|Location Map ( geo)
|8.6 miles (13.8 km)
|Route outline (key)
The A889 is quite narrow for a primary route, and is one of the last remaining stretches of Wade's Military Roads which is still in use as a main route today. While it's certainly wider than single-track, it isn't quite wide enough for two marked lanes throughout. It is probably around 5 metres wide on average, which should be enough for two cars to pass easily, and wide enough for a car and a truck to pass with care. Some bridges are likely to be narrower, but they have warning signs.
Since the A9 Dalwhinnie Bypass was opened, the A889 starts at the Wade Bridge Junction around half a mile south of the village. It quickly crosses the River Truim as it winds northwards alongside the river in a series of wide fast straights into the village. Dalwhinnie is not a big place, the hotel and filling station face each other across the main road, then a scattering of houses run northwards to the distillery. Here the A889 performs a 180 degree turn as it crosses the railway and then doubles back at the former T Junction where the A9 used to continue ahead. This, then, is the original line of the A889, but it is heading south, so another near 180 degree curve is needed to sweep round and climb steeply up the hill.
Surprisingly, perhaps, this first climb leads to the route's summit at 394m, from where it undulates northwards on a series of long straights punctuated by slow, sharp bends. The road also varies between a good S2 width with centre line and a narrower route where care is needed when passing oncoming traffic, especially anything larger than a car. Forestry plantations have lined the west side of the road so far, but after a block of trees to the east shielding a cottage, the road emerges onto more open moorland, slaloming through a series of almost chicane like bends. A pair of longer straights then drop it down to Catlodge, which is little more than a handful of houses clustered round a junction. The side road here was also originally built as part of the military road network, and heads east towards Ruthven Barracks.
The A889, meanwhile, turns hard left - the 'Max Speed 20' signs shouldn't be ignored - and runs along the bottom of the hills on the south side of the broad valley of Strathspey. A long straight drops gently past a lone farm, and is perhaps the narrowest part of the whole route before the road winds round to the west to reach the A86 at Drumgask. The road to the Corrieyairack Pass continues ahead, for about half a mile, before forking right along a driveway and dropping down to the banks of the Spey.
The A889 from Dalwhinnie to Laggan is part of Wade's route between Dalwhinnie and Fort Augustus, over the Corrieyairack Pass (2507ft). Between Dalwhinnie and Laggan, the road was "improved and maintained" by the Parliamentary Commissioners between 1803 and 1828, with a new road driven west through to Spean Bridge to avoid Corrieyairack – the present A86. (The Corrieyairack road, with its zig-zag climb, remains open for walkers and mountain bikes only.) While there was probably progressive improvement to the A889 through the 20th century, there is not much evidence of significant work done on it beyond regular resurfacing and widening.
When the new A9 was built in the 1970s and early 1980s, the old A9 through Dalwhinnie village was incorporated into the A889. Some of the BBC news reports (see below) were done from a T-junction with an AA phone box on the corner, appropriate since it's an AA report on the accident statistics. The stem of the T is the old A9 from Dalwhinnie (now also A889; the junction has now been realigned so that A889 traffic has priority), with the old A9 north to the right (now unclassified) and the original southern end of the A889 on the left.
The A889 number was not allocated in the initial classification of numbers in 1922; the route was given the B848 number. We know that A87x numbers were being allocated in c1927, and that the OS mark the A889 by 1932, so narrowing down the change to a year or two either side of 1930.
The most dangerous road in the country?
The following was written in response to a BBC news Article in c2008:
The A889 is also one of the quietest primary routes in the whole country. While the BBC News report from the A537 at the Cat & Fiddle had the reporter apparently cowering from traffic behind a fence, the BBC Scotland chap on the A889 was giving his report standing right in the middle of the narrow road, with no traffic whatsoever to interrupt him. Motorists, who've been stuck in heavy traffic on the A9, can suddenly find themselves on the A889 with an apparently open road, a speed limit which can easily be broken, but a road with a 'safe speed' which is considerably less than the speed limit.
It's no surprise there are some accidents on the A889, but for the AA to declare it as the most dangerous road in the country on the basis of this single metric (accidents per billion vehicle km) is sheer folly. The EuroRAP website includes warnings that short (<5km) or lightly used roads (<3000 vpd) could produce fluke results, and the A889 is both very lightly used (300 vpd) and also fairly short (13km).
A congested two-lane road, like the former A8000 (which was excluded from this study!) could have 100 serious accidents per km of its length for every one on the A889, and would still come out with a better score with the accidents per bvehkm metric. (A quiet stretch of road with one serious accident a year is 'more dangerous' than a busy road with two serious accidents a week? I don't think so!)