Glen Esk to John O’Groats Part Four

Part Four: Tom Weir’s thoughts on the new A9, and proposals for ski slopes in Lurcher’s Gully in 1980



I’ve been doing plenty journeying myself lately, literally from John o’ Groats to Land’s End, though not in one continuous trip.

The object of the first journey was to look at the new A9, see how it was progressing and talk to folk along the way. That was a motoring trip, so I was glad to travel by British Rail when I went with my wife to spend a holiday walking the corish riveria by its coastal path.

In fact the weather was better in Scotland than in England, but both trips were deeply enjoyable with much that was new to me.

The big surprise was how much the A9 had progressed since I returned from Orkney last year. Thanks to the fine winter the Aviemore by-pass had been completed months before schedule and work was well ahead on the Kessock Bridge and Black Isle links which will cut 14 miles of the previous A9 route to Invergordon.

As for safety, Jock Webster of Calvine Garage who was accustomed to pulling 300 cars a year off the section that leads just north and south of him, finds the average total now is only 50. Head on collisions resulting in death and serious injury are infinitely less likely now, thanks to the straighter and broader road giving drivers better vision and more room to manoeuvre.

There is peace, too, in villages like Newtonmore, Kingussie and Carrbridge, formerly bedevilled by noisy traffic.

True there is disadvantage to places lacking amenity like Dalwhinnie, but it could come into its own if a ski development is sited on its bare hills, as there might. It would certainly take some strain off the overcrowded Cairngorms and maybe save the Lurcher’s Gully from becoming just another piste. Lurcher’s is one quiet corner above Loch Morlich which should be left for hill walkers and touring skiers.

It could be argued of course that the new A9 brings the best ski-ing in Scotland closer to the mainstream of the Scottish population and should therefore be developed to the full.

Outdoor instructor Clive Freshwater, who runs ski-ing, sailing and canoeing courses, tells me that in light traffic Edinburgh folk can drive the 130 miles to Aviemore in two hours, and from Manchester they can be on the slopes in seven hours.

What a happy day it will be for Inverness when the present thrombosis of traffic at the town bridge is removed and north-bound traffic will speed across the narrows where the Kessock Ferry now plies.

Read more from Tom Weir next Friday

More From Tom…



We have an extensive archive of Tom Weir’s great columns for The Scots Magazine, and we’re slowly but surely getting them published digitally for new generations to enjoy.

To see the columns we have online so far, click here.