Glen Feshie Road
|Glen Feshie Road|
|Location Map ( geo)|
|From:||Feshie Bridge (NH851043)|
|Distance:||30 miles (48.3 km)|
As far as General Wade was concerned, this may well have been the one that got away. He was proud of the 300 miles of military roads that he built across the Highlands, but there was one which he surveyed in vain. Precise details are not known, but references to its survey are known, even though it never progressed to being costed, let alone put forward to Parliament for approval. The road was designed to link the main road north to Inverness with the barracks at Braemar Castle, by turning off in the vicinity of Ruthven Barracks and following Glen Feshie south, then east to the Geldie Burn which flows into the River Dee, and so Braemar. Today both ends are public roads, and much of the intervening route can be followed on a mountain bike, with just a few miles across the watershed best left to foot.
The route today starts on the public roads that head south down Glen Feshie either side of the river. Both have car parks, although that on the Feshiebridge road is considerably further south! However, it seems more likely that Wade would have taken a more direct route from Ruthven, perhaps following the B970 as far as Tromie Bridge and then cutting across through what is now thick forest around the back of Creag Dhubh to Glen Feshie. Either way, tracks and paths continue from the ends of both the public roads, although the bridges marked on maps further down the glen are generally destroyed. Unfortunately, recent floodwaters have also badly eroded the river banks in places and so it is difficult to proceed on either side, although there are plans to make repairs.
After passing through a very steep sided part of the glen, the path follows the river out to easier terrain, eventually passing a ruin and curving around across a footbridge over a waterfall. This is the watershed, the lowest point of which is 538m above sea level, but the path passes a little higher than this, curving across the rough hillside to reach the headwaters of the Geldie Burn. Of course, such a height was of no problem for Wade who had already built the Corrieyairack Pass, with more challenging gradients.
The path then drops down the hill towards the Gledie Burn, eventually picking up the track to ruinous Geldie Lodge immediately to the north of the bridge over the stream. From here the track back through the desolate moorlands of upper Strathdee to the Linn of Dee is easy to ride on a mountain bike, despite a couple of fords, and from there the minor road leads back into Braemar.
Whilst the route Wade surveyed may never be known exactly, the route of the roads and tracks at either end cannot be too far from his chosen route, although Wade may well have taken his road higher up the valley sides to avoid the boggier ground and reduce expenditure on bridges. The middle section in upper Glen Feshie and across the watershed is less likely to have followed the route of the walkers path. This is because the path is often narrow on a steep hillside, or in Glen Feshie runs along the river bank, and has been seen is very susceptible to damage by the river. The construction of a 15foot wide roadway would have been most troublesome for Wade in these areas, but as he has proven elsewhere with his roads, far from insurmountable.
Since Wade did his survey, there have obviously been works along the general line of his route to create the roads and tracks that we see today. However, there have also been calls, still reported in the 1980s, for the construction of a proper road along the route to connect Speyside with Deeside and save the lengthy detours via The Cairnwell or Lecht passes, both of which are higher than the watershed at the top of Glen Feshie. Needless to say, nothing substantial ever came from these requests!