|Distance:||26 miles (41.8 km)|
|Meets:||A85, A912, A822, A923, A827, A924|
|Old route now:||B9099, B867, A923, A827, A924|
|Route outline (key)|
The character of the A9 starts to change as we head up Strathtay. The mountains are already visible on the horizon from the Perth Bypass, and the further north we head the closer they get, with the farmland steadily disappearing. Most of this section of the route has been upgraded offline, with some useful sections of dual carriageway included. However, in a couple of places the only available route was an online improvement. The road crosses the Tay just once, on a new bridge near Dunkeld, replacing that built by Thomas Telford 200 years ago.
Old Military Road
Despite Perth's Historical Significance in the story of the Scottish Nation, it was never used as a significant military strong point during the 18th century rebellions, and so it was never formerly connected to the military road network. That is not to say that there weren't any properly constructed roads leading out of the city, as there surely must have been!
We have to go a dozen or so miles north to Dunkeld before we pick up the military road on the A9. Dunkeld Bridge was built by Thomas Telford, but immediately on the north bank of the Tay we find a junction with the A984, which is the historic military route south to Coupar Angus. The road continued north, but it is unclear whether it ran up the street on the left and past the Cathedral, or if it turned up the main street (now the A923) to return along the driveway to Dunkeld House. The landscaping of the park has removed any evidence that may have existed.
The driveway is now NCN77 and drops to the river, on what must be the line of Wades road. On the final approach to Dunkeld House, the track forks, and the cycle route goes left, running along a flood-prone riverside track. This, therefore, is almost certainly not Wades road. Instead, the drive up to and past the house must be in part the old road. This then returns to the riverbank, and NCN77 past a row of holiday lodges, although there is no certainty that this is the line of Wades road, it is the most probable route.
Heading north now, along the Tay, the old road runs through trees, still in use as the cycle route before being obliterated by the modern A9 crossing the river. Beyond the bridge it resumes, as a track past a fishing station and up to the modern A9 route. A short distance further on, on the opposite side of the road, a rutted track climbs steeply away from the A9 to meet the old route up in the trees. This road is then followed back down until it joins the modern alignment just south of Dowally. Along the way, there are a couple of very minor realignments, and some old bridges which have been widened, but may retain some military masonry within the structure.
The old road can then be followed by the various loops and meanders of NCN77 all the way to Ballinluig, although the cycle route doesn't always follow the old line! The first old loop is on the approach to Dowally, where the old road sticks to the river bank, before turning back. The first section is grassed over, but the old wall and remains of a bridge survive. The A9 is then crossed, and the loop taken by the cycle route is the old road. A short distance later, the old road takes a longer loop from Guay Farm, again used by the cycle route, up to Kindallachan. Here, the A9 has twice been improved, with the military road forking left after the bridge and running between houses and around the knoll that the later, abandoned, road cuts through. When it rejoins the abandoned line, the military road is actually below it, following the wall to the left for a while.
Eventually, the modern A9 is rejoined, and with the earthworks for it, any evidence of the military road has been lost. Stick on the cycle track however, and after a while the old road can be identified in the undergrowth immediately to the right, following a line which is eventually picked up by the new access road. This then loops away from the new A9, and halfway along a farm drive turns right. A rough track leading off this drive is again Wades road, curving back towards the access road. From here into Ballinluig, however, the line is lost thanks to the new overbridge carrying the A827. This picks up Wades line through the village.
Beyond Ballinluig the old military road can occasionally be traced in the forestry above the modern road, but all too often it has been lost by the cutting which allows the dualled A9 to fit alongside the railway line. However, as we approach Pitlochry the old road through East Haugh appears to follow Wade's route which then becomes the A924 into the town itself.
The 1930s Road
In the first 2 centuries after it was built, the military road north from Dunkeld was steadily improved or realigned to maintain a usable route north, culminating in the major upgrade of the A9 in the late 1920s / early 1930s. This time we can start in Perth, right in the heart of the city. The A9 originally followed Methven Street, then kinked left onto Atholl Street and right into Barrack Street, now the A85. It then, rather obviously, followed Dunkeld Road (now the A912) out of the city.
By leaving the Inveralmond Roundabout and heading into the industrial estate, then taking first right the old A9 route can still be picked up across the Almond Bridge. But this quickly leads back to the modern dual carriageway, which was upgraded online. Just over a mile north, however, the Luncarty Bridge Junction allows us to rejoin the old A9. The old road actually diverged from the modern a little to the south, curving round through fields to meet the B8063 before the junction.
Across the railway, the old road is now the B9099 as it passes through Luncarty, where there is evidence of widening either side of the mini roundabout, and across a couple of small bridges. Just after the second, a left turn passes under the railway and this sharp double bend is the old route of the A9, leading back to the modern route at Marlehall. A little further on, the old road again becomes visible off to the left, passing East Mains, and indeed continuing into Bankfoot where it becomes the B867.
The B867 is the route of the old A9 all the way to Birnam, passing through some beautiful landscape, but with tight bends which must have been a major problem when this was still the main road. The old and new routes cross just south of Birnam, with both arms of the old road turned to create a staggered crossroads. The route through Birnam is now unclassified, but the wideness of the road clearly shows its origins.
From Birnam, we cross Telford's Dunkeld Bridge, and so pick up the old military road, albeit briefly, with some uncertainty as to where the two routes diverge. The old A9 follows the high road beyond the A923 TOTSO, through the Kings Pass before dropping down through the trees to rejoin the modern A9 route. From here to Pitlochry, the 1930s route seems to have largely been an online upgrade of the military road route, with one or two minor deviations as noted above.
The Modern Route
The first thing to note, of course, is that the A9 no longer enters Perth. Instead it forms the western bypass of the city, crossing the historic route at Inveralmond Roundabout. This bypass is shown as 'Under Construction' on the 1984 OS Landranger map. There is a new Almond Bridge to carry the modern dual carriageway, but this drops down to S2 just north of the Luncarty Bridge junction. This section was already partly dualled by 1976, but extended to the start of the Luncarty Bypass when it was built a couple fo years later. Beyond Luncarty, the route was upgraded online for a short section at Newmill, before diverging again to form the Bankfoot Junction. The section of the route from the Stanley road to Bankfoot follows the line of the Bankfoot railway. In c2012 the B867 junction was upgraded to remove right-turning traffic, and the A9 seems to have been widened sufficiently to allow it to be converted to D2 fairly easily in the future.
Continuing north, the A9 remains offline and again becomes a short dual carriageway as it sweeps through the Pass of Birnam to meet the River Tay for the second time. Birnam and Dunkeld have both been bypassed to the south, which required the construction of a new bridge across the River Braan at Insh and across the Tay. The latter bridge is just past the junction with the B898, whose route was (partly) used when constructing the new A9. This section was all built before 1980.
On the east bank of the Tay, the A9 hugs the river for long stretches before being pushed away by the railway line north of Dowally. Just before Ballinluig, the road widens to D2 again and Ballinluig Junction with the A827 was redesigned in c2007 to remove right turning traffic. The junction and bypass at Ballinluig were originally built between 1980 and 1982 according to mapping evidence. We have now left Strathtay behind as we head north along the River Tummel, and the road remains dualled all the way to the southern Pitlochry Junction with the A924, where it returns to S2. The Pitlochry Bypass was perhaps a little earlier, as the 1980 map shows it as under construction.