The Great North Road: a History of the A9

Perhaps The Great North Road, a History of the A9 is not the most promising title for a page on this website, but I hope details of this major highway can be of interest. It gives me a chance, for example, to show you  images like the one above, which reveals how much has changed over the years. I think today your chances of coming across a flock of sheep on the road are limited, unless they have escaped from a field!

The A9 is the major route north from Edinburgh to Inverness, and on the Wick and Thurso. It is an extension of the Great North Road from London to Edinburgh, now the A1, which was celebrated in a page from the Graphic Magazine, August 1912.

General Wade was responsible for laying out the path of the modern A9 in the 1720s, and it says much for his ability as a surveyor that the route he followed has been adjusted very little to this day. It is depicted on a number of sheets in the first road atlas of Scotland by Taylor and Skinner (1776) - these images below taken from the compact edition published by Thomas Brown (c.1790), which is easier to photograph.

Starting in Edinburgh, the route involved the ferry at Queensferry, exactly the spot where the bridges are now found. It then continues north towards Perth, passing close to Loch Leven.

The Ferry at Queensferry, beneath the Forth Railway Bridge, c.1900. An image taken from an American magic lantern slide by Bode, a member of the Orange Camera Club. The first Road Bridge was not built at this point until 1964

The road passes through Perth (now by-passed of course), and on north past Blair Atholl, and "Brewer" (Bruar).

An Old Toll House on the Great North Road.                                                       The Great North Road at Struan, Ben-y-Vrackie in the distance.

                                                            Both images from JB White postcatds, published in the 1930s.

The Great North Road, near General Wade's Stone. JB White Ltd.

The Great North Road from Geberal Wade's Stone, Ben-y-Vrackie in the Distance. JB White, Ltd. This section of the A9 is now dual carriageway, which has meant that the Stone has had to be moved a small distance away (see my page on General Wade's Stone).

Passing General Wade's Stone (marking the spot where road makers from the north met those coming up from the south), the road continues through a rether barren stretch that culminates at Dalwhinnie, where the traveller could find a welcome Inn, established by the government.

The Great North Road, near Dalnaspidal. More trouble with sheep!             Dalwhinnie, a Hamlet on the Great North Road. JB White.

A James Valentine card, registered in 1929.

The Village, Dalwhinnie. A scarce early 20th century image on a postcard of the settlement that lies at the north end of a rather desolate section of the Great North Road.

Proceeding along the River Spey, the road reaches the second-highest point on the route at Slochd (1328 feet), from where it begins its descent down towards Inverness.

Ruthven Castle, Kingussie. A card by GW Wilson sent in 1904.                         The Great North Road at Slochd. JB White Ltd.

A similar view of the barracks from the A9 exists today.

North of Inverness, the road follows the east coast, with the help of a number of ferries (Kessock, and Meikle for example).

Most of the above images were taken after the road had been reconstructed, as this newspaper cutting describes in 1928.

A photograph showing the construction of a bridge on the "new" Great North Road. From an album of photos taken in 1926, photographer unknown.

A Valentine image registered in 1929. Place unknown.