The B9174 follows the former route of the A9 through Tain. The bypass was constructed sometime in the late 1970s / early 1980s and was certainly open by 1982. It was part of a long project to upgrade the A9 through Easter Ross, north of Inverness, culminating in the construction of the Dornoch Firth Bridge a few miles further north in 1991.
Starting at the northern end, we fork off the A9, briefly on a new alignment, before meeting the old road just before the town's Lidl store. Next up is the former Co-op store, now a Home Bargains, with the new Tesco hidden away down the road to the industrial estate between the two. As we head into the town centre, the houses on each side of the road get steadily older, until a slight kink gives us a view of Tain's Tower, the old tollbooth. The buildings seem to draw you in, drag you to the town centre, where the Royal Hotel competes for dominance with the Tower.
The road kinks again between these two majestic buildings of soft local sandstone, and suddenly we reach the High Street, where more beautiful façades are home to a respectable range of shops and businesses. We then come to the real reason why Tain was bypassed. It wasn't just the narrow street winding between buildings: at the end of the High Street we find a sharp right-hander into Hartfield Street, quickly followed by a left-hander into Stafford Street. Even today, with the vastly reduced traffic flows, there can be serious congestion here from turning vehicles. Throw in a few 40-foot artics, and Tain would come to a standstill!
Tain is not a big town, despite its history and style, so remarkably quickly we find ourselves between fields heading back towards the A9, with a new Asda on the right. At Knockbreck we turn off the old A9, to meet the new road at a T-junction.