In an effort to resuscitate my relationship with Scotways after a summer in which I've neglected my route surveying - and with a bit of a more selfish wish to follow through on an old project of my own - I recently cycled the old military road from Aviemore over the Slochd to near Tomatin. I'd already been over a bit of the route a few years ago and was always fascinated by the sight of the old road at my start and finish points.
For those that are unfamiliar with the military roads in Scotland, a bit of background; they are often attributed to General Wade who was tasked with improving the lines of communication in Scotland after the first Jacobite rebellion. He was followed by Major William Caulfield, whom history has rather forgotten. Of course, other older - and newer - military roads also exist and both Wade and Caulfield were often happy to use existing routes through the Highlands as a base for their roads.
My introduction to these old roads was via my father who would often tell us when we were driving along sections that have now been used as the alignment for the modern roads. Most folk who've driven anywhere in Scotland will have been along one section or another, especially if you've ever been on the A9. He was always fascinated by their "antiquity" and I guess he passed that on to me. Of course, being a keen walker and cyclist, I've been able to find more sections than he ever knew existed.
One of the issues with 300-year old roads is that most have gradually been over-laid, dug up, planted with trees or built on. It's therefore great to come across a section that is still largely intact, or at least where the existing line is both visible and can be followed on foot or on bike.
As the section nearest Aviemore is now split by the A9 I headed onto the Wade Road from the access track to Kinveachy Lodge. the old route is plainly visible, though now barely used.
|Easy to miss this junction|
From here, the road carries on over some lovely, lonely countryside now bypassed by the more modern re-alignment of the road through and past Carrbridge. The route is briefly shared with an off-road alternative to National Cycle Network (NCN) route 7, including the use of the bridge at Sluggan.
|The beautiful Sluggan Bridge. Not Wades - he just forded the river. This was Caulfields work.|
|Ah - here's a typical Wade bridge near Slochd.|
Up until this point, the track has all been easy cycling so I was looking forward to the last few miles down to Raigbeg. It all started easily enough, with a new track joining up with the alignment of the old Wade Road near one of the numerous marker stones that infrequently mark the route.
|Marker stone. One of many on the route.|
|Snow-capped Cairngorms in mid October.|
|The line of the road is just visible but wider tyres would have been preferred.|
|The old road seems to have been completely swamped here|
|Another marker stone|
Lord, Grant that Marshal Wade,
May by thy mighty aid,
May he sedition hush,
and like a torrent rush,
Rebellious Scots to crush,
God save the King.
For those looking to sample some of this for themselves, the complete route description can be found on the ScotWays Heritage Paths website here.