In 1688, James VII of Scotland, II of England, lost his
throne to William and Mary. His supporters, the Jacobites,
were mostly Highlanders and Catholic, and were deeply
hostile to the Hanoverian regime and to its mostly Protestant
supporters in the Lowlands. They carried out a number
of uprisings, most notably in 1715 and 1745, in an attempt
to restore the House of Stuart.
The government responded by building forts and passing
the Disarming Act after the 1715 rebellion although this
left loyal Highlanders who had surrendered their arms
defenceless against those who had not. The Highlands were
also much troubled by cattle thieving with raids reaching
as far as the Lowlands. This was eventually controlled
by the use of Independent Companies of loyal Highlanders
(the origin of the Black Watch) whose local knowledge
and understanding of Gaelic gave them an advantage over
English soldiers. However, the trouble flared up again
when they themselves became involved in the theft of cattle;
this led to them being disbanded in 1717.
With troubles continuing, Lord Lovat sent a report to
London in 1724 and effectively recommended that he be
put in charge of the region. As he was well known for
his self-serving actions the government sent its own man,
General Wade, to carry out a survey of the effectiveness
of measures taken so far, and to propose any new measures
George Wade was born in 1673 and had a successful military
career becoming a Major General by 1711 and eventually
a Field Marshal. He was also the MP for Bath. He had been
successful in countering the Jacobite threat in the south-west
of England at the time of the 1715 rising and this may
be the reason the government decided that he was the best
person to report on the situation.
assessed the number of fighting men that could be mustered
by the clans as about 12,000, potentially a significant
threat. He recommended the building of barracks, improving
local arrangements for the administration of the law,
the passing of further disarming legislation, and forming
additional independent companies. In particular he noted
that the lack of roads and bridges made it very difficult
to control the country - the garrisons were very much
cut off from each other and it was difficult to bring
troops and artillery up from the south in case of trouble.
Wade's report (and Lovat's) can be found in Burt's Letters
from a Gentleman in the North of Scotland, volume
and initial actions
His report was well received for soon afterwards he
was appointed Commander in Chief of His Majesty's forces,
castles, forts and barracks in North Britain and tasked
to implement his proposed measures. Although these were
measures intended to control the population, his bluff,
affable personality went a long way towards reducing
the hostility towards the Hanoverian regime that would
otherwise have been felt. When he left this was eroded
through high-handed and oppressive actions by the government.
His first acts were aimed at disarming the Highlanders
and training new independent companies then at building
new barracks and restoring the forts along the Great
Glen. He then concentrated on his road building programme.
The road network
road network was determined in large part by the location
of the forts and barracks. These had to be connected
to each other and to the south of the country by roads
that could be used throughout the year. Prior to the
1715 rising there had been fortifications at Fort William
and at Inverness Castle (later to be known as Fort George
and re-sited to its present location post-1745). These
were based on earlier Cromwellian fortifications. After
1715 garrisons were placed at Ruthven, Inversnaid, Bernera
(opposite Skye) and Killichuimen (later Fort Augustus).
To link these he planned for a road along the Great
Fort William and Inverness. From Dunkeld a road would
run up to Dalwhinnie where it would branch to Inverness
and Fort Augustus. It would be joined by another road
from Crieff at Dalnacardoch some miles short of Dalwhinnie.
Work did not start on a Bernera road until 1755.
The roads themselves were sixteen feet wide although in
practice they were often narrower. They were constructed
of layers of progressively smaller stones with a topping
of compacted gravel. If the ground was marshy, a cutting
was made to see if firmer ground could be reached; if
not, brushwood and timber were used
a foundation for the road. The earth removed in forming
the road was piled on either side, forming banks, and
ditches were dug on the outside of these for drainage.
Cross-drains were used if there was a slope. The roads
were constructed as straight as possible and included
some steep stretches. When the gradient became too severe,
zig-zags were employed.
road between Crieff and Aberfeldy
Grave - a large glacial erratic moved when making
the road through the Sma' Glen. Burt
gives an account of this.
The working parties usually consisted of 100 men and they
would work from the start of April to the end of October.
Wade treated the men well and arranged for them to be
paid more than ordinary soldiers. They stayed at camps
sited ten miles apart and inns or "King’s Houses" often
developed at these locations.
By the end of his tenure Wade had completed some 250 miles
of road and 40 bridges. When he left in 1740 Major Caulfield
was appointed to carry on with the programme of road building.
Wade went on to become a Field Marshal and commander of
British forces in Flanders, at that time fighting the
French. His final involvement with the army was in 1745
when he failed to stop the Jacobite forces marching to
London and to intercept them when they retreated. He died
three years later.
See Burt's Letters for interesting information about the
2, Letter XXVI).
See also the National
Library of Scotland website for military maps of the
period. General references for the military roads can
be found here.
See also the Heritage
Paths site for details of individual roads. Known
sections of road are shown on present day 1:50000 and
1:25000 OS maps.
- link to website
Fort William to Inverness
William to Fort Augustus
Augustus to Inverness
this road was built between 1725-1727. It ran on the
south side of the Great Glen and linked Fort William
with Fort Augustus and Inverness. It soon became apparent
that the section between Fort Augustus and Inverness
was difficult to traverse in winter and bad weather,
so a major realignment was carried out in 1732 when
a new road was built closer to Loch Ness. Major features
on the Great Glen route were the cuttings at Black Rock,
over a mile in length, on which blasting was used, and
Bridge (over the Spean) which was 280 feet in length
- see image on 1745
Association website. Canmore
|High Bridge in 2013.
A good footpath leads to the bridge from the Commando
Memorial at Spean Bridge (leaflet).
There are plans to remove the metal walkway.
(Dunkeld - Dalnacardoch)
to Inverness (Dunkeld-Dalnacardoch)
was built between 1727 and 1730. Wade decided on Dunkeld
as the starting point as the existing road between Perth
and Dunkeld was sufficiently good. At the time there
were two ferries over the Tay at Dunkeld which had replaced
the mediaeval bridge which had been destroyed by floods,
probably in the 1590's (see Christopher R Ford, Dunkeld:
Telford's Finest Highland Bridge, Perth & Kinross
seems to have considered building a bridge here but
difficulties with the Duke of Athol led to him to select
Aberfeldy on the Crieff to Dalnacardoch road as the
location for a bridge - see Visit
For much of its length the road is identical to the
old A9. There are several stretches where original sections
of the road can be accessed (other than the old A9)
and details of these can be found in Taylor and other
writers. The map used on this site shows the old A9.
It is advisable to consult an up to date map as there
have been major changes to the A9 in recent years.
Dunkeld to Inverness
(Dalnacardoch - Inverness)
Bridge west of Carr Bridge
mile south of Sluggan Bridge, looking
the road is identical or very close to the old A9 in
many parts. There are however three notable deviations
from this line. One is from Crubenmore, north of Dalwhinnie,
to Ruthven barracks which would also have served as
a link between Ruthven and Fort Augustus. Another is
the stretch of several miles passing to the west of
Carrbridge as far as the Slochd. Finally there is a
long stretch from Loch Moy to Inverness; interestingly,
part of this route is followed by the new A9 road.
is worth noting that there were two early routes from
near Blair Atholl over to the Spey valley. These were
Comyn's road and the Minigaig. The Minigaig route, which
appears on Greene's map of 1689, was used by soldiers
to reach the barracks at Ruthven (built in 1719). Wade
decided on the Drumochter Pass as it was lower and less
likely to be snowed in in winter.
Fort Augustus road via the Corrieyairrack Pass left
the Inverness road at Dalwhinnie. Features of interest
on this stretch are the Wade Stone that can be seen
just past Dalnacardoch and Oxbridge where Wade treated
the men to a feast.
Wade's time there was an existing road between Crieff
and Stirling which he must have thought was adequate
as the new road was to start at Crieff. Work began in
1730. The route incorporated the notable bridge
over the River Tay at Aberfeldy which was built in 1733.
the early 1740's the road between Stirling and Crieff
was improved under Caulfeild.
to Fort Augustus (Corrieyairack
to Fort Augustus
road was built in 1731 by working parties totalling
just over 500 men. It was 28 miles in length and climbed
to a height of 2543 ft over the Corrieyairack Pass.
North of Dalwhinnie there was a linking stretch of road
that served as a short cut to Ruthven barracks. It is
a popular recreational route today.
leaflet - Highland Council
For details and photos of this section of the Inverness
road, see the feature by Neil Ramsay of the Heritage
Paths programme in the newsletter below.