|Location Map ( geo)|
|From:||New Deer (NJ885467)|
|Distance:||15.4 miles (24.8 km)|
|Meets:||A948, B9170, B9028, B9029, A950, B9093, B9032, A90|
|Old route now:||B9170, A920|
|Route outline (key)|
The A981 is a medium-length A-road in north Aberdeenshire.
New Deer – Fraserburgh
The road begins in New Deer, at a junction 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, 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. From here, the A981 winds its way northeastward up and out of the village. 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.
Now heading northwards once more, the A981 runs dead straight for over a mile before kinking right. In then passes the estate of the ruined Brucklay Castle, with a couple of kinks around the park wall on what could have been another long straight. At the end of the straight it reaches a T-junction with the A950 Peterhead – New Pitsligo road, with which it briefly multiplexes to the left, before turning right again and heading off towards Strichen, one of a number of "planned villages" in North-east Scotland dating from the 19th century. It wasn't really planned for through motor traffic, however!
This section of road is no longer so straight, winding through the fields, although it does remain a wide and well aligned route. At the entrance to Strichen, the road winds around some bends, through a number of closely spaced junctions and 'under' the now demolished old railway bridge before crossing the North Ugie Water. The road then turns sharp left along the east bank of the river before reaching the B9093 crossroads. To the right the B9093 forms the High Street, whilst to the left it quickly leaves the village, heading for New Pitsligo. 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. At length, Fraserburgh is reached, and the A891 encounters its first roundabout. A mile further along, it terminates at a junction with the A90 (former A92) near the leisure centre and Fraserburgh FC's Bellslea Park.
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) in New Deer to join its present route to Fraserburgh.
By the 1970s 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 itself is now part of the A920.
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.