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Location Map ( geo)
Cameraicon.png View gallery (18)
From:  Fraserburgh (NJ998667)
To:  Fochabers (NJ353584)
Distance:  51.1 miles (82.2 km)
Meets:  B9034, A90, B9031, B9032, A950, B9027, B9105, B9031, B9026, A947, A97, B9038, B9121, A95, B9025, B9022, B9139, B9018, A942, A990, B9016, A96, B9104
Primary Destinations
Highway Authorities

Aberdeenshire • Moray

Traditional Counties

Aberdeenshire • Banffshire • Moray

Route outline (key)
A98 Fraserburgh – Fochabers

Ask the layman to describe the A98 in one sentence and he or she might come up with “the Moray coastal road”, assuming they're roads-knowledgeable enough to come up with anything at all. And the A98 certainly connects up the towns, ports and harbours on its portions of the Aberdeenshire and Moray coast, but the moniker is not quite legitimate given the route taken between these points of interest, which is significantly further inland than you might first think.

The route was designated as trunk by the Trunk Roads Act 1936, but lost that status in 1996. However, a few green signs still remain along the route, although most have been replaced by white ones.

Fraserburgh – Banff

In its beginnings at Fraserburgh, the A98 behaves like it is the onward continuation of the A90; that is if the coast didn't abruptly turn through 90 degrees. I say “behaves like”, because its origin is not as one might suspect at the A90 Cross Street junction, it's actually a few hundred yards to the south east on Dalrymple Street where it meets the B9034 Station Brae. This seemingly wayward stub is a way of linking the harbour to the A-road network much like the A953 in Banff or A771 in Gourock, a legacy of the importance of sea transport in coastal Scotland's past. Thankfully in Fraserburgh's case, there is plenty of room for it in Scotland's future too as it functions as a major trawling and fisheries hub. Justified to still be A98, but not justified enough to appear on the signs? That is the question. Most of this eastern section is one-way anyway.

Anyway, the A98 does behave much like the A90 from the south because it's a good quality single carriageway road. It's had a couple of its bends straightened out and makes for a comfortable drive with ample overtaking opportunity from here to the first westward town, Macduff. What it doesn’t do is meet any settlement of any size in between; it misses the only realistic target (New Pitsligo) by a hair, ceding the honour to the A950. There are a couple of “Welcome to...” signposts and the limit might drop to 50, but that's it for the first half of the road. The actual coastal route, the more tortuous and scenic B9031, meets it at both ends of this run and makes a shorter crossing between the two via some urbanity in Rosehearty and New Aberdour.

Impressive Banff Bridge and its seven arches span the mouth of the Deveron

Having quickly covered the opening 25 miles, the expansive golf club on the outskirts of Macduff is the first sign of civilisation returning, and of a true run round the coast; only the boatyards and the aquarium get between the road and the open water in town. Macduff is in many ways the smaller brother of the town to the west, Banff, to reach which the A98 must turn at Banff Bridge and abandon the straight ahead route to the southbound A947 (a shortcut back to Aberdeen). The bridge crosses the mouth of the River Deveron and quickly enters Banff. Macduff and Banff are essentially one urban area, but have separate identities as this A98 bridge, their sole link, was only built round about the time of Macduff's centenary of establishment.

Banff – Cullen

The A98 route through Banff is circuitous, and requires the road to vacuum up the Aberchirder-bound A97 through the town centre. Eventually, the coast's emergence forces it westward, frees the A97 (for all of three hundred more yards - but that's another story) and reverts to its former self having left town, as a well-engineered road with generally gentle curvature (just watch for that double-kink near Blairshinnoch).

And on the subject of reverting to form, it again projects inland between Banff and the next destination Portsoy, letting the B9139 do the waterside work, although the inland route is, however, much less work in terms of engineering and in taxing the road user, as it passes through fairly flat farmland. What it also does here is bring the A95's impressive sojourn to an end at Muir of Rettie.

Portsoy is entered from the south on a road seemingly hanging from the rock face, and swings through in a loop tightly hemmed in between the granite grey houses – so much so as to require the omission of a pavement in places. It doesn't venture too far from the coast on the way out and over to Cullen; in fact this section features very little in the way of corners. The rocky natural harbours give way slowly to beaches, and the industrial harbours slowly to caravan parks from here on in. Cullen's high street (Seafield Street) is quite disorientating in that it appears to slope downhill to the water all the way with the potential drenching nicely framed by the disused railway viaduct which glamorously splits the view. The road does turn left immediately after the viaduct (an unclassified road links it to the harbour) and continues downhill on Castle Terrace, with Cullen's Seatown below, until at almost sea level it weaves back under another viaduct, big enough to cast a shadow on the beach, before leaving town, crossing the Cullen Burn and starting to climb again.

Cullen – Fochabers

The sweeping A98 enters the forest near Craigmaud

As the engineering effort of the railway viaducts suggests, this part of the coast has some variation in height despite the proximity of the sea. There are more rises and falls in this section of the road although it is largely ruler-straight now. The seemingly deliberately engineered straightness, combined with the inland circumvention of three close-by settlements in Portknockie, Findochty and Buckie (the latter the largest) which are served by an ox-bow A942, make this appear to be a modern bypass. Not so; the A98 has always strayed inland and the A942 was just extended from Buckie harbour (theme emerging with harbours again) back round to become the Moray Coast D-road. It even grows a little brother, the A990 via Portgordon, which runs west from Buckie to meet the A98 at the end of the “bypass” at Enzie crossroads - where the B9016 also turns off for Keith.

Since the first junction with A942 our road has been steadily about a mile from the sea, separated from it by a low ridge for a few miles, and then by flat land. On the south side are the Bin of Cullen - a fine viewpoint for walkers - and a smaller hill on either side of it. After the Enzie Crossroads it veers slightly further inland, still through farmland at first but soon after crossing the little Tynet Burn (and the boundary of historic Banffshire) it enters a forest for its final run to Fochabers. This last stretch is disappointing in engineering terms, with several bends and slightly reduced width, although the forest is quite scenic. On the outskirts of Fochabers the road ends at a roundabout on the A96 bypass, which was completed in 2012. This has severed a few hundred yards of A98 into town (now an extended B9014), but provides a much neater link on to the trunk A96, heading for the top signposted destination all along – the relative metropolis of Inverness.


A98 historic route from 1922/3 numbering

East of Cullen

A long time before the roads were classified in 1922, the main road on both sides of Cullen was upgraded. Cullen itself used to be two separate settlements: the Seatown by the shore and the old town beside Cullen House, slightly further inland. The old town was relocated (except for the impressive Cullen House itself, the church and a couple of other buildings) around 1820 to the new town on the hillside where it stands now. This road realignment - or at least this part of it - seems to have been done around the same time, as a new turnpike road. The older route, still known locally as the 'Kings Road' is also still in use for much of the way, either as public road or farm track. To make most sense of the old road, it is written in the reverse direction to the main route description above.

We begin at a bend in the Bauds Wood, about 2 miles west of the junction for Portknockie. A gated track continues straight ahead, which is the old road. As the track bends north to rejoin the A96 2 miles later, the line of the old road is lost, but a small bridge over the Claypots Burn, connecting two fields and nothing else, may be a remnant of it. The road is believed to have crossed the Cullen Burn near the present (private) Claypots Bridge, and climbed to Old Cullen. Certainly it ran north-south through Old Cullen before turning east again after the church, on a track (now partially ploughed up) taking it to the present A98/B9018 junction. Across the A98, a track (popular with walkers) is the old road, heading up through the woods on the south side of Crannoch Hill. The old railway line has briefly disturbed the old road line here. The route turns right after crossing the railway cutting and curves around the contours to reach the edge of the trees. At first it is clear, but becomes overgrown where the path to the top of Crannoch Hill turns off. From here, the road has been obliterated across the fields, but can be picked up again on the far side.

A straight road of over a mile in length runs down the hill past Findlater into Sandend. This is the old main road, which can also be traced a little further west as a field boundary. Returning to Sandend, the old road presumably curved around the back of the beach and negotiated the climb up the gulley next to the Distillery. None of this section is particularly obvious today, partly due to the changing nature of the dunes, and partly due to the development of the distillery. At the top of the bank however, the old road can be found as a grassy track, part of the coast path, and then crosses a cattle grid to become a farm lane up to Redhythe Farm. From here, it once again becomes a public road, running all the way down into Portsoy, where it becomes Park Crescent.

On the east side of Portsoy, the A98 heads south as Aird Street. After the last house on the left, a track heads east and this seems to be the old line of the road, which crosses a stream and then climbs up to meet the B9139. The B9139 often runs nice and straight as it heads east towards Banff, and as this is a characteristic of the section from Cullen to Portsoy, it seems probable that the B9139 follows the old main road. The only variation seems to be the last mile, from Inverboyndie into Banff, where the old railway seems to have been built on the line of the road. However, a possible road line can be traced climbing the hill above the car park at the end of the shoreside road. This climbs from the old railway up to meet the A98 immediately east of the layby on the edge of town.

This long section of old road raises an interesting question. Much of it runs in long straights, and it passes through Portsoy which is known to have been the northern end of a military road built in the second half of the 18th Century. The road outlined above also carries the name of the 'Kings Road', all of which could be seen as identifying it as another old military road. However, there are a number of routes in Aberdeenshire which have been identified as being pseudo-military - the military provided the engineering skills and some of the manpower, whilst the road was actually paid for by the county. It seems most likely that this route falls into that category.

More recent history consists of local straightenings; some longish ones between Fraserburgh and Macduff, and short ones west of there. There is an obvious new route between Banff Bridge and Banff High Street, replacing a narrow and twisty section through the lower part of the town. At Crannoch Hill near Cullen, a realignment in the 1970s has left part of the previous route visible, which has recently been used to stack timber. At Fochabers the A96 used to TOTSO with the A98; this was later converted to a mini-roundabout which survives on the extended B9104 through the village.

Improvement Opening Dates

Year Section Notes
1962 Banff: Duff House Diversion The 0.43 mile road was completed in 1962 per the 1962 Scottish Development Department Report. It provided a bypass to the original route eastwards from High Street via Back Path, Low Street, Bridge Street and Old Market Place.
1971 Boydlie House Diversion The work on the diversions and realignment to the west of Fraserburgh had started in 1970 per the 1970 Scottish Development Department Report but not shown in the 1972 report indicating a 1971 completion.

Related Pictures
View gallery (18)
Macduff, here we come! - Coppermine - 9297.jpgTowards Macduff - Coppermine - 9295.jpgApproach to Banff - Coppermine - 9294.jpgRoundabouts Rule OK! - Geograph - 2742053.jpgFraserburgh-bypass.jpg
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