|To:||Gairnshiel Lodge (NJ294006)|
|Via:||Whitestone, Marywell, Deecastle, Crathie|
|Distance:||35.8 miles (57.6 km)|
|Meets:||B974, B993, B968, B9158, B971, A93, A939|
|Former Number(s):||A973, A939|
|Route outline (key)|
The B976 is a lengthy route in Deeside, Aberdeenshire, keeping to the south bank of the River Dee for most of the route. However, for many years the B976 was a much shorter route, just around 8 miles long, at the eastern end of its current length.
We shall start, therefore, with the oldest part of the route, at a TOTSO on the B974 at Strachan a few miles south of Banchory. The road winds westwards, climbing the valley of the Water of Feugh as far as Finzean (which it bypasses), where it turns North West and crosses the hills to Deeside. In the past, it never even reached the river, instead terminating on the former A973 at Allancreich less than a mile south of the Dee. Today, however, it is the B993 which terminates on the much extended B976 at this junction.
A mile and a half further on, the B976 drops to the river bank, the two then bouncing off each other as they meander westwards through the wooded landscape of Deeside. The stumpy remnant of the B968 (whose original route we now follow upstream for some distance) turns north across Aboyne Bridge and then a mile or so further along the B976 takes a sharp bend across Bridge of Ess, doubling back on itself in the process. Soon it is heading west once more, however, still bouncing along the riverbank with picturesque views through the trees of the sometimes fast-flowing, other times gentle river just a few feet away.
Presently the B9158 crosses Dinnet Bridge to meet the A93 and A97 at Dinnet. It is then several more miles before the next junction of any note, and this is the tiny B971 (or is it just a spur of the B976?) across Ballater Bridge. After another mile along the wooded river bank to the Bridge of Muick the road starts to leave the river behind, climbing through a low pass behind The Knock, a wooded knoll. It is nearly 4 miles before the River Dee is alongside once more, as the road heads WSW towards Balmoral. After passing through the village, the road swings sharp right just before the gates to the Castle, and crosses Crathie Bridge to reach the A93.
The final stretch of the B976 starts after a short westwards multiplex with the A93, and heads north, rapidly climbing into the mountains. This section is completely different in character to the rest of the route, not just because it is single-track, but gone are the green vistas of Deeside, replaced by barren hills and rough moorlands. After the first half miles climb, the B976 picks up the old line of the Military Road built nearly 250 years ago. It climbs to a summit of about 480 m, before dropping down to the River Gairn, and meeting the A939 just short of Gairnshiel Bridge.
The B976 is a route of many pieces. As noted above, it was only the eastern end that was originally classified as the B976 - and even this was unclassified until later in the 1920s when road numbering in the area was heavily revised; it is not until we reach the rump B968 at Aboyne that we find a road that was classified in 1922. By 1932 the A973 had been stretched out along the south side of the River Dee, following the line of the modern B976 from Allancreich to Balmoral, and so taking over the bulk of the B968 in the process. This situation survived until quite recently, when the road was downgraded again to be a B road, and the B976 number stretched along the full length of the former A973.
As for the final stretch, heading north from Crathie, this was originally the B969, a number which survived until the 1940s when the A939 was extended along the one-time B970 and B969 to Crathie. More recently, the former B970 route into Ballater has regained prominence, with the A939 number being swapped to it, and so the B976 was extended once more to its current extent.