Home >Resources>Gaelic Society of Inverness












Resources on the Old Roads of Scotland

Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness

Index to Transactions


Ross, Alexander, 'Old Highland Roads', Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness 14 (1887-88) 172-193
The aim of the author is to assess the beneficial effect roads had on the highlands in different time periods. In the course of doing this he gives many interesting details of how the road system developed over the years.
His account of Roman roads is interesting not least because of the references to earlier antiquarians who supposed the road network to have been more extensive than is now believed.
He discusses a number of bridges that date from mediaeval times and has considerable detail on early droving routes and on the life of the drovers. He also deals with the military roads and includes some graphic descriptions from early travellers. He concludes with an account of the work of the Commission for Highland Roads and Bridges

MacTavish, Duncan C, 'Argyllshire Roads Prior to 1800' TGSI 38 (1937-41) 325-355
This paper cover the period just up to the formation of the Commission for Highland Roads and Bridges in 1803.
The statute labour law of 1669 seems to have been implemented at least in Cowal and mid- Argyll and a list from 1710 identifies roads in these areas where work was to be done. Further records show that the work was not always being done, particularly in Kintyre and Lorn. A slightly later list of 1733 gives the names of over 60 overseers and surveyors who were fined for neglect of their duties.
There is an interesting account listing equipment required and where it should be deployed. Instructions are also given as to the manner of road making. The system seems to have improved from this time on and reports from many parishes still exist.

Details are given of how the statute labour requirement to work on the roads affected ordinary people and it is clear that it was inefficient and often led to hardship if the roads were distant from people's homes. Large numbers of people could be involved - for example, there were 500 men working on the north end of Jura in 1732. In 1757 the statute labour was commuted and this proved much more workable.
Details are given of the work of the Commissioners of Supply in respect to bridges and ferries and of the help given by the county to the building of the military roads through providing labour and materials.
The paper concludes with an account of the 1775 local act in which details of particular roads are provided.

Kerr, John, 'Old Grampian Highways' TGSI 49 (1974-76) 53-86
This paper examines two early routes over the Grampians: Comyn's Road and the Minigaig Pass. Both routes run from Blair Athol towards Ruthven.
Comyn's Road was, in parts at least, a "made" road and built in the late 1200's to link the castles of Blair and Ruthven. This Minigaig route seems to have replaced it by the 1600's perhaps because of a bridge being built over the Tilt that would have made journeys easier, particularly for drovers. The author looks at its depiction on early maps and notes how it was gradually fell out of use when the new military road over the Drumochter Pass was built.
He then describes in detail the courses taken by the two routes and what can be seen today, supplementing this with interesting historical facts.

MacDonald, Mairi A, 'Drovering' TGSI 49 (1974-76) 189-197
The paper details the difficulties faced by drovers and the qualities and skills needed to carry out droving successfully. Apart from physical stamina, the drover had to be a person of probity, had to have considerable veterinary knowledge and have good business acumen. There were definite dangers to be faced on the journey, from robbers to getting animals safely over water. A description is given of the main droving routes leading to Falkirk.

Kerr, John, 'Old Roads to Strathardle' TGSI 51, also reprint 1981

Martin, Whittet, 'Over the Hills and Not So Far Away' TGSI 56 (1988-90) 344-381

MacDonald Murdo, 'The Droving Trade in the Records of the Commissioners of Supply of Argyllshire' TGSI 58 (1992-94) 1-7
The Commissioners of Supply, along with JP's were responsible for roads, ferries and bridges from 1686 up to 1775 when the first local act for Argyleshire was passed.
The paper examines a number of issues relating to droving that were dealt with by the Commissioners. These included rates on ferries, the condition of quays, damage to roads and crops and what support should be given when outside interests threatened to affect the trade.
Interesting details are given of the main Argyll market at Kilmichael-Glassary and of some of the routes that were followed.