owned by the Craibstone estate. It is reportedly possible to see an entire armada of pizza vans parked up near a building here at times!
Next up we meet an at-grade roundabout, with access to Aberdeen airport. You'll also notice that all major Aberdeen City roundabouts are sponsored, typically by a local oil company - one way of reducing the maintenance bills! The A96 continues (still with a 70mph limit) for another mile or so, and we enter Bucksburn, effectively the start of urban Aberdeen, with a reduction to 40mph to boot. Plenty of facilities here, including a petrol station, Travelodge and a McDonalds. The A96 swings to the right at the next roundabout, where you can take the A947 to the airport, Dyce, or onwards to Banff. A filter lane is provided here for A96 westbound traffic.
The A96 drops to a 30mph limit here (with speed cameras). There are an assortment of traffic lights for local routes, and a bus lane appears when heading eastbound, just outside Bucksburn - although we do regain our 40mph limit. We're now approaching the notorious Haudagain Roundabout, the junction with the A90. If you're heading through this junction at any time near rush hour, don't expect to get anywhere quickly. This is surely the worst junction in Aberdeen - this ill-designed roundabout is far too small and underpowered to support the sheer volume of traffic it takes. There are various proposals to fix this, including a suggestion to build a grade separated junction, or build a link road through a housing estate. The problem is compounded by there being a significant amount of development around the roundabout. As of 2011, plans are on hold pending the construction of the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route - although it is likely that this roundabout will still be an issue even after the bypass is built.
The A96 loses its trunk status here, and continues towards Aberdeen city centre. The road becomes a single carriageway about half a mile on, and after a further half a mile, we meet the A978 at a large roundabout. The prominent Northern Hotel is a few hundred yards down the road on our right, and the B986 joins us just afterwards from Clifton Road. It multiplexes with us for a little while, then turns right up Belmont Road at a busy set of traffic lights. There's a further busy set of traffic lights shortly afterwards, at the junction with the B991. Another set of lights, this time for the junction with George Street, and we regain our dual carriageway status. We then meet the ridiculously huge Mounthooly roundabout, said to be (or have been) the largest roundabout in Europe. The A944 begins here, heading off towards Alford. We continue past an assortment of retail outlets, as well as the ancient Marischal College. The A96 then comes to an end at the junction with King Street, with the road ahead (and King Street itself) continuing as the A956.
Heading West, apart from widening and upgrading, it has then hardly changed until we reach the bypass at Forres.