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B9176

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B9176
Location Map ( geo)
Cameraicon.png View gallery (22)
From:  Skiach, Alness (NH629676)
To:  Easter Fearn (NH633872)
Distance:  15.1 miles (24.3 km)
Meets:  A9, B817, A836
Former Number(s):  A836
Highway Authorities

Highland

Traditional Counties

Ross-shire

Route outline (key)
B9176 Skiach – Easter Fearn

For some utterly inexplicable reason, the B9176 is and always has been completely out of area. Its entire length lies in Zone 8, to the west of the A9, and as such it really should be a B8xxx. Despite that, however, it is a spectacular high level route offering some stunning views.

Route

One of the sweeping bends on the B9176

The route starts at the Struie Junction on the A9 at Skiach near Alness. The junction is a busy one, which can become difficult to make right turns at at peak times. The road starts to climb immediately, past the junction for Skiach services before crossing the railway line. It then reaches the staggered crossroads of Novar Toll with the B817 - the former line of the A9. While the B9176 remains a good S2 carriageway, it loses the pavement and becomes slightly narrower beyond the junction, reflecting the lower traffic volumes heading north. The route winds gently up hill at first, curving below a forestry plantation, with the rooftops of Alness just visible across the fields to the east. As the route enters the next block of forestry, however, the gentle curves give way to some much tighter bends, first to the left and then a long right hander, descending below a retaining wall leading onto the narrow Dalneich Bridge over the River Alness or Averon.

On the far side of the bridge, the road begins a steep climb through the trees to escape the narrow confines of the valley floor, and soon emerges in the fields above. Still climbing, but not so steeply, a left turn heads upstream to Ardross, while a crossroads soon after is home to the school. After a long straight, the route becomes twistier again as it passes through the tiny settlement of Stittenham, and then crosses the Burn of Achnacloich in the middle of a forest. Another left turn leading back to Ardross sees the trees give way to open moorland on the left, while the road winds along the edge of the forest and over a low summit into the next valley. The Strathrory River soon comes into view down to the left, and the road drops down to cross it on Strathrory Bridge. There are two large parking areas on the far side, offering walks and cycle routes, while the road starts climbing again through patchy forestry. Somewhere amongst the trees, it crosses its summit at 242m, although it feels as though it should be higher further north.

Northern end of the Struie Road

Once out of the trees, the route begins a glorious airy run across the moorland, with spectacular panoramic views, and remaining just above 200m for 3 miles or so. There are several long straights connected by little kinks and bends, with numerous laybys where travellers can pause and soak in the scenery. Along here is the former Aultnamain Inn, which may have originally been a coaching inn - and no doubt a welcome relief for coachmen and horses alike in this isolated place - and was more recently something of a music venue, but sadly is now only a private house. The mouth of the Dornoch Firth comes into view away down to the right, with the moorland hills rising up to the left. Struie Hill itself is ahead, and the road is soon winding through the pass behind it. On the far side of this pass, the Dornoch Firth comes back into view ahead, this time the inner firth with Bonar Bridge visible at its head. On a bright sunny day, it can be breathtaking, as can the descent, which steepens as it loses 100m in a mile. At the bottom of this part of the descent, the third of the old narrow stone bridges which characterise the route is crossed, with a tight right hander on the west bank as the road has to find a way out of the narrow valley of the Easter Fearn Burn. Back in the trees, the road drops steadily down towards the shore below, slowly converging with the waterside route of the A836 below. The two finally meet at a sharp west facing fork beside a surviving AA box.

History

The route was originally numbered as the B864 in 1922, but was quickly upgraded to Class I status, becoming a southern extension of the A836 before 1932. The route is one of the few B86x numbers which was not renumbered B916x following the extension of the A9 north of Inverness in 1935, although being west of the A9 it would have remained in the 8-zone even without its upgrading. Being a good deal shorter than the loop of the A9 via Invergordon and Tain, it was used by a lot of the traffic to and from Caithness and Sutherland, so was a fairly busy road. Crossing fairly high and exposed land, it suffered more than the low-lying A9 from winter conditions, and used to have signs at each end warning "No Sunday gritting". When the A9 was rerouted across the Dornoch Firth Bridge in 1991, the A836 was diverted along the firth to meet it just outside Tain. The Struie Road was downgraded, probably because of its gradients and tight turns across the bridges, and given its present, out-of-zone number, although it remains the most direct route to Lairg and points north and west of there.




B9176
Junctions
Services
Crossings
Roads
Places
Related Pictures
View gallery (22)
B9176 - Coppermine - 13622.jpgB9176-1.jpgB9176 snow gates warning sign on A836.jpgB9176 snow gates closed.jpgAA phonebox - Coppermine - 13606.jpg
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Alness
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B9993
Earlier iterations: B9111 • B9145 • B9151 • B9164

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