|Distance:||29 miles (46.7 km)|
|Meets:||A889, A86, A95|
|Old route now:||A889, B9150, A86, B9152, A95|
|Route outline (key)|
In the near 30 miles from Dalwhinnie to Aviemore, less than a quarter of a mile of the modern A9 follows the historic route. The rest has been upgraded offline (albeit often just yards away). The scenery as we head north, past the Cairngorms and into Strathspey changes from the bleakness of the Pass of Drumochter to the urban spread of Aviemore, a town which has grown enormously since the 1960s as a ski and mountain sports centre.
The Old Military Road
Starting at the Wade Bridge Junction south of Dalwhinnie, the old military road initially follows the A889 through Dalwhinnie. Originally there was a junction just before the distillery, where the north west arm crossed the hills to the Corrieyairack Pass and on to Fort Augustus, while the north west arm headed to Inverness, via Ruthven Barracks. It is the latter route we are interested in, but it too has changed course, thanks to the railway company saving money by building one bridge to serve both routes. The old road is still visible as a rough track to the east of the railway line, reappearing on the other side of the tracks just before the re-aligned road kinks away from them.
Back to the A889, and just across the railway an unclassified road is signed THE NORTH (A9) Crubenmore. This is the old A9 and as noted above quickly picks up Wade's route once more, the two running as one for about 3½ miles. Just before Crubenmore Lodge, the military road forks left into the field, and quickly into the woodland around the lodge. This is the original route of the road, built in the 1720s, but it lasted less than 100 years, possibly having been re-routed before Telford started his commission on Highland roads.
Beyond the trees, the road becomes more visible as it crosses the open hillside, until reaching a fork just before Crubenbeg. This appears to be where another road west to the Corrieyairack forks left, as the link from Ruthven Barracks, and while it is not as direct as the map suggests it could have been, this may have been the lowest possible crossing point of the River Truim. Indeed, as we continue north east we quickly reach Crubenbeg, curve round to head south across the Bridge of Etteridge, if not Wade's actual bridge, then certainly his bridge rebuilt.
Across the river, the road swings back to a north easterly direction, initially following the modern road, but forking left before the old A9 is reached and then obliterated by modern roads and railway lines. Beyond the A9, the line can be traced approaching Etteridge, where the estate road picks up Wades route at the Steading. With only minor deviations, this road then follows Wades Route as far as the intriguingly named Phones, at which point Wade had to kink his route to cross a stream. The modern track then continues south, whilst the old road forks left and becomes vague as it runs along the southern shore of a small Lochan.
About a mile further on, one of Wades old arches still stands across a small stream, and the track becomes more distinct. However, as the main track forks left, the old road keeps ahead, passing close to the lonely cottage of Luibleathann, before reaching the Milton Burn. Unfortunately, the bridge across the stream appears to be missing, but the old road continues on the far side, dropping slowly down to meet the modern A9 near Lochan an Tairbh. On the far side of the modern road, the old road is now a quiet lane, passing back under the A9 to reach the B970 at Ruthven.
After the wild, windswept hillsides so far, the next part of the old military road into Aviemore is rather tame. After briefly following the B970 to the Barracks, the road must have crossed the Spey, although any evidence of how or where seems to be lost, but the route can be picked up again at Lynchat on the B9152. The old route runs up through the farmyard, across the A9 and on across the hillside to Balavil, much of which is still in use as private roads. Beyond Balavil, the route passes through woodland and then becomes lost as it crosses the Highland Wildlife Park and Meadowside Quarry.
Back across the A9, it appears that the B9152 is mostly on the same alignment as the old military road through Kincraig and on into Aviemore. The most obvious deviation is where a loop of Wade's road can be found in trees between the railway and river near the link between the A9 and B9152 just south of Aviemore. This abandonment presumably dates to the construction of the railway.
The 1930s Route
The road used by the 1930s motorist was little changed through Dalwhinnie and onto Crubenmore. With the obvious deviation described above caused by the construction of the railway, the A9 still followed the old military road (as diverted near Owen Williams' Crubenmore Bridge into the 1970s. Once across the railway at Crubenmore, however, the road stayed close to it. Whether this route was built by Telford, was a historic trackway or was only created when the railway was under construction is uncertain, but the two run roughly parallel up to Ralia where the road crosses the railway once more.
Until recently, the old road was largely intact as the NCN7 cycle route. However, in 2010 work started on extending the dualled section of A9 north from Crubenmore, with several sections of the old road due to be rebuilt as the new northbound carriageway. This project was completed in late 2011, with more of the old road surviving than was originally feared. The new dualling finishes just before the Glen Truim junction, beyond which the old road still survives, becoming the northbound off-slip at Ralia, providing access to the visitor centre. This access road continues to the B9150, which takes over the former A9 route.
The B9150 is little changed from its former life as the A9. The narrow railway bridge has had traffic lights installed, but otherwise the route retains the feel of its former glory as it crosses Owen Williams' Spey Bridge and heads into Newtonmore. Here, the A86 is met at a TOTSO, reflecting the former priority of the A9, and so it is now the A86 that follows the old A9 route through Newtonmore and onto Kingussie, where a GSJ connects it up to the modern A9 route.
The A86 morphs into the B9152 at the A9 junction, and it is this route, often using Wade's near 300 year old alignment, which follows the old A9 north through Kincraig and on into Aviemore. At Lynwig the road was realigned next to the railway to allow the new route to take priority. Another Owen Williams Bridge is crossed at Alvie, after which there is a new junction with the A9 and then a new roundabout with the B970 spur at the entrance to Aviemore itself.
The Modern Road
The A9 today, as mentioned at the top of the page, is almost entirely a new alignment from Dalwhinnie to Aviemore. From the Wade Bridge Junction with the A889, the route stays on the east bank of the River Truim, thus removing the need to build two bridges across the river. After picking up the railway line, the three routes, river, rail and road, stay close together all the way to the Glen Truim junction, with the A9 having nearly 3 miles of dual carriageway from Crubenmore northwards. This section of the ropiute is shown as under construction on the 1976 OS Landranger sheet.
It is just north of the Crubenmore junction where the modern A9 briefly uses its former route, as the original section of D2 narrows back down to S2 although as mentioned above further encroachments on the old road may have occurred along the newer stretch of D2 north of here. At Ralia, the modern road swings to the east, staying south of the River Spey and roughly following the former line of the B970, before it was curtailed at Ruthven and diverted into Kingussie. Much of this old road still survives, as it wiggles back and forth across the modern alignment, and indeed the two ends are still open to traffic. This section was constructed as part of the Newtonmore and Kingussie bypass in 1979.
After crossing over the B970 at Ruthven, the A9 now swings north to cross the Spey and meet the A86 / B9152 junction. Swinging east once more, and curving round Lynchat the A9 and B9152 head towards Kincraig often only separated by a line of trees. Kincraig is given a bit more space, and then the road swings round to the north of Loch Alvie, before returning to the close proximity with the B9152 as the two routes approach Aviemore. A junction has been provided just south of the town, albeit a very basic give-way spur road.
North of the Crubenmore dualled section, the road was predominantly single carriageway until the Slochd Summit. A southbound WS2+1 is provided passing Newtonmore with another at Carrbridge. The route between Kincraig and Dalraddy near Loch Insh was upgraded to dual carriageway in 2017 as part of the plan to dual the A9 between Perth and Inverness.