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Location Map ( geo)
Cameraicon.png View gallery (6)
From:  New Deer (NJ885467)
To:  Fraserburgh (NJ997663)
Distance:  15.4 miles (24.8 km)
Meets:  A948, B9170, B9028, B9029, A950, B9093, B9032, A90
Former Number(s):  B9002
Old route now:  B9170, A920
Primary Destinations
Highway Authorities


Traditional Counties


Route outline (key)
A981 Inverurie - Oldmeldrum
(A947) Oldmeldrum
A981 Oldmeldrum - New Deer
A981 New Deer - Wellhowe
(A950) Wellhowe
A981 Wellhowe - Fraserburgh

The A981 is a medium-length A-road in north Aberdeenshire, which was once much longer.


Today the route begins in New Deer, at a crossroads with the A948 and B9170, where, for historical reasons (see below), the B-road is the only road to continue through the junction. Heading north along The Brae, the road then turns eastwards and winds around the Church of Scotland Parish Church, the road passing the bottom of the steps and separating church from graveyard, before heading north east out of the village on Fordyce Terrace. After about a mile, the road TOTSOs left at a crossroads where the B9029 continues ahead towards Maud and Old Deer. The road to the right, the B9028, constitutes a "New Deer bypass" on the A948/A981 route from Ellon to Fraserburgh.

Junction north of Strichen

Now heading northwards once more, the A981 runs dead straight for over a mile before kinking right past some woodland. In then passes the estate of the ruined Brucklay Castle, with a couple of sharper bends around the park wall on what could have been another long straight. At the end of the next straight it reaches a T-junction with the A950 Peterhead – New Pitsligo road, and the two routes briefly multiplex to the left, before the A981 turns right again and heading off towards Strichen. Now heading north east, the route passes between fields dotted with occasional blocks of trees, but no roadside houses as all of the farms are set back down long driveways. This section of road is no longer so straight, winding through the fields, although it does remain a wide and well aligned route.

Strichen is one of a number of "planned villages" in North-east Scotland dating from the 19th century, although it wasn't really planned for through motor traffic!

Having climbed past the 100m contour a few times, the road then descends more steeply with a series of winding bends through the woodland leading to Strichen. A series of closely-spaced junctions on a double bend lead to the bridge over the North Ugie Water, although the old railway bridge has been removed which improves the visibility a little. The little town appears to have turned its back on the river, and so also traffic approaching across the bridge, giving a somewhat unwelcoming entrance. The A981 then almost immediately turns sharp left from Bridge Street onto Water Street and runs parallel to the east bank of the river before reaching the B9093 crossroads at the north edge of the town. To the right the B9093 forms the High Street, which crosses the other end of Bridge Street, whilst to the left it quickly leaves the village, heading for New Pitsligo.

Now heading north again, the A981 continues ahead, also quickly leaving Strichen. After about a mile it takes a sharp right before taking a pretty direct line northeastwards towards Fraserburgh. The last 7 or so miles of the A981 were clearly substantially upgraded a couple of decades or so ago, with a good modern alignment, wide carriageway and fast sweeping bends predominating. However, most of the work seems to have been online, with no obvious realignments in the landscape. A little over halfway along this section, the A981 crosses the B9032 at Memsie. The junction is a simple crossroads with a short 40 limit - most of this tiny settlement being strung along the B road. The rest of the route is a series of long straights through farmland with a scattering of houses and farms on the roadside, and set back in the fields, but nothing that could be called a village.

At length, Fraserburgh is reached, the housing estates long in view at the crest of a field, while the bulk of the town is hidden over the slight ridge. The town is entered on Strichen Road and soon the A981 encounters its first roundabout, the side roads looping round the edge of the town to meet the A90 (east) and A98 (North) although precious little traffic needs to bypass Fraserburgh! Continuing north east into the town, the road passes a mixture of bungalows, some set back behind a service road, others hidden by high garden hedges before two storey houses take over, enjoying the view out across the parks. The houses get older and grander the closer to the town centre they are, with Strichen Road kinking to the right a little before the A981 terminates at a junction with the A90 (former A92) near the leisure centre and Fraserburgh FC's Bellslea Park.


The original southern end of the A981

Originally numbered B9002, the A981 came into being when that road was upgraded to Class I status around 1930. Originally, therefore, the A981 had the same route as the B9002: it started on the A96 in Inverurie and had a brief multiplex along the A947 in Oldmeldrum before crossing the A948 (which headed west to Turriff and the A947) at New Deer Crossroads to join its present route to Fraserburgh.

In 1973 or 1974, both Class I roads in New Deer were truncated, leaving a through route from Ellon to Fraserburgh which changed its number in the town for no apparent reason. The former A981 south of New Deer, as well as the former A947 to the west, was renumbered B9170, although the old A981 in Oldmeldrum became part of the A920, but is now unclassified following completion of the bypass. Although, as noted above, the northern end of the route in particular has seen improvements in recent years, there is almost no evidence of an old road line anywhere on the A981's route. This suggests that the alignment of the road has changed very little, except for a couple of bends where wider verges hint at an old line, even though it has clearly been widened.

Fraserburgh is an important fishing port (the largest shellfish port in Europe). It was previously known as Faithlie until 1592 when it was renamed at the request of the Lord Saltoun, Sir Alexander Fraser, whose family subsequently left the town never to return, setting up instead at Castle Fraser near Kemnay. Due to its position at the point where North-east Scotland thrusts into the North Sea, Fraserburgh was an important staging post and the loss of many ships saw the creation in 1787 of Scotland's first mainland lighthouse from part of the Castle on Kinnaird Head.

Related Pictures
View gallery (6)
The Brae, New Deer - Geograph - 2092222.jpgFraserburgh-bypass.jpgStrichen-br1.jpgStrichen-br3.jpgStrichen-br2.jpg
Other nearby roads
A900 • A901 • A902 • A903 • A904 • A905 • A906 • A907 • A908 • A909 • A910 • A911 • A912 • A913 • A914 • A915 • A916 • A917 • A918 • A919

A920 • A921 • A922 • A923 • A924 • A925 • A926 • A927 • A928 • A929 • A930 • A931 • A932 • A933 • A934 • A935 • A936 • A937 • A938 • A939
A940 • A941 • A942 • A943 • A944 • A945 • A946 • A947 • A948 • A949 • A950 • A951 • A952 • A953 • A954 • A955 • A956 • A957 • A958 • A959
A960 • A961 • A962 • A963 • A964 • A965 • A966 • A967 • A968 • A969 • A970 • A971 • A972 • A973 • A974 • A975 • A976 • A977 • A978 • A979
A980 • A981 • A982 • A983 • A984 • A985 • A986 • A987 • A988 • A989 • A990 • A991 • A992 • A993 • A994 • A995 • A996 • A997 • A998 • A999

Defunct Itineries: A920 (Perth) • A920 (Banff) • A921 (Perth) • A921 (Fife) • A922 • A949 • A951 • A968 • A982

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