|Distance:||59.6 miles (95.9 km)|
|Meets:||A96, B9101, B9007, A940, B9102, A95, B9136, B9008, A944, B976, A93|
|Former Number(s):||B970, B969, B972|
|Old route now:||B976|
|Route outline (key)|
The A939 is a long cross-country A-road in northeast Scotland.
Section 1: Nairn – Grantown on Spey
The road starts on the A96 in Nairn, just south/east of the railway bridge. We are soon clear of this pleasant small town, though, and crossing through open fields. After a couple of miles the B9101 crosses at a staggered crossroads, and then we start climbing. To start with, the road seems to be cut into the side of the hill as it winds southwards, but then we suddenly find ourselves in a steep, narrow valley, with no sign of a stream at the bottom! On the way, we have passed a large council depot in an old quarry, and through Laiken Forest, the first of several dense woods that line this road.
For the next mile or two the road hardly seems to want to stay still, constantly turning left or right and climbing up over hills only to drop the other side. There are then some straighter sections as we pass through another dense section of woodland, before we wind around three sides of the almost invisible Loch Belivat and drop sharply to the River Findhorn. The road climbs steeply once more, through a series of tight bends, before suddenly changing character completely.
After climbing out of the valley, we cross the B9007 at another staggered crossroads, and then emerge on the open moorland beyond. The road is now wide, straight(ish) and has good sight-lines as we cross this open moor, which is reminiscent of Exmoor or Dartmoor at the opposite end of our nation. At a place marked on the map as Aitnoch, but bearing no noticeable settlement these days, the A939 turns quite sharply to the east and picks up the line of the Old Military Road. It is then a little over a mile to the sharp bend at the Bridge of Dara and the A940 at Dava.
We are now heading south again, staying with the Old Military Road, and crossing more open moorland, although the road is not quite so straight or level. To the east is a disused railway line, although you would hardly know it from the road, but as the road drops once more, and civilisation resumes along its verges, the grand old railway bridge suddenly appears ahead. It is built in a grand baronial style, and actually attached to the gatehouse for Castle Grant immediately beyond. Is it therefore a semi-detached railway bridge? As we reach Grantown, the B9102 heads off to the east along the northern side of Strathspey, and then in Grantown's High Street we TOTSO down a side street at Traffic Lights, while the B9102 continues to the A95 roundabout. Both of these roads are the former A95, which now bypasses the town, and we soon meet it at another roundabout, from where we multiplex over the new Spey Bridge and then turn off again after a mile.
Section 2: Grantown on Spey – Ballater
This is the interesting bit! As we turn off the A95, there is a large 'unsuitable for heavy vehicles' sign along with a set of snow gates, a sign of things to come. We rise up through the hills, passing scattered farmhouses and the occasional tiny village before zigzagging our way down to the Bridge of Brown. This is the county boundary between Inverness and Banff, and a very steep drop. The road then zigzags, even more sharply up the other side of Glen Lochy.
Crossing over the Bridge of Avon we come to the village of Tomintoul; it claims to be the highest village in the Highlands at 345 m, although Dalwhinnie (where the A9 meets the A889) is a few metres higher at 352 m. Tomintoul is the only settlement of any size along the stretch from Grantown. The main street is wide and spacious, just as well with the number of parked cars, and pretty much the only street in the place. However, you will need to watch out for the turning, as the A939 TOTSOs with the unclassified continuation of the main street. As a guide, pass through the wide square, and then immediately after the car park entrance on the right turn left.
You still need to keep your wits about you, however, as 200 yards later it does it again. There is a layby on the left for the Glenlivet information point and opposite it the A939 turns right, with the B9008 continuing straight on. From here the road still rises up to The Lechd Ski Centre, where the road reaches its highest point at 644 m. However, the views are perhaps not as great as you might expect. Don't get me wrong, they are fantastic, but both the coastal plain and the Cairngorms are barely visible between a whole range of high, rolling hills.
From here the road winds down the hill rather steeply to Cock Bridge where it crosses the River Don and the valley is followed to where the A944 branches off along the Don Valley to Aberdeen. We head south, over another hill to Gairnsheil Lodge where it meets the B976 at a T-junction. The B976 turns right towards Balmoral; the A939 goes left. There is a small section of single-track before meeting the A93 just West of Ballater.
In 1922, when the roads were first given numbers, it was only Section 1 of the present A939 - from Nairn to Grantown - that was given that number. The rest of the modern route was the B970. The route was extended in the 1940s, initially using the route of the B970 to Gairnshiel Lodge and then the B969 to the A93 at Balmoral. However, in the 1960s the A939 was moved onto the B972 east of Gairnshiel Lodge (whose original number was B970), and the road into Balmoral renumbered as an extension of the B976.