|From:||Dornoch Firth Bridge (NH749843)|
|Distance:||30 miles (48.3 km)|
|Meets:||A836, A949, A839, A897|
|Old route now:||A836, A949|
|Route outline (key)|
The Dornoch Firth Bridge saves A9 traffic a 20-odd mile detour inland to Bonar Bridge, on the historic route north, but it is the last significant detour on the route. From the Dornoch Bridge the road heads straight up towards Clashmore and picks up the old route on its trek towards Thurso.
The crossing of the Dornoch bridge marks the end of the major upgrades on the A9 as it returns to its historic alignment and for the rest of the route to Clashmore is an online widening although the 7.3m carriageway does narrow quite considerably. Telfords bridge was replaced with a new culvert over the River Evelix. Just after this the A949 turns off for Dornoch as the A9 continues straight across Sunderland. The corners on the A9 are reasonable to say the least but passing through Skelbo wood the speed limit becomes an advisory 30 for the steep decent towards the Mound.
The Mound was built in the early 1800s and completed in 1816. Thomas Telford had little to do with the overall construction and it was actually planned and built by Sunderland estates, employing a workforce of 700. The forward visibility improves and overtaking becomes easier again but not for long. Just before the bridge at the north end. The old route heads off and crosses the old bridge just upstream from the current bridge. The old route used to loop over the railway and join the A839 towards the A9.
The road, after the junction narrows down again but the land is rather open so the road does allow a good view for overtaking. We then come across Golspie and plough straight through the town. The quieter roads up here probably meant the bypasses were no longer needed. We follow the coast line, passing through Brora and Portgower with the bridge replaced a few years ago. The road enters Helmsdale where one of the earliest 1970s upgrades took place in the bypassing of the old bridge.
A little while later we enter the Ord of Caithness where another recent inprovement to the road took place at the tricky bends on the Ord of Caithness. A new road was built that heads down the hill which vastly improved forward visibility and a new northbound climbing lane was added before the last hairpin bend before Berriedale.