|Distance:||14.1 miles (22.7 km)|
|Meets:||A9, B9176, A9|
|Old route now:||A9|
|Route outline (key)|
The B817 is an interesting road, with a complicated history. What is now the B817 was once the A9, and to a certain extent vice-versa, although there have been a lot of realignments and new pieces of road built.
Drummond – Dalmore
Today the B817 starts on the A9 to the south of Drummond near Evanton. We immediately pass under the railway, while the A9 takes a completely new alignment as far as Dalmore, beyond Alness. The small village of Evanton is quickly passed through, with a couple of left turns leading up into the hills. We then pass through the woodlands of the Novar estate, with the railway parallel just a few yards to the south, and a pleasant cycle track meandering through the trees.
This brings us to the junction with the B9176, the former A836, which crosses the hills to the Dornoch Firth near Ardgay. We have to give way to the hill road, turning first left and then right, although the old straight alignment of the A9 can still be identified. Once again, we are running alongside the railway for about a mile until we reach the edge of Alness.
The old alignment can be seen off to the left as we pass through the first of two roundabouts on the B817. Turning right takes you over the railway, through an industrial estate and so to the A9, but the B817 continues ahead into Alness High Street, after crossing Alness Bridge over the River Averon. At the end of the High Street, we have to TOTSO into Dalmore Road, with priority given to Obsdale Road, the former B817. Dalmore Road takes us over the railway, past the supermarkets and so to Dalmore Junction.
Dalmore – Kildary
Dalmore Junction is the second of the B817's two roundabouts, this time just a mini, where the spur to the A9 connects. The mainline continues over the A9 and curves round past Dalmore Distillery to meet the shore of the Cromarty Firth. This is still the old A9 as we head into Invergordon, with views of the rigs sitting out in the firth for maintenance, or waiting for their next deployment.
We use a new bridge over the Rosskeen Burn, with the old bridge squeezed between the new road and the railway line. As we enter Invergordon, a left turn leads to the High Street, the original course of the A9, but long before the routes swapped, the A9 had been re-routed along the shore, making use of the old harbour sidings to bypass the town centre. The long pier that suddenly appears, stretching out into the firth, is accessed from a tricky traffic-light controlled crossroads, allowing lorries to go round the back of the town to the A9. We are now passing through Saltburn, a single-sided street village looking out over the small beach to the firth beyond.
We stay on the shore as we pass through Balintraid and Pollo, but Barbaraville is a bigger village, forcing the road away from the shore. A re-profiled bend hints at the first attempts to improve traffic flow on the old A9, and then we are climbing up the slight hill through Kilmuir and onto Milton. Milton itself is a modern council estate lying off the main road behind trees, and immediately beyond we turn sharp left to pass under the railway and the A9 into Kildary.
In Kildary the old alignment of the B817 joins from the left, before we cross the Balnagown River and finally reach the end of our route with another simple T-junction on the A9.
This version of the B817 came into existence only in the 1950s. However, before the A9 swapped with the B817, the B817 was a much shorter road, running just from Alness to Kildary. It headed out of town on Obsdale Road, reaching the current route of the A9 at Milnafua. The A9 has been realigned from the former B817 at Roskeen Free Church, where the old road has partially been reclaimed by fields, then again at Tomich. There are further old loops at Dalney and Lower Tullich, before a left turn takes us onto the old road all the way to Kildary, with the A9 taking a new alignment alongside the railway.
The two routes initially swapped at some point in the mid-1970s, although it was about 10 years later that the new road was built (as the A9), so extending the B817 all the way through Evanton. Until that time, the B817 simply followed the course of the old A9 through Invergordon to Alness.