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Roads by County


Map from Scribd websiteThe following are summaries of entries relating to roads that appeared in the separate volumes of the Cambridge County Geographies which were published in the early 1900's by the Cambridge University Press.

The roads entries are part of wider chapters that dealt with all means of transport and communications including railways, canals and shipping. Only the roads information is given here although it is clear from the originals that railways followed much the same routes as the roads and that ports, large and small, were the focus of local routes.

The original texts, although short, are useful in their treatment of how routes are closely influenced by the topography and how they arose through the need for settlements to be connected with each other, not just within a county but with the major towns as well. Where they describe the network of main roads (which were mostly turnpikes) they remind us that the planners of those roads must have had reasons for selecting such routes, albeit to connect two major towns in a county or with a port.

As well as a topographical treatment and some general remarks on roads, the accounts are of interest as some of them give details of historical routes as well as relating how the roads developed in that county and how they were administered. The chapters on local history may also be of interest.

Many of the original volumes can be accessed on the Internet Archives (scroll down list to see individual counties). It is not possible to link to individual pages but the information can be found under the Communications section of each volume.

Aberdeen Caithness & Sutherland Fife Lanark Perth
Argyll & Bute Clackmannan & Kinross Forfar Mid Lothian Renfrew
Ayr Dumbarton Inverness Moray & Nairn Ross & Cromarty
Banff Dumfries Kincardine Orkney & Shetland Stirling
Berwick & Roxburgh East Lothian Kirkcudbright & Wigtown Peebles & Selkirk West Lothian

Note: The county maps are from Arrowsmith's map of Scotland dated 1846; Orkney and Shetland from Alexander Johnston's map of 1861. Images courtesy of David Rumsey Historical Map Collection. The images are copyright Cartography Associates but have been made available under a Creative Commons license for non-commercial use.


Alexander MacKie 1911

Aberdeen - click for larger imageIn the past the main route to the south was the old South and North Drove Road, which ran from Fettercairn in Kincardine over Cairn o Mounth, passed the Dye and Whitestones on the Feugh to reach the Dee at Potarch. It then went by Lumphanan to the Bridge of Alford, from where it ran to Clatt and Kennethmont and then Huntly.

A road that is thought to be Roman came up from Stonehaven to cross the Dee at Peterculter, then by Skene, Kintore and Inverurie to Pitcaple. From there it went to a possible Roman camp at Glenmailen, then by the Corse of Monellie and Cobairdy to the fords of the Deveron below Avochie.

There was another ancient road that went into the Grampians from Blairgowrie to the Spittal of Glenshee, then over the Cairnwell to Castleton of Braemar. From there it used the valleys of the Gairn and Avon to reach Inchrory, then ran to Tomintoul into Speyside.

After the 1745 rising General Wade used the southern part of this route for his military road from Blairgowrie to Fort George. However he turned east at Braemar to follow the Dee valley to Crathie then went over the hills to Corgarff in Upper Strathdon from where he went over the “Lecht” to Tomintoul. The road was completed in 1750.

On the old North and South Drove Road, the Bridge of Alford over the Don was built in 1810-11 and the bridge of Potarch over the Dee in 1812-13 where previously there had been fords. A new road was built to connect them.

The main roads in the turnpike era were:
• The first turnpike, made in 1796, was from the Bridge of Dee to Aberdeen, finally completing the post-road from Edinburgh
• The North Deeside Road which went through Aboyne to Ballater and Braemar where it joined the ancient road coming from Blairgowrie
• The Aberdeen to Tarland road running by Skene and Echt. A branch left Skene for Alford, later being extended to Mossat and Corgarff to meet Wade’s road (Blairgowrie - Braemar - Corgarff)
• The Aberdeen to Inverness post road by Kintore, Inverurie, Huntly and Banff. There was a branch to Portsoy from Huntly and an alternative route from Huntly to Banff
• The Strathbogie Road from Huntly to Donside - this is still used as the mail route to Strathdon The Aberdeen to Banff Road which left the Inverness Road at Bucksburn and went through Dyce, Old Meldrum and Turiff.

In the east of the county the main roads were:
• Aberdeen to Peterhead which crossed the new Bridge of Don and ran by the coast. It continued to Banff
• A coast route between Peterhead and Fraserburgh, which was extended into Banffshire.

Prior to the 1800’s only a few main roads had been made. Before that time wheeled vehicles were almost unknown. By 1765 judges were able to travel to Aberdeen by chaise rather than horseback and by 1798 the mail coach started to run, taking 21 hours to travel from Edinburgh. Passenger coaches ran to Huntly in 1811, and farmers were able to use carts to take their goods to market rather than horses.

The roads were maintained by tolls and toll-bar houses can still be seen, sometimes with windows on the right and the left from where the tolls could be collected. Tolls were abolished in the county in 1865.

Peter MacNair 1914

Argyll - click for larger imageUntil the early 1800’s travel was difficult in the county but this became much easier with the advent of steam-boat communication.

The roads usually run in the glens and as watersheds are generally low do not reach any great heights. Exceptions are the road between Glendaruel and Otter Ferry (1026’), Lochgoilhead and St Catherine’s (727’) and Glencrow and Cairndow (860’).

On this last road, constructed by General Wade after the 1715 rebellion, there is a stone at the top of a difficult and tiring climb, inscribed with the words “Rest and Be Thankful“. Wordsworth, who used the road, wrote: "Doubling and doubling with laborious walk, Who that has gained at length the wished-for height, This brief, this simple wayside call can slight, And rests not thankful?"

BUTESHIRE (Bute and Arran)

Bute and ArranOn Bute a tramway runs between Rothesay and Ettrick Bay. There is a good network of roads on the island.

There is a coast road (“a good carriage road”) round Arran with two other roads crossing the island.


John Foster 1910

In the mid-1700’s there was hardly a usable road in the country, with pack horses in widespread use and stage coaches only able to use a few roads and then only at 6 or 8 mph. This had changed by the end of the century and roads were recognised as important for progress. In Ayrshire the two northern districts were soon opened up by new roads. McAdam began his experiments in road making in Ayrshire and now all the roads are constructed by proven methods. In Ayrshire the roads are macadamised either with whinstone or limestone.

There are three main roads from Glasgow:
• By Paisley, Beith and Kilwinning to Irvine
• By Barrhead and the Lugton valley to Irvine
• By Fenwick to Kilmarnock
A shore road runs from Skelmorlie and Largs to Irvine and then to Monkton and Ayr.

Ayrshire - click for larger imageRoads from Kilmarnock are:
• up the Irvine valley through Galston and Darvel
• Mauchline and Cumnock into Dumfriesshire
• Symington and Monkton to Ayr
• Crosshouse and Dreghorn to Irvine
• Kilmaurs, Stewarton and Dunlop to Lugton where it joins the Irvine - Glasgow road.

Roads from Ayr are:
• Mauchline and Muirkirk
• Dalmellington towards Kirkcudbrightshire
• Maybole to Girvan, Ballantrae, Glenapp to Wigtown
• A shore road to Girvan by Dunure and Turnberry.
There are numerous minor roads. What may be a very old route is that between West Kilbride and Dalry which passes Law Hill.

W Barclay 1922

BanffshireA long description is given of the main lines of road, which can easily be seen on a map. The author notes that much of the country is now accessible by motors.



W S Crockett 1926

BerwickshireThe main Roman routes were Watling Street, undoubtedly Roman where in England but not so certain when it passes into Scotland where it is more like a ridgeway. It has been traced to Cappuck Camp on Oxnam Water and to Jedfoot Bridge and Ancrum. From Newstead it ran to Melrose and Darnick and is said to have then ran north by Blainslie and Lauder to Soutra Hill and onwards into Mid Lothian. It has also been called Derestrete, a name mentioned in charters and undoubtedly the Roman road.

There is a reference in a charter of Melrose Abbey to a via regia running from Annandale to Roxburgh. This ran up Liddlesdale and crossed into Jedwater, on which stretch it was identical with the Wheel Causeway, then by Rulewater and Swinnie Muir into Jedburgh by the present day road called the Loaning.

From Jedburgh it went to Roxburgh and then up the Tweed to Lauderdale - from near St Boswells it would have been the road called Dere Street. There is in fact a good chance that Watling Street, Dere Street, the via regia and Malcolm’s Road were different names for the same road.

There were several "herring roads" that crossed the Lammermuirs into Berwickshire. An ancient road called the Girthgate ran through Channelkirk to Soutra. It may have gone down to Melrose but the name suggests its destination was the girth or sanctuary at Soutra. Today the roads and bridges are well kept and much money is spent on them, with considerable grants from the Government. Very large quantities of stone and sand, and barrels of tar-bitumen are used each year.

The main roads in Berwickshire are:
• The Great North Road from London to Edinburgh which runs by Lamberton, Ayton, Grantshouse and Cockburnspath
• Berwick to Kelso by Swinton, Leitholm and Eccles
• Coldstream to Kelso, close to the Tweed
• Coldstream to Haddington by Duns and Longformacus
• Coldstream to Lauder by Greenlaw
• Eyemouth to Lauder by Ayton, Chirnsyde, Duns and Westruther
• Kelso to Edinburgh by Earlston and Lauder.

RoxburghshireThe main roads in Roxburghshire are:
• Hawick to Jedburgh and Kelso by Crailing
• Hawick to Newcastle by the Carter
• Hawick to Liddlesdale by Limekilnedge
• Hawick to Teviot head
• Jedburgh to Liddlesdale by Note (or Knot) o’ the Gate
• Hawick to Selkirk
• Kelso to Earlston by Smailholm and also by Maxton and St Boswells
• Earlston to Galashiels by Gattonside
• Earlston to Melrose by Newstead.

Before 1764 the Tweed was bridged only at Melrose and Kelso: the Teviot was bridged at Hawick and Ancrum. Now all rivers are bridged. There are several ferries on the Tweed. Motor conveyances run between some of the towns.

H F Campbell 1920

Caithness - click for larger imageCaithness now has about 300 miles of excellent roads. Before 1800 the towns and villages were connected by horse tracks, and communications with the south of Scotland were by sea.

The first road of any significance was between Thurso and Latheron and was built between 1785 and 1790 by statute labour. In 1800, bridges were built at Wick and Thurso.Under the Highland Roads Act of 1803, the Inverness to Thurso road was completed by 1811. Half the cost of this road was raised locally, including statute labour which had been commuted to a monetary payment in 1793. Other roads were built between 1806 and 1860, and existing roads maintained.

The mail coach service, which already ran to Tain, was extended in 1818 to Wick and Thurso by Bonarbridge and the Ord. This allowed through communications with the south of the country. In 1860 the County Road Act created a County Road Trust under which the leading highways were placed. The older statutes were still in place and allowed repairs to be met from tolls. Tolls were abolished under the 1878 Roads and Bridges Act, funds being raised by a roads assessment. In 1889 Road Boards were formed under the County Council to manage the county roads.

In the early 1900’s the popularity of John o’Groats as a destination for motor traffic led to the roads needing frequent repair. The Development and Road Improvement Funds Act of 1909 helped to alleviate this, and to improve the roads.

Topography is important in the county: even today (1920) there are hardly any roads west of a line from Latheron to Reay.

The mail coach “Defiance” is no longer: mail and passengers are conveyed by motor power.

Sutherland - click for larger imageBefore 1807 there were no roads in Sutherland and only one bridge, at Brora. A horse track ran from the Meikle Ferry along the coast, and other tracks linked Strathnaver and Assynt with ferries at Portinlick and Bobar. There were no wheeled vehicles in the county. Access to the county from the south of Scotland was mostly by sea.

On the mainland the county could be reached by Meikle Ferry (G. Port a' Choltair), Bonar Ferry (G. Am Bhannath) and Portinlick (G. Port na-Lice). Cattle for the Falkirk trysts and other market swam across at these ferries - there was a belief that if an animal took readily to the water it would fetch a good price at market.

That part of the Inverness - Thurso road that runs through Sutherland was completed in 1812-13 as was Bonar Bridge over the Kyle. Some 400 miles of road were built in the next 20 years, as follows:
• Bonar to Scourie and Durness by Lairg
• Lochinver by Oykell Bridge and Inchnadamph
• Helmsdale to Melvich by Forsinard
• Melvich to Durness by Bettyhill and Tongue
• Bonar to the Mound by Loch Buidhe
• Lairg to Rogart and from Rogart to Brora by Sciberscross
• Scourie by the Kylescu ferry to the Lochinver road at Skiag Bridge.
These roads were very adequate for the needs of the time and of great benefit in making the county accessible. A mail coach between Tain and Thurso started in 1819.

The roads proved unsuitable for the great increase in motor traffic and much work was done to strengthen them. The amount spent on the roads increased fourfold between 1900 and 1915 and is now £12,000 per annum. Since 1910, the Road Board has made grants to the county but even with these, the funds available are insufficient to fully maintain the roads.

Although the coming of railways helped the eastern part of the county, the west and north had to depend on horse drawn transport for mails and passengers until the coming of motorised transport. There is now a service from Lairg station to Scourie and Tongue, and along the north coast from Thurso.

J P Day 1915

ClackmannanshireRoads and centres of population are interdependent in the sense that roads may have developed to connect towns but roads themselves may attract settlement. In Clackmannanshire, it is generally the roads that have influenced the location of the towns rather than the other way around.

From Stirling roads lead towards the Fife peninsula along a narrow stretch of flat ground between the Ochils and the River Forth. Further east this narrow stretch widens but is split by the Cleish Hills. This has resulted in there being two routes from Stirling into Fife; one north of the Cleish hills that runs through Kinross, and one to the south through Dunfermline.

The towns are found spaced along these two main roads: the position of those on the north or Kinross road has been influenced by their having to be close to burns to serve their woollen industry; to the south the Dunfermline road leaves the direct line to include Alloa which is located where the Forth ceases to meander and was therefore suitable for the establishment of a port.

There are link roads between the two main roads.

KinrossThis is a farming district with many farms and small villages scattered across the plain. Such a district needs a market town conveniently sited for all and Kinross, centrally situated, has developed to meet this need. It is also important as it was about half-way between Edinburgh and Perth on the Great North Road and served as a staging point between these places.

The only other large town is Milnathort. It too is on the Great North Road and has roads from Cupar, Leslie, and Dollar.



F Mort 1920

DumbartonshireRoads are determined by the need for communication between places and by the topography. In this county the north-west is mountainous and the south-east flat. This is seen where the road from Glasgow to Stirling, the railway and the Forth and Clyde Canal all run close to each other through the Kelvin valley in the east of the county. In the north-west, roads keep to the coast or lochsides or the valleys, although some older roads run higher up.

Although these routes have been used for centuries, properly made roads are relatively recent. Most trade used pack horses, even carrying goods to Glasgow from Dumbarton and Port Glasgow.

The passing of the Turnpike Roads Act in 1751 marked the beginning of a new era; and good roads gradually replaced the old horse tracks. A further improvement was heralded by the establishment of County Councils in 1889, and the transference to them of the care of the roads. In recent years the development of fast motor traffic has presented a new problem to road authorities ; and it may be that we are but at the beginning of an altogether new phase of road construction rendered necessary by "the modern craze for speed".

A national Road Board was formed a few years ago and receives the taxes from motor-vehicles and fuel;. It gives grants to County Councils for the improvement of roads but not their maintenance.

In its heyday around 1830 the Forth and Clyde canal carried many passengers, for example, some 20,000 each year from Kirkintilloch. The canals declined with the coming of the railways.

James King Hewison 1912

Dumfries - click for larger imageThere were a number of Roman roads in the county.These were:
• From Carlisle to Longtown
• At Longtown the road divided with a branch to Netherby, Liddel Moat, Castle O’er and Raeburnfoot and thence to Trimontium
• Another branch crossing the Sark near Gretna, passing by Kirkpatrick Fleming, Birrens and Hoddom to Gallowberry near Lochmaben
• From Gallowberry the main road continued north, up Annandale, passing the Devil’s Beef Tub to reach Crawford
• Also from Gallowberry, a branch went westward to Nithsdale, passing Tinwald, Duncow, Closeburn, Thornhill and Durisdeer to join the main road at Crawford
• Some smaller branches traversing Kirk Michael, Glencairn and Tynron.

Before the Turnpike Act of 1777, the roads had been poorly kept under the previous legislation of 1686. Great progress was made under the turnpike system. The main turnpikes were:
• Glasgow, Beattock, Lochmaben, Annan and Carlisle
• A road through the vale of Carron to Elvanfoot
• Moffat to Nithsdale
• Springkel to Kelhead
• Carlisle to Dumfries and onward to Portpatrick.

There were many old drove roads such as that at the Enterkin Pass and these were used by people on foot, pack horses and sledges. At an estate in Closeburn, stone causeways were used on steep gradients.

Apart from the many fords a large number of bridges have been built in Dumfriesshire. In 1812 there were 6 over the Nith, 5 over the Annan and 5 over the Esk. There is a very old bridge in Dumfries although no proof has been found that it was built by Dervorgilla. Nevertheless it points to a very old route into Galloway. There is a fine bridge at Drumlanrig, also said to be very old.

A bridge at Boatford near Thornhill was built in 1777 and there was one in Moniave in 1560. Another bridge over the Dalwhat dates from the 1600’s. A new bridge in Dumfries, completed in 1794, has recently been widened; and a bridge was built at Annan in 1826.

The Craigengillan coach ran through Carsphairn and Moniave on the journey between Glasgow and Dumfries, taking thirteen and three quarter hours for the journey. There were also other coaches, called roaring dillies, to Edinburgh and Glasgow.

T S Muir 1915

East LothianRoutes in East Lothian are strongly influenced by the terrain. Thus the road and railway line are very close south of Dunbar, and roads from Gifford and Garvald meet on the Whiteadder. Sometimes these constraints are ignored as seen by the road from Haddington to North Berwick which crosses high over the Garleton Hills, as does the road to the old port of Aberlady.

There are three routes east of Edinburgh:
• The coastal route
• To Berwick by Tranent to Haddington then East Linton, where the road runs on the flanks of the Garleton Hills, and Dunbar. South of Dunbar the coastal sill is followed to the boundary and a fine bridge over the Dunglass Burn.
• Another road by Drem which has the same line as the railway.

Haddington is very much a centre for routes with several roads running to the town. Interestingly the bridges do not carry main routes.

Little is known about the ancient roads. Blaeu’s map of 1654 shows a road from Musselburgh to Preston where it strikes inland with a branch to Haddington and then crosses the Tyne at Linntyn briggas continuing on to Dunbar.

There are a number of drove roads across the Lammermuirs. The Herring Road runs from Dunbar over its Common to the Whiteadder; another runs from Innerwick to Abbey St Bathans; and a third runs from the old Gifford road to Longformacus.

Several old bridges still exist. In Haddington there is the Nungate Bridge which may date from the 12th century. It is very narrow, and very steep at both ends. Hardly anything is left of Edincain Bridge over the Thornton Burn. There are remains below the Dunglass and Pease bridges which show that the road crossed the streams at a lower level.

Easton S Valentine 1915

FifeshireA major factor influencing routes is the topography: one would expect the early routes to have run east and west; north and south through gaps in the Ochils, Lomonds and other hills; as well as a route close to the coast.

Another factor is that there would be a need for communication between the early settlements in Fife such as Culross, Dunfermline, St Andrews and Newburgh; and with towns outwith Fife such as Edinburgh, Stirling, Perth and Dundee - these would require the early construction of bridges or establishing ferries.

These factors can be clearly seen in the roads of Fife. Of the east to west routes there are:
• Perth to Newburgh, Lindores, Cupar and St Andrews
• Stirling to Kinross then by the Howe of Fife to Cupar
• A coastal route from Stirling leading to Culross, Dunfermline, Inverkeithing, Burntisland, Kirkaldy etc to St Andrews.

Of north to south routes there are:
• Perth to Dunfermline and Inverkeithing by Kinross and the Wicks of Baiglie (a route described by Scott in the Fair Maid of Perth - he regrets the easier Glenfarg road is used rather than the old track which climbed the Ochils and gave magnificent views)
• The royal residence at Dunfermline to the hunting grounds of Falkland either by going west of Loch Leven or more directly through Leslie and Markinch then crossing a saddle to Kettle
• Kirkcaldy to Cupar, Kilmany or Leuchars, and the Tay ferries via Markinch

Edinburgh was reached by the Queensferries and Pettycur, and Dundee from ferries at Balmerino, Woodhaven, Seamylnes (Newport) or Ferry-port-on-Craig. Old milestones show distances from Pettycur. Boats ran between the coast towns of Fife and the Lothians.

Walter Scott in The Antiquary evokes coaching days when the “Hawes Fly” broke down causing travellers to miss the ferry at Queensferry. Forced to stay the night they made up lost time by hiring a post-chaise to take them to Arbroath at the rate of eighteen pence a stage. The journey took one and a half days.

In his account of the agriculture of Fife written in the late 1700s, Dr John Thomson of Markinch notes the bad roads as a major obstacle to the improvement of the county. Around that time however things started to improve: four roads districts were formed and good management along with a ready supply of road-making materials resulted in Fife having an excellent network of roads. The road money had been raised by tolls but campaigns led eventually to their being abolished under the road act of 1878. The money is now raised by a general assessment.

There are two major tramway systems in the county: at Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline and these reach well into the surrounding districts.

Easton S Valentine 1912

Forfar - click for larger imageEarly tracks generally followed the courses of rivers and streams. Where there are side streams entering a main valley it is very common to see castles sited there as a defence and also towns in more settled times. Where a district adjoined the coast there would usually be a coast road.

The Roman road from central Scotland entered Forfar near Coupar Angus. It ran past Kirriemuir to Battle Dykes (3 miles north of Forfar). From there it crossed the South Esk near Noran Water, ran past Brechin to cross the North Esk at Kingsford and then entered the Mearns. Traces of the road can still be seen and the modern road still follows it near Kirriemuir. There are camps at regular intervals along the road. A subsidiary route may have gone from Cater Milly (near Invergowrie) to Haerfaulds (five miles south-east of Forfar) to allow supply from the Roman fleet.

Although there were no made roads until recent times there would have been tracks leading to fords and bridges. Until the end of the 1700s the main road through Strathmore crossed the bridge at Brechin.

The constant need for communication between such centres as Dundee, Forfar, Glamis, Brechin, Arbroath, and Montrose led to tracks that would later become roads. This is clearly seen in Dundee where the main roads are those that led to the nearby burghs. The abbey at Arbroath, the cathedral at Brechin and the palaces at Forfar made these important places.

There was an interesting road between the fishing village of Usan and Forfar along which fish were carried each day to the court. This was the King’s Cadger’s Road - it was the width of a mill wand such as was used to trundle a mill stone to its destination.

Pack horses were used and could carry heavy loads such as slates and paving slabs from Glen Ogilvy to Dundee. Later rough sledges took over from panniers, which in turn were replaced by primitive carts called tumbrils.

The main roads are:
• Perth to Aberdeen by Coupar Angus, Forfar and Brechin
• Dundee to Perth
• The coast road from Dundee to Arbroath, Montrose and beyond
• Arbroath to Forfar and Kirriemuir
• Brechin to Arbroath and Brechin to Montrose.

There are roads from Dundee to Coupar Angus, Meigle, Kirriemuir and Forfar. There are many minor roads and all the glens have at least one good road.

George H Kinnear 1921

KincardineshireThe county is on the direct route between south and north. The earliest routes led generally in those directions, often taking the high ground which was driest but sometimes taking a direct line if this was practicable. The roads here, as elsewhere in the north were very neglected well after the Union of 1707. With no wheeled vehicles there was no need for good roads and bridle paths for the pack horses were sufficient.

The Roman road from the Tay to the Dee is no doubt the oldest. It ran between camps, probably a day’s march apart. From Ardoch it ran north and north-easterly passing the camps at Mains of Fordoun, Raedykes near Stonehaven and Normandykes at Peterculter to reach the Dee. At Marykirk there was a branch to the royal seat at Kincardine but this may not have been Roman.

Beyond the Dee it continued to the pass of Cairn O’Mount, later to be the last of the military roads built by Wade. Many branches led from the Roman road, or later roads on its line. These went into the hills and were used by drovers heading south to the great trysts and also down to small ports on the coast along which coal and lime were brought.

Until the Roads and Bridges Act of 1878 roads were either turnpike or statute labour. The first type were originally financed by subscription and then from tolls, the second by a rate paid by heritors and others. Under the Act a road rate was paid by householders, and since then the roads have gradually improved and are now quite adequate for modern needs.

There are three main roads running north:
• The main road from Edinburgh running through Brechin, Laurencekirk and Stonehaven to Aberdeen
• A parallel road near to the hills that passes through Fettercairn, Fordoun and Glenbervie to join the first road at Stonehaven
• A road near the coast running from Montrose to Stonehaven.
These three roads are connected by many cross-roads, making travel to all parts of the county easy.

There is a fine road along the south side of the Dee from Aberdeen to Maryculter, Durris, Banchory and Strachan. Three cross-roads join this from the coast.

William Learmonth 1920

Kirkcudbrightshire - click for larger mapThere were hardly any roads in these counties before 1780, just tracks that were often very hilly as they avoided boggy ground. The roads were maintained (badly) under the statute labour system with individuals required to do 6 days work each year. The Old Military Road from Dumfries to Portpatrick took the course of the original tracks and was consequently very hilly. Sections of this road can be seen as far as Glenluce but not west of this.

About 1780 a roads act was passed that allowed for roads to be built and maintained by an assessment. Consequently the roads were much improved and took a more level course. Many of the old tracks had their origin in smuggling. One route used by the smugglers or ling-tow-men as they were called was from Portpatrick up to Clydesdale. This went by Loch Inch, New Luce, House of the Hill and Nick of Balloch. Edinburgh could be reached from House of the Hill, and Ayrshire by Nick of Balloch.

Routes from several landing places converged on Kirkcowan. From there Glasgow could be reached by Minnigaff, Loch Trool, Loch Doon and Dalmellington. Edinburgh was reached by Curriedon, Moniave and Penpont then through the Dalveen Pass and Elvanfoot.

Smuggling was common in the 18th and early 19th centuries with brandy, silks and lace landed on the Galloway coast from the Isle of Man. A note in Scott’s Guy Mannering mentions upwards of 200 men moving inland with the contraband.

WigtownshireThere are now excellent roads in Galloway. The main roads in Wigtownshire are:
• Newton Stewart to Ayrshire by Bargrennan and Straiton; also by Barrhill
• Newton Stewart to Port Patrick - this is joined at Glenluce by one from the Barrhill road and one leading from Girvan
• A coast road from Glenluce down to Port William and Glasserton then to Isle of Whithorn. From here there is a road up to Newton Stewart. Beyond Glenluce the Port Patrick road runs directly there across the Rhinns but there is a branch to Stranraer and then up the coast to Ayrshire
• Roads from Stranraer to Corsewall Point and the Mull of Galloway.

In Kirkcudbrightshire the main roads are:
• Maxwelltown to Newton Stewart by Crocketford, Castle Douglas and Gatehouse of Fleet
• Maxwelltown to Dalbeattie; also south to New Abbey, Kirkbean and Rushcliffe - from here there is a branch to Dalbeattie
• Dalbeattie to Kirkcudbright by Castle Douglas; also by Palnackie and Dundrennan
• Crocketford northwards to New Galloway
• Castle Douglas northwards to Dalry, Carsphairn and Dalmellington
• Kirkcudbright through Ringford and Laurieston to New Galloway and the Dalmellington road
• A hill road between New Galloway and Newton Stewart.
There are many minor roads and hill tracks.

Frederick Mort 1910

Lanark - click for larger imageHistorically Clydesdale has been an important communication route with the south, with a pass over Beattock Summit giving access to the valley of the Annan. Glasgow is centrally situated and a route to the east has long been established. Ayrshire is easily reached by the low valley that runs past Paisley, Beith and Lochwinnoch and another valley by Neilston and Barrhead. Clydesdale is connected with Tweeddale by an easy valley at Biggar with two more difficult routes into eastern Ayrshire by Strathaven and Douglas.

All these routes are clearly affected by the valleys. Although these routes have long been used for travel, roads are fairly recent. With wheeled travel being almost impossible, trade was by pack horse. Coaches only started running between Glasgow and Edinburgh in the mid-1700’s, and to London in the late 1700’s. Before the Clyde was deepened goods were brought to Glasgow from Dumbarton and Port Glasgow by pack horse. The roads in Glasgow were in poor condition with only two men employed in their care until 1777.

The Turnpike Roads Act of 1751 changed all this. In Lanarkshire the Glasgow to Carlisle road, built by Telford, became a model for such roads. Of note is his viaduct, 130 foot high, at Cartland Crags.

The main roads are:
• Two roads from Glasgow to Edinburgh, one by Bathgate, the other by Shotts and Mid Calder
• Lanark to Edinburgh via Mid Calder
• Roads from Dumbarton and Renfrew on both sides of the Clyde, running into Lanarkshire through Glasgow
• Roads to Ayrshire through Avondale and Douglas
• Roads to Nithsdale by Elvanfoot, Leadhills and Wanlockhead and by Powtrail Water and the Dalveen Pass
• Road to Tweeddale from Symington via Biggar and Peebles.
There is a huge network of minor roads.

Alex McCallum 1914

Mid LothianUntil the first turnpike (1750) roads were little more than beaten tracks. The survival of two great Roman roads in southern Scotland reflected on their engineering skill but in the middle ages such skills had been lost. Even at the beginning of the 18th century the roads were so bad that it could not be guaranteed to drive a coach from Glasgow to Edinburgh and back in under six days.

Routes around Edinburgh are determined by the topography. Of routes to the east and west, there are:
• The coast road to Berwick which goes through Portobello, Musselburgh, Prestonpans, North Berwick and Dunbar. A major branch leaves this road at Levenhall and using the 100 foot raised beach runs through Tranent, Haddington and East Linton to Dunbar.
• The road to the ancient Queensferry over the Forth - this was the main route to the north-east of Scotland. Scott in The Antiquary mentions the “Hawes Fly” or Queensferry Diligence noting that it was "green picked oot wi' red ; three yellow wheels an' a black ane."

To the south, using the river valleys and skirting or crossing the Pentlands, Moorfoots and Lammermuirs, there are several routes:
• Edinburgh by Dalkeith and Soutra Hill to Greenlaw and Coldstream - there was a church and hospital on Soutra Hill founded about 1164 for pilgrims
• A road by Gilmerton, Eskbank and Soutra to Lauder, thence to Earlston and Jedburgh and crossing Carter Fell at the border - this continued to Newcastle
Crichton Castle - click for larger image
Crichton Castle looking south. Borthwick Castle is one mile to the south.

• A road following the valleys of the Esk, Gore and Gala to Galashiels and Hawick. The castles of Borthwick and Crichton are located on this route
• A road to Peebles that follows the Esk to Penicuik, thence to Leadburn and the Eddleston Water. From Peebles the road goes by Tweedsmuir and the Devil’s Beef Tub to Moffat • Two roads to Clydesdale, running on either side of the Pentlands. On the north side the road runs through Currie, along the Lang Whang to Carnwath and Lanark. On the south side the road goes by West Linton to Biggar.
• A road to Lanark by the three Calders, Wilsontown and Forth
• Three routes to Glasgow: the old road through Mid Calder and Shotts, another by Bathgate and Airdrie, and a third by Linlithgow and Falkirk
• A road to Stirling and the north that runs from Falkirk
In addition there is a complex network of minor roads.

Charles Matheson 1915

Moray & Nairn - click for larger imageThere are two main routes to the south. The more direct route heads north from the Tay by the Tummel and Garry valleys to the Pass of Drumochter (1500’) then descends by Glen Truim and Badenoch to the Spey. The other route is to the east of the Grampians where it uses the valleys of the Ury and the Deveron.

Another route leads from Strathmore to the valley of the Dee. It then runs north-westwards across Banffshire to the Spey and then to Elgin by the Glen of Rothes. This route was followed by Edward I in 1296 when he returned from Elgin - on his journey north he came to Banff by the Glen Ury route.

Routes are as described for Morayshire. A mail coach was started between Nairn and Aberdeen in 1805; prior to that time there was a riding post which was the only means of communication with the south.


J G F Moodie Heddle and T Mainland 1920


OrkneyIn the past, those travelling south would take a ferry to Huna in Caithness and then travel on foot or horseback, or more rarely, would sail to Leith if a vessel was available.

A steamboat service to Leith and Aberdeen started in the 1830’s and today there are regular services to Scrabster in Caithness and many other places. Several motor and horse conveyances run daily between Kirkwall andStromness.

Most of the roads were built under the authority of the 1857 Orkney Road Act and later local acts as well as the Roads and Bridges (Scotland) Act of 1874. Progress was slow in the 1880’s because of the local economy but at the turn of the century the Congested Districts Board made grants available that allowed more roads to be completed. In general the islands are now well provided with good roads.



ShetlandPrior to the mid-1800’s there were hardly any roads. Goods and persons went by water or travelled on tracks by foot or on horseback. During the potato famine of 1846 and the following years, the food and money sent by the Board for the Relief of Destitution in the Highlands allowed labour to be hired for road-making. Some 120 miles of road were constructed between 1849 and 1852. These ran from Lerwick to Dunrossness to the south, Scalloway and Walls on the west and Lunna, Mossbank and Hillswick on the north. A road, 17 miles in length, was constructed in Yell. More roads were built under the Zetland Roads Act of 1864.

Nowadays all roads and bridges are under the County Council (a long description of the road network is given at this point).



George C Pringle 1914

Peebles and SelkirkIn early times tracks followed the line of valleys. Thus, starting from Galashiels we have routes running up the valleys of the Tweed, Yarrow and Ettrick and crossing watersheds into Annandale, Eskdale or Clydesdale.

These are:
• Galashiels to Peebles and Broughton then up Tweedsmuir to cross to Moffat in Annandale
• Galashiels to Moffat by the Yarrow to Tibbie Shiel’s inn and Cappercleugh
• Galashiels to Carlisle by the Yarrow valley to Selkirk then across the watershed to Ashkirk and Hawick
• A route up the Ettrick to Tima Water then crossing into Eskdale to reach Langholm.

Cross roads connect these valleys:
• Tweed, Yarrow and Ettrick
• Tweed and Forth
• Ettrick, Teviot and Solway
• Yarrow and Ettrick.

Besides these valley routes there were others that ran on higher ground, perhaps because they were drier or safer. Among them are:
A road to Nether Horsburgh from Pirn Hill
• The Peebles to Edinburgh road by the Eddleston water. It ran to higher ground at Venlaw House keeping to this as much as possible until it reached Mid Lothian. Four horses were need to draw a vehicle at a rate of 3 mph. The present day road was made in 1770
• The old Neidpath road climbed from Peebles to Jedderfield and Edderston then descended to the level of the present road. The difficulties of this road and the lack of bridges on the Lyne may be the reason the old route from Tweedale and Clydesdale came by Broughton and Drummelzier. There was a ford over the Tweed above Drummelzier and the road continued through Manor parish to cross the Sware and then reach Peebles.
• The Minchmoor road ran from Traquair to cross the watershed from the Tweed into Yarrow and then onwards to Selkirk. Today the route to Selkirk is along the Tweed to Caddonfoot and Yair Bridge. The Minchmoor road had branches to Yarrowford and to Ashiesteel. It passes two places of interest - Wallace’s Trench and the Cheese Well, said to be haunted by fairies. The road was used by millers from Peebles to take meal by pack horse to Selkirk. In 1769 a bridge was built over the Quair.

There a number of hill roads that cut across the grain of the country, mostly in a north south direction. These include:
• The Drove Road, having first negotiated the Cauldstane Slap to reach Linton, crosses Hamilton Hill north of Peebles to pass through the town by the Gipsie’s Glen. It continues along a ridge between the Tweed and Glensax and from thence to Yarrow and England. Such roads were outwith the parish (statute labour) and turnpike systems and passage along them was free. In Peebles they paid a small fee to rest the cattle or sheep on the Kingsmuir.
• The Manor Road runs directly up the Manor valley to Shielhope, Norman Law and Bitch Craig over to St Mary’s Loch. There are other roads of this type.
• The Thief’s Road is a well defined track that was used by Border thieves in Ettrick and Tweedale. From Merecleugh Head or Rodono Hill it goes by Dollar Law and Scrape to Stobo, with a branch to Drummelzier. It crossed the Tweed near Stobo and is thought by some to have ran into Mid Lothian. South from Rodono Hill it went into Ettrick where it is called the Bridlepath and may have continued into Liddesdale. James V used the route on one occasion, hence it is sometimes called the King’s Road.

In early days the roads were poor or non existent. Boston remarks that roads in Ettrick in the mid 17th century were like the beds of rivers, impassable on horseback or by carriage. Improvements were made under the statute labour system where the able-bodied worked for six days in the year on the roads but they, and the bridges, were not made properly until the turnpike era.

The first bridge over the Ettrick was at Ettrick Bridge End. This was built by Wat o’Harden after a captive child was drowned when he returned from one of his raids. Part of the bridge fell in 1746 and it was swept away by a flood in 1777. A new bridge replaced it nearby. Peebles bridge was originally of wood, dating from the late 1400’s. A stone bridge was built a century later , widened in 1834 and rebuilt in 1890. For many years it, and the bridge at Berwick were the only bridges over the Tweed. There is a large bridge at Ashiesteel. Manor bridge at Manorfoot dates from 1702 and Selkirk bridge in 1778.

Peter MacNair 1920

Perthshire - click for larger imageThere is evidence of Roman roads in Perthshire. At Gask, the road from Ardoch to Orrea runs along a high ridge - it is 20 foot wide, of rough stones and has stations along its length. Orrea was near the confluence of the Tay and the Earn according to W F Skene. Traces have been found near Meigle of the road leading from Coupar to Battle Dykes. It passed near to the camp at Cardean.

Dr James Browne gives the course of the road from Ardoch. It crossed the Tay by a wooden bridge, 2 miles north of Perth, and ran on the east side of the river to the camp at Grassy Walls. From here it ran by Gallyhead, Invertrust, Nether Collin and Byres. It then ran north-easterly past Blairhead and Woodhead to Newbigging and Gallowhill. From there it passed Leyston-moor to reach a camp at Coupar Angus, eleven and a half miles from Orrea.

After the 1715 rebellion, General Wade, as a result of his inquiry into the condition of the country was tasked with creating proper roads in the Highlands. Some of these, such as Glen Ogle, were in Perthshire and can still be traced today though in a much deteriorated condition.

These roads made communications much easier as noted in the well-known lines: " Had you seen but these roads before they were made You would have held up your hands and blessed General Wade." The roads and bridges today are in fine condtion.

The main routes are:
• Roads to Perth from Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee
• A road to Perth from Comrie, Crieff and Methven
• The road north, running by the valleys of the Tay, Tummel and Garry through Dunkeld, Pitlochry and Blair Atholl. This road was planned by Telford
• Perth to Forfar and Aberdeen by way of Coupar Angus
• Coupar Angus to Braemar by Blairgowrie and Glen Shee.
There are many side roads.

There had been several ferries on the Tay between Perth and Dunkeld but these have been or are being replaced by bridges. One at Kinclaven was worked by chains and could carry light vehicles.

There were also small harbours between Perth and Dundee that were used to take goods across the Tay and then by various routes to the towns in Strathmore. These harbours were at Kingwoodie, Powgavie and Port Allan near Errol and are now silted up.

Frederick Mort 1912

RenfrewshireGiven the need for communication between Glasgow and the Ayrshire plain and the fact that there are three tracts of hills with two valleys between Glasgow and Ayrshire, it is natural enough to find that routes run through these valleys, viz. the Lochwinnoch Gap and the Loch Libo Gap. A coastal route is also used and makes convenient use of the raised beach.

Although these routes have been used for centuries, proper roads are relatively recent. Most goods were carried by pack-horse, for example between Dumbarton and Port Glasgow to Glasgow. A stage coach between Glasgow and Edinburgh only started in the mid 1700’s and only travelled at 3 or 4 miles an hour. Roads improved with the passing of the Turnpike Act in 1751, and more recently with the passing of responsibility for roads to the county councils in 1889.

Although it is long disused, the Glasgow to Paisley canal was very busy in its time with some thousand passengers using it each day. In 1805 an Act was passed permitting the construction of a canal between Paisley and Ardrossan but due to lack of finance it only reached as far as Johnstone. It was later filled in and used as a railway line.

William John Watson

Ross and Cromarty - click for larger mapWheeled vehicles were used in Scotland in early times, e.g. on Caledonian chariots and Roman waggons. Early roads however were tracks and this was the case in Ross until the late 1700's when people walked or rode and carried goods on horseback.

There are mentions of early bridges and ferries: the "brigg of Alness" in 1439 and in 1649 when it was to be repaired. At much the same time Dingwall wanted to build a bridge. There were ferries at Ardersier, Kessock, Invergordon, Cromarty and Portincoulter (the Meikle Ferry).

The Wade roads did not continue north of Inverness although his successor Major Caulfeild built a road from Contin to Poolewe in 1761. The Taylor and Skinner map of 1775 has a road from Inverness to Beauly and Tain, and then the Meikle Ferry, with a branch from Dingwall towards Strathpeffer, one from Nigg to the Cromarty ferry, and one to Tarbat.

The Black Isle had a road from Kessock Ferry to Tarradale, Contin and Fortrose, and one from Conon to Cromarty with branches to ferries at Rosemarkie and Invergordon.

A road ran by Glenshiel and Loch Duich over Mam Ratagan to Glenelg. An Act was passed in 1803 and resulted in much work between 1807 and 1821 under Thomas Telford. The road from Garve to Ullapool was built about 1812 and the old Bonar Bridge dates from this time. There was also a road between Garve and Strome Ferry. The roads further west date from much later.

A coach ran from Inverness to Tain in 1809 and the journey from Edinburgh to Carrol in Sutherland could be done in just over 47 hours. In 1818, Edinburgh to John O'Groats could be done without using a ferry or ford or drag chains on a descent. There was tolls on the roads until 1866 and some of the toll houses remain. Coach services were affected with the introduction of the railways in the 1860's although these did not reach Cromarty, Gairloch or Ullapool.

Shipping was important with, for example, boats arriving at Dingwall in 1792 from London and Leith. In 1839 steamers started sailing from Leith to Inverness and Invergordon.

Good roads run throughout Lewis from Stornoway and there are good bus services. Boats sail to Mallaig and the Kyle of Lochalsh where there are railway stations, as well as to Glasgow with many intermediate calls.

William Douglas Simpson 1928

StirlingshireThe primitive hunting paths and trading routes of the early inhabitants were superseded by the roads built by the Romans. A major road came from the south past Newstead, Inveresk, Falkirk and Camelon where it went north to cross the Forth near Sirling and continue to the forts at Ardoch and Strageath in Perthshire. Another road is thought to have branched off from the western road from Carlisle at Carluke and joined the Antonine Wall at Castlecary.

After the departure of the Romans and throughout the middle ages the roads declined and communications in Scotland were very poor. Most of the roads were tracks, called "green ways" though there were "king's ways", "highways", and "causeways" that were presumably of a higher standard. The "king's way" was under royal protection with heavy penalties for any crimes committed on it. Trade was mainly carried out by pack-horse. There were few bridges though there was one at Stirling in the 13th century. Ferries may have existed at an earlier date.

A Robert Spittal who died in 1557 and was tailor to James IV and his Queen funded several bridges in Stirlingshire, viz. at Bannockburn, over the Devon at Tullibody, and the Teith near Doune. All are still standing.

A description of the main roads in the county follows - these can be seen on the map.

WEST LOTHIAN (Linlithgowshire)
T S Muir 1912

West Lothian (Linlithgowshire)The county has no natural centre to act as a focus for routes although in early days Linlithgow and Bathgate formed convenient stopping places on the way to Stirling and Lanark from Edinburgh.

In Roman times a road ran from the south to Cramond. The Roman wall with its associated road ran from Carriden over to the Clyde. It is likely that Cramond and Carriden were joined by a road.

The road from Carriden or more properly Bridgeness ran five miles to Inveravon where it forded the Avon. It was 17 feet wide and constructed with a base of large stones with smaller stones above with a cambered surface although there were no kerbs. Less is known about the Cramond road and it cannot now be traced.

In the middle ages, bridges dating from before the 12th century existed over the Almond at Cramond and over the Avon near Linlithgow, an indication that there must have been rough tracks. Transport was primitive with hurdles or wicker sledges used for short journeys and pack horses for longer ones - wheeled vehicles were rare.

In the 13th century the monks of Newbattle Abbey negotiated rights of way with various landowners between the abbey and their lands in Lanarkshire. The route was past Broxburn and Bathgate.

Several road acts were passed in the 17th century, mostly requiring tenants and cottars to work on parish roads each year, with assistance from landlords if necessary. This was changed later to allow a payment to be made instead. There was legislation in 1633, relating to the visit of Charles I, requiring the roads to be widened again as people had been encroaching on their limits.

In 1751 the first turnpike road in Scotland was constructed between Edinburgh and Queensferry. Some of the toll-houses still exist. In the early 1800’s the new methods of road making developed by Telford and Macadam greatly improved the roads. Turnpikes continued until 1883 when the local authorities took over the roads. Burghs are now responsible for their roads and streets and county councils for all other roads.

The roads on the two main valleys that run east and west are generally very level - these are to Stirling by Linlithgow and Glasgow by Bathgate. There are however steep hills near Cramond Bridge and at Hawes Brae near Queensferry. By contrast the north south routes are very hilly.

As there are very few coastal towns, the only road on the coast of any note is from Bo’ness to Grangemouth. There is an ancient ferry at Queensferry where it is only a mile over to Fife. It is mostly used by cars and vans. Motor buses run there each day from Edinburgh, as well as to Broxburn and Uphall.