Star.pngStar.pngStar.pngStar.pngStar grey.png


From Roader's Digest: The SABRE Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Location Map ( geo)
Cameraicon.png View gallery (48)
From:  Marykirk (NO685657)
To:  Banchory (NO696956)
Via:  Cairn o' Mount
Distance:  22.9 miles (36.8 km)
Meets:  A937, A90, B966, B976, A93
Highway Authorities


Traditional Counties


Route outline (key)
B974 Marykirk - Banchory
This article is about the current B974 over the Cairn o' Mount pass.
For the former B974 from Westhill to Ordie, now the B9119, see B974 (Ordie - Westhill)

The B974 is a secondary road in Kincardineshire which crosses the spectacular Cairn o'Mount pass. Except for the northern end, which was the western end of the A943, the road was originally unclassified.


Marykirk - The Summit

The route starts on the A937 in Marykirk and heads west, curving around the back of a new housing estate to pass under the Dundee to Aberdeen railway line. A windy section across fields leads to a long straight that used to run directly on to meet the A90. However, when the A90 was dualled the junction was rebuilt as a staggered crossroads, so the B974 now kinks left-right on the final approach. Originally this junction was a simple crossroads (the old route of the B974 is still obvious) but there's now a short multiplex along the main road, with through traffic on the B974 having to use one of the two gaps in the central reservation. The road continues to be reasonable straight as it drops down to cross the Luther Water at Caldhame Bridge.

Approaching Fettercairn

The route continues pas the small village of Luthermuir before turning north along a long straight across more-or-less flat terrain with hills visible in the distance. There is a fairly regular scattering of houses along the roadside and woodland to the east as the road starts a gentle climb. After a couple of shorter straights, the route reaches Fettercairn, running along Burnside Road to a T-junction on the B966. There's a short multiplex along that road to the right as it passes under the Royal Arch, built to commemorate the visit of Queen Victoria, to reach a roundabout where the two roads split once more. The B974 turns left and then bears immediately right to run through The Square. Considering the grandeur of the arch, the rest of the village has a much more vernacular feel, with an interesting mixture of buildings built in the local red sandstone.

Approaching the Cairn o' Mount viewpoint

The B974 leaves Fettercairn on Cairn o'Mount Road but at first it is an easy run through the fields as it heads north to the hills. A sharp left turn leads to a short run along the west bank of the Craigmoston Burn, before it turns sharply right across the bridge. Now running along the northern edge of the vast flat bowl of good agricultural land that is the Howe of the Mearns, the ruins of Kincardine Castle lie a short distance to the south. Despite giving the county its name, there was never a town here. The route curves north eastwards around the base of Hunters Hill before bearing left, turning into a valley to lessen the gradient on the climb ahead. Even then, though, it takes its time as the road winds gently through fields following the Devilly Burn upstream.

The burn is crossed at Clatterin Brig, after which the ascent begins in earnest, with a very steep initial climb before the gradient eases a little. In the next two miles, the road gains a thousand feet or 300 metres as it curves gently across the steep western flank of Redstone Hill. There is a little respite above the 320m contour, but the road is still climbing, and soon steepens for the final ascent. This leads up, round a sharp left hander to a car park viewpoint in an oxbow just below the summit. From here there are grandstand views out to the south across the moors and on to the rolling fields beyond. Another layby sits at the summit of the pass itself, near the top of Cairn o'Mount. From here, views to the north open out, across Deeside and into the foothills of the Cairngorms, or at least they do in fine weather. The summit is often shrouded in mist and cloud.

The Summit - Banchory

The summit is a little below the 450m contour, by no means the lowest point on the ridge, but the road was originally laid out to be short and direct, without worrying so much about gradients. Nevertheless, the descent is by no means so steep, and after an initially fairly steep drop to the Cairn Burn, the gradient eases as the road curves around Kircram. Steepening again, the road drops down the northern slopes to Shiel Hill, below which it dips into forestry. After crossing the Spital Burn, the road has to climb once more, curving through the plantations on Spital Hill as it follows Glen Dye downstream. The Water of Dye sits deep down in the steep sided glen at first, but after a wide meander, and a long straight descent on the B974, the two finally meet at Bridge of Dye.

The road has been devoid of a centre line since Clatterin Brig on the south side of the pass, but as it descends to Bridge of Dye, the centre line returns. Across the bridge, the road climbs again, and becomes narrower and doesn't appear to have been relined when it was last resurfaced. The road dips in and out of forestry until it turns out of Glen Dye, passing through a pass in the low, forested hills to a tributary valley. A left fork here continues northwards for traffic intending to turn west up Deeside, but the B974 slowly turns to the north east, dropping gently down through the forest to cross the Water of Dye once more at the Bridge of Bogendreip. A couple of short straights curving around the edge of the forest lead to a series of bends that drop the road down to the Water of Feugh.

Looking south from Strachan in winter

The B974 crosses Strachan Bridge to reach Strachan village on the north bank and a T-junction on the B976. The B974 TOTSOs right here and follows the valley downstream. After crossing a couple of fields, it meanders gently through a near continuous string of roadside development, interspersed with patches of woodland. Just before reaching the banks of the River Dee at Deebank, an unclassified road heads off to the right over the Bridge of Feugh. A sweeping left hander then drops the road down to the Dee, which is crossed on the Bridge of Dee, to enter Banchory, running along Dee Street to end at traffic lights on the A93 High Street.


Although most of the route was unclassified in 1922, most of the current B974 had been classified as such by 1932. and was then extended north over the River Dee into Banchory when the A943 was downgraded in the 1970s. The history of the route, however, is much older, and it is believed that the Romans crossed the Cairn o'Mount pass. It was probably old at that time, as evidence of prehistoric tracks have been found on other nearby passes, and the cairn at the summit is believed to be over 2000 years old. Later it was used as a drove road, and by the 1750s it was an important north south route which was formalised by Major Caulfeild as one of his military roads, the Cairn o'Mount forming part of the route from Fettercairn to Fochabers.

This long history makes it somewhat difficult to precisely define the 'original' route of the pass, which has undoubtedly changed course over the years. The main part of the pass lies between Clatterin Brig and Bridge of Dye. For the most part, the current B974 follows the original line of the military road. However, the old line of the military road can be clearly seen climbing above the B974 as it climbs the side of Redstone hill. The two roads diverge just below the 250m contour, and rejoing at around 330m, with the heather covered earthworks of the old road fairly easy to follow. The bridge over the Spital Burn is the original military bridge, while the old bridge at Bridge of Dye dates back to 1680.

After crossing out of Glen Dye, the military road forks left at the junction and drops down to the B976 at Whitestone, continuing ahead (the current dogleg is probably new) to reach the Dee at Potarch Bridge. The B974, meanwhile, curves back round to cross the Dye again, with the old Bridge of Bogendreip dating from around the time the military road was built, but it is too elaborate to be a military bridge. The curved approach on the west bank of the Dye is still open to access the farm, and curves around three sides of a small field. Strachan Bridge has also been replaced - the old bridge stood a short distance upstream and the approaches can still be traced. The final stretch into Banchory, however, seems little changed.

Related Pictures
View gallery (48)
The road from Potarch to the B974 - Geograph - 304010.jpgB974 entering Banchory - Geograph - 1640272.jpgB974 into Fetercairn - Geograph - 1613221.jpgCairn O'Mount viewpoint ahead - Geograph - 1384674.jpgBridge of Bogendreip - Geograph - 543815.jpg
Other nearby roads
B900 – B999
B900 • B901 • B902 • B903 • B904 • B905 • B906 • B907 • B908 • B909 • B910 • B911 • B912 • B913 • B914 • B915 • B916 • B917 • B918 • B919
B920 • B921 • B922 • B923 • B924 • B925 • B926 • B927 • B928 • B929 • B930 • B931 • B932 • B933 • B934 • B935 • B936 • B937 • B938 • B939
B940 • B941 • B942 • B943 • B944 • B945 • B946 • B947 • B948 • B949 • B950 • B951 • B952 • B953 • B954 • B955 • B956 • B957 • B958 • B959
B960 • B961 • B962 • B963 • B964 • B965 • B966 • B967 • B968 • B969 • B970 • B971 • B972 • B973 • B974 • B975 • B976 • B977 • B978 • B979
B980 • B981 • B982 • B983 • B984 • B985 • B986 • B987 • B988 • B989 • B990 • B991 • B992 • B993 • B994 • B995 • B996 • B997 • B998 • B999
Former versions: B902 • B906 • B907(W) • B907(E) • B911 • B912 • B924(E) • B924(W) • B937 • B944 • B947
B953 • B963 • B969 • B973 • B974 • B975 • B976 • B978 • B980 • B981 • B983 • B984 • B985 (1) • B985 (2) • B987 • B988 • B991 • B995 • B996 • B998
Hill and Mountain Passes
IrelandBallybane Pass • Barnesmore Gap • Black Valley Pass • Borlin Valley Pass • Caha Pass • Conor Pass • Cousane Gap • Doo Lough Pass • Gap of Dunloe • Glenshane Pass • Healy Pass • Keimaneigh Pass • Moll's Gap • Priest's Leap • Sally Gap • Vee Gap • Wicklow Gap • Windy Gap
ScotlandBealach na Ba • Cairn o'Mount • (Cairnwell Pass) • Carter Bar • Corrieyairack Pass • Devils Staircase • Gaick Pass • (The Lecht) • Mam Ratagan Pass • Pass of Drumochter • Rannoch Moor • Rest and Be Thankful • (The Slochd)
Wales & MarchesAnchor Pass • The Burway • Bwlch Penbarras • Bwlch y Groes • Bwlch y Cloddiau • Crimea Pass • Gospel Pass • Horseshoe Pass • Llywel Mountain Road • Nant-y-Garth Pass • Pass of Aberglaslyn • Pass of Llanberis • Sychnant Pass • The Wyche
TranspennineBuckstones Pass • Buttertubs Pass • Cat and Fiddle • Harthope Moss • Hartside Top • Mam Tor • Nenthead Pass • Snake Pass • Standedge Pass • Trough of Bowland • Tynehead Pass • Winnats Pass • Windy Hill • Woodhead Pass
LakelandBirker Fell • Blea Tarn Pass • Hardknott Pass • Honister Pass • Kirkstone Pass • Newlands Pass • Old Coach Road • Strawberry Bank • The Struggle • Whinlatter Pass • Wrynose Pass

SABRE - The Society for All British and Irish Road Enthusiasts
Discuss - Digest - Discover - Help