|Location Map ( geo)
|9 miles (14.5 km)
|B846, A827, A822
|Route outline (key)
The A826 is a very barren road. It only goes through one town - and that is at one end. It is also a tourist route, being part of the Perthshire Tourist Route. In fact, it is all in the historic country of Perthshire. It used to be a scenic moorland drive but about half of it now runs through a large forestry plantation.
The road starts to the west of Aberfeldy town centre at a traffic-light-controlled crossroads with the A827 and B846. It climbs up Crieff Road, past some fine Victorian villas reflecting the fact that Aberfeldy was once a resort town for the wealthier industrialists from the central belt. At the top is a car park for the Birks of Aberfeldy walk round a gorge, and the road crosses the Moness Burn on a narrow bridge with traffic lights, before winding round to the east, trying to find an easy way to climb the hill. The town is laid out below, including the prominent church tower and Distillery, with good view beyond across Strath Tay. Once we leave Aberfeldy, we won't see another town, not on this road anyway!
As the road climbs, it is twisty and bendy but it is S2 all the way. Just after Duntaggart, it picks up the line of the old military road built in the 1720s by General Wade, but as it enters the forest at Gatehouse, the two routes diverge once more as the older route takes a more direct approach to the incline. Deep in the forest to the east lies Grandtully Hill which is 532m/1747ft high, and higher hills lie to the west, but all hidden by the dense planting. Forestry car parks allow the more adventurous to explore further, whether on foot or by bike.
At the summit, of 400m, lies the small Loch na Creige, its outflow heading south, as one of the headwaters of the Cochill Burn, which the road now follows down Glen Cochill. At length, the forest peels back revealing the hillside, and then a farm appears - the first signs of habitation for about 4 miles. The road down to the farm has been reasonably straight, but it starts to wind again beyond it as it sweeps across the Cochill Burn, but the road is still high up, remaining above the 300m contour for a mile beyond the bridge. At length, the hills close in again as the road winds down through mixed woodland. Another farm can be briefly spied between the trees, accessed by its own bridge over the burn, and then after a short straight we reach the end. Turn left to Inver (Yes, Inver not Inverness) and Dunkeld or right to Amulree, Crieff and Perth. Either way will take you to the A9.
The A826 originated in the late 1720s as part of General Wade's Crieff to Inverness military road. This route started as the A822 in Crieff, followed the A826 into Aberfeldy, then the B846 and minor roads to the A9 at Dalnacardoch, where it met the road from Dunkeld, and headed north roughly along the A9 route to Inverness.
Wade's route from Aberfeldy Bridge on the B846 through the town is lost briefly, before reappearing in the Square, and following the Old Crieff Road south east up the hill. The line then becomes little more than a crop mark as it cuts across fields to reach the A826 at Duntaggart, from where the modern road follows Wade's route for roughly half a mile. The new road then turns round to the right, winding through the forest while Wade took a more direct ascent which only survives as a ride through the forest. It rejoins the A826 opposite the picnic site, but again wanders off to the east of the modern road line as they pass Loch na Craige.
A little to the south of the loch, the modern road swings left, with a stile over the forest fence marking Wade's route into the trees. Once you know what you are looking for, it is easy to follow the old road, with its banked verges and drainage ditches as it winds through the trees, but it is very boggy underfoot in places! There are a number of fallen trees, and some awkward streams to cross, but then there is also a complete, intact Wade arch over a small stream, making the slow going and wet feet worth it!
Beyond the forest fence, the old road is extremely easy to follow as it cuts across the open landscape, with a modern estate road running parallel to it. These two lines become one with a junction, and so for nearly a mile the old road is still in regular use and well maintained, before the modern track turns left for the A826. Wade's road continues straight ahead, clearly visible in the heather, and crosses the A826 with gates, showing it must have been in use in the last 50 or so years. After crossing the road, it again becomes boggy, just at a bend, but keep right and the line can be found once more heading straight over a low knoll.
Another couple of gates take the old road back across the new route, and again the line is clear as it climbs the hill and starts to climb into Glen Fender, above the terminus of the A826 on the A822 at Milton. Wade's road continues south, but there seems to have been some problems here, as there is evidence that the road originally ran straight down the hill, before a couple of sharp bends took it across the Glenfender Burn. However, there is a much clearer line which takes a series of sharp bends to negotiate the burn at a higher point, where the remains of a bridge still stand alongside the modern farm bridge.