A9 Trunk Road

A9 Trunk Road at Killiecrankie
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

A9 Trunk Road at Killiecrankie

Perhaps the most significant road in Scotland the A9 (also known as the Great North Road) forms a spine linking the Midland Valley with the Northern Highlands, connecting the cities of Stirling, Perth and Inverness. It is also represents the highest trunk road in Britain, reaching 462m (1516 feet) at Drumochter Summit and 405m (1328 feet) at Slochd Summit.

Now beginning at Junction 6 on the M9 Motorway, a half-mile (1 km) northwest of Polmont, it extends for 270 miles (434 km) to the ferry port of Scrabster, 1¼ miles (2 km) northwest of Thurso.

Its original route saw it continue for a further 17 miles (27 km) into the Gyle, to the west of Edinburgh, via Linlithgow, Winchburgh and Kirkliston. This section was replaced by the M9 Motorway, which follows a slightly different route from the original road that remains largely extant, other than where it crossed the site now occupied by Edinburgh Airport.

The road connects Falkirk with Larbert, Plean, Bannockburn, Stirling and Bridge of Allan to Keir Roundabout, then bypasses settlements in Strathallan and Strath Earn to reaches the western limits of Perth at the Broxden roundabout. The importance of the section to Perth has been reduced since the construction of the Forth Road Bridge in 1964 and the M90 Motorway (completed by 1978), which provided a more direct route to the north from Edinburgh and the east. However, the A9 still represents an important route north from Central Scotland and Glasgow.

The route then turns north bypassing Luncarty, Bankfoot, Dunkeld, Pitlochry, Blair Atholl, Dalwhinnie, Newtonmore, Kingussie, Aviemore, Carrbridge, Tomatin, Inverness before reaching Tore Roundabout. The road then bypasses Evanton, Alness, Invergordon and Tain, to reach Golspie the first settlement it actually passes through after Bridge of Allan. It then connects Brora, Helmsdale, Berriedale and Latheron en route to Thurso.

Much of the A9 follows the line of an ancient droving route. This was improved in the 18th C. as a military road by General George Wade (1673 - 1748) and, from 1740, Major William Caulfeild (1698 - 1767). It was further improved in the 19th C. by Thomas Telford (1757 - 1834). A tarmac surface was not laid over the entire route until 1929 and the road was only extended to the north coast in the 1930s.

The next major upgrade came between 1972 and 1982, involving 130 miles (209 km) of new road and two significant bridges at Kessock and Cromarty, constructed as thirty separate but linked schemes. The project cost £200 million and represented the longest new road built in Britain in the 20th C. This scheme provided a wider carriageway, better aligned for visibility, which bypassed many towns and villages.

Where the volume of traffic required or where forward visibility was not enough for safe overtaking, sections of the road were upgraded to dual-carriageway. Unfortunately this brought new problems: changing speed limits which confused road users and dangerous convergence of traffic at junctions. The section from Bridge of Allan to Perth is entirely dual-carriageway, but north of Perth the road comprises interconnected dual and single carriageway sections. This, together with simple junctions, have given rise to a number of serious accidents. The Scottish Government has therefore committed to upgrading the entire Perth-Inverness section (the busiest part of the road) to dual carriageway, in a phased project 2015-25.

The Perth-Inverness section forms the most northerly section of the European route E15, which extends south to Algeciras in Spain.

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