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

B976

From Roader's Digest: The SABRE Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
B976
Location Map ( geo)
Cameraicon.png View gallery (40)
From:  Strachan (NO675922)
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, B9093
Highway Authorities

Aberdeenshire

Traditional Counties

Aberdeenshire • Kincardineshire

Route outline (key)
B976 Strachan - Crathie
(A93) Crathie
B976 Crathie - Gairnshiel Lodge
This article is about the current B976 in Strathdee.
For the original B976 over the Aberdeenshire hills, see B976 (Banchory - Alford)
.

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, at around 8 miles long, at the eastern end of its current length.

Route

Strachan - Dinnet

The B976 approaching Finzean

The oldest part of the route starts - more or less - at a TOTSO on the B974 at Strachan (pronounced "Strawn") a few miles south-west of Banchory. In fact the original start point is a few meters further west, as the B974 has been realigned across a new bridge and the B976 extended accordingly. The village is soon left behind and the road winds westwards through fields, climbing the valley of the Water of Feugh. From time to time the meanders of the river meet the roadside, and then large fields open up again. At the tiny village of Whitestone, a right turn follows the old military road to Potarch Bridge over the Dee, while a left turn climbs up to meet the B974 as it heads south for the Cairn o'Mount pass. A mile further on, the scattered village of Finzean is strung along the roadside and the B976 turns North West and begins to climb steadily through fields and into forestry, up to a summit of around 220m.

The descent is mostly in the forest, before a slight rise takes the route through Marywell. Back in fields, the road dips once more, down into Deeside. In the past, the B976 didn't reach the river, instead it terminated on the former A973 at Allancreich less than a mile south of the Dee. Today, however, it is the B993 from Potarch Bridge which terminates on the much extended B976 at this junction. The route continues to wind gently north west across the flat valley floor to reach the river bank near Birse, from where it curves slowly westwards as it shortcuts the gentle meanders of the river. The road is rarely close to the river, and trees obscure the view, but before long the stumpy remnant of the B968 (whose original route is now followed upstream for some distance) turns north across Aboyne Bridge into Aboyne, one of the many towns and villages on the north bank of the Dee, none of which cross the river to trouble the B976.

Leaving the Dee behind for a bit, the B976 continues west through forestry before taking a sharp bend across the 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. One particular stretch seems perilously close to the water is a big winter spare were to wash down from the mountains of Upper Deeside. A series of straights then lead past a sawmill and shortcut another large meander in the river before the two converge once more.

Dinnet - Crathie

Presently the short B9158 turns right to cross Dinnet Bridge and meet the A93 and A97 at Dinnet. The B976, however, remains on the south bank of the river, with short straights between bendier sections as it winds gently through the forest. The white centre line disappears without warning, having apparently not been repainted when the road was resurfaced. Then a tighter bend leads over the small bridge over the Pollagach Burn and the road turns north west for a time , with a windier section climbing away from the river as it meanders off to the north. The road continues to climb the lower slopes of Pannainch Hill before a sharper descent drops it back to the Dee. Ballater can be seen across the river, and the connecting Ballater Bridge is crossed by the tiny B971 (or is it just a spur of the B976?).

Littlemill

Beyond Ballater, the road gets noticably narrower and signs at the junction warn of timber traffic and a lack of passing places. After half a mile or so heading south west along the wooded river bank, the road crosses the Bridge of Muick, and once more starts to leave the Dee behind. A long straight across the mouth of Glen Muick leads to a series of bends climbing through a low pass behind The Knock, a wooded knoll. The road then dips down and crosses a couple of fields to reach Littlemill where it crosses the Girnock Burn with a sharp double bend across the bridge. Back in the forest, the road climbs a little across the lower slopes of Creag Ghiubhais before dropping back to the Dee.

A long straight leads past Abergeldie Castle, made famous in 2016 when the Dee threatened to undermine it, and did wash out the A93 on the opposite shore. Trees line the roadside as it winds westwards to Balmoral, where 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 at Crathie. Large carparks and a visitor centre sit around the junction, which can be busy with visitors throughout the year; the driveway to Crathie Kirk leads up opposite the junction.

Crathie - Gairnshiel

Northern end of the B976 at Gairnshiel

The final stretch of the B976 - which really is a road with a separate function - starts after a short multiplex westwards with the A93, and heads north, rapidly climbing alongside a wooded burn. The road is now properly single track with passing places, and winds north then north west before joining the old route of the military road from Braemar to Fort George. 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. The road was built 250 years ago for military use, and so uses long straights whenever possible to minimise distance, irrespective of gradient. It climbs through woodland and out on to the open hillside to reach a summit of about 480m, before dipping a little. For the most part this open moorland offers good forward visibility, and there are a few sections wide enough for two cars to pass, but elsewhere the passing places are well spaced.

The route then drops down the nose of the wee hill called The Strone into Glen Gairn, which appears green and lush compared to the heather clad moors. The descent begins gently enough, but gets steeper with every slight crest. A couple of sharper bends lead to a short straight wide enough for two way traffic. As the road narrows once more, it passes through some woodland and curves round the hill, dropping down to the River Gairn. This last stretch is particularly narrow, squeezed between the river and the steep hillside, meaning there are fewer passing places. Before long, however, it comes to an end, meeting the A939 just short of Gairnshiel Bridge. The bridge was replaced in 2023 with a new crossing a short distance downstream, which extended the B976 slightly further, and the new junction is a TOTSO.

History

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 1973 or 1974, when the road was downgraded again to be a B road, and the B976 number stretched along almost 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. At the same time as the A973 was deleted, the former B970 (B972 since the1940s) route into Ballater regained prominence, with the A939 number being swapped to it, and so this stretch was included in the extended B976.

The route followed by the B976, however, is much older. Despite the towns and villages all lying on the north bank of the Dee, the main road was for centuries the South Deeside Road, certainly between Ballater and Braemar, and probably back to Aboyne if not Potarch Bridge at times. Traffic was steadily transferred in the Victorian era. Firstly, when the Queen bought the Balmoral Estate in the 1850s, the old road between Crathie and Invercauld Bridge was closed to through traffic as the Queen required privacy, then with the coming of the railway line along the north side of the Dee, the long distance road traffic was reduced and more and more local traffic emanated from the stations. By the 1920s when the A93 was classified, this process was complete. The subsequent addition of the B976 and A973 to the classified road network does show, however, that there was still a significant volume of traffic along the old South Deeside Road.

Elsewhere on what is now the B976, sections of the road were built, albeit often on the line of pre-existing tracks, by Major Caulfeild in the 1750s and 1760s. The older section is perhaps ironically the newest piece of the B976, climbing up from Crathie over to Gairnshiel, although the military road leaves the A93 further west, and is now an estate road which is little used at the northern end. Much closer to the eastern end, the military road from the Cairn o'Mount pass crossed the B976 at Whitestone, Although the original crossing point of the Feugh has been lost, and the road diverted a little. It is considered possible, if not likely, that other work was carried out to the South Deeside Road by the military at this time, as Aberdeen was already an important port which would have supplied the troops at the barracks at Braemar Castle and elsewhere.

In the last century, however, the B976 has seen surprisingly little work, considering its length. There is very little evidence of straightening or improvements to bends and junctions. A few of the smaller bridges have been replaced and there are a couple of laybys which may reflect a localised realignment.




B976
Junctions
Crossings
Roads
Places
Related Pictures
View gallery (40)
Trees beside B976 below Braenaloin - Geograph - 443021.jpgPre Worboys A93 Sign - Coppermine - 16914.jpgCrathie-br1.jpgCrathie-br2.jpgA939 Gairnshiel Bridge - wide aerial of bridge from NW - August 2022.jpg
Other nearby roads
Braemar
Ballater
Aboyne
Banchory
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

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