The Whisky Road
Start location: Tarfside (NO 491 789)
End location: Drumcairn (NO 539 683)
Geographical area: Angus and Tayside
Path Type: Smugglers' Path, Rural Path
Path distance: 14.5km
Accessibility info: Suitable for pedestrians
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This old route has only been part-surveyed; here we look at it in two sections:
i) Northwest of Stonyford, an old cast-iron ScotWays sign (NO502727) points the way to the Clash of Wirren. The track heads north to Tarfside by the east of East Knock and the west of Cowie Hill. The direct path to Tarfside is via the Buskhead Bridge, but unfortunately this bridge is in a poor and deteriorating condition (2011). As the adjacent ford at Buskhead is not advised, for the time being it may be better to follow other rights of way to Dalbrack in order to cross the river there instead, then head to Tarfside along the road.
ii) Southeast of Stonyford the path is a lot less distinct and harder to find. We have no recent survey of this southernmost section of the path and would be grateful for an update.
This route is said to have been used by distillers trying to avoid attention; it is a remote and rough track.
The route links directly with the ancient Firmounth and Fungle roads, so it likely to have been an important part of the old network of routes through the hills from Deeside to Strathmore. The placename of Stonyford indicates that most traffic probably crossed the West Water there and continued along what is now a public road to Bridgend and thence onwards between the ancient Caterhuns. Perhaps it was mainly the illicit distillers, reivers and others avoiding attention who took the route to the east of the West Water to get to Bridgend.
The section of this path between Tarfside and Stonyford is known as the Priest's Road. It is not known exactly why it is so-called, but presumably it must have been used at some time by a minister to get to his parish church. Additionally, on the OS 6" mapping, east of East Knock and northeast of Clash of Wirren can be seen the words Chapmans Holms. A chapman was an itinerant trader who would visit householders selling wares or services and were thus hugely important in remote areas. The name on the maps is another clue as to who may have used the path in the past.