|Length:||19 miles (30.6 km)|
|Meets:||B862, B861, A9, B9154, B9006|
|Route outline (key)|
The B851 is a lengthy route connecting a series of villages in the hills to the south east of Loch Ness in the Highlands. The area is sparsely populated, but as it is well off the tourist trail it is an interesting area to explore, with the rolling hills to the south part of the vast wilderness of the Monadhliath Mountains. The road was originally unclassified but presumably gained its number in the late 1920s, making it an early example of a recycled number.
In recent years it has seen a number of improvements, with work ongoing, to accommodate the traffic required for the vast windfarms being built in the area. Whilst most of the work is online upgrades, the topography of the route has led to some surprising engineering in places.
Stratherrick and Strathnairn
The B851 starts a little to the north of Errogie on the B862 and heads North East, quickly crossing the watershed between Stratherrick and the head waters of the River Farigaig. The road starts off more-or-less wide enough for two cars, and quickly improves thanks to the recent improvements. Across the summit it occasionally drops to single-track, but for the most part the road will be (when finished) a good S2 road, albeit with some sharp bends to slow you down!
The Alt Caitidh is still crossed on a steep bridge with a blind crest which has recently been given priority to uphill traffic. Around the bend, however, the road opens out again, climbing over another watershed to Strathnairn. Much of this section was widened many years ago, but most of the bits in between have now been done too. The road then emerges from some forestry, passes Aberarder House and drops to Aberarder Bridge over the River Nairn, which sits between banks to limit the flood risk. There are buildings at fairly regular intervals as we head down the valley, but many are old cottages in various states of repair, some still used as sheds and stores, others roofless. Despite an additional piece of new widening, the road drops back to single-track.
After a couple of miles, passing rough fields for grazing, the first proper village along the road, East Croachy, is reached, with a short speed limit and a turning to Loch Ruthven and its RSPB reserve. The road widens as it leaves the village, having been recently improved, and this links up with the older section about a mile to the north. The road then pinches to the bare minimum width for two cars to pass as it drops to the river bank at Brin, where another junction is reached.
The road climbs a little as it enters forestry and again drops to single track as it winds through the trees and into Woodside. Here, on the right hand side, are a little group of cottages built in the last 20 years to designs originally drawn up by Charles Rennie Mackintosh over a century ago. One was on the market in early 2014 for over half a million pounds! The road widens out again, but still runs through patches of Forestry as it reaches Milton of Farr.
Farr - Culloden
Milton of Farr is the first of three settlements that are slowly coalescing into one village, strung along the road. The other two are Inverarnie and Tombreck, although this last name seems to be little used today. Tombreck is the junction with the B861, which crosses the hills into Inverness, but the B851 sticks to Strathnairn as it continues north east, single-track once more in places. After a short distance, the road has been widened to full S2 standard up to the A9 with the narrow traffic signal controlled bridge replaced by a more up to date model to carry the new road. The old bridge can still be spotted from the new road and the old route runs parallel to the new one for a distance although is mostly closed off to cars but can be accessed on foot. A right turn leads to the little village of Faillie, set on the line of Wades Military Roads, long since replaced by the A9, and indeed the A9 is quickly reached thereafter.
This road is the 1970s/1980s line of the A9, when it was upgraded to dual carriageway, and just before the junction a track leads off to an underpass. This is on the old line of the B851, with a public road beyond leading through to the B9154, former A9, a little further on. This is not, however, the end of the B851. After a short northwards multiplex with the A9, the B851 turns off once more at Daviot, still heading north east and still mostly single-track as far as Cumberland's Stone next to the Culloden Battlefield, some 4 miles or so further on. Here is the end of this enjoyable road, terminating on the B9006 at Newlands.