General Wade's Military Road, Crieff to Aberfeldy
Start location: Hill Street, Crieff (NN 864 217)
End location: Old Crieff Road, Aberfeldy (NN 855 490)
Geographical area: Perth, Kinross and Stirling (part)
Path Type: Military Road
Path distance: 40km
Accessibility info: Suitable for pedestrians
Newsflash: the Crieff & Strathearn Drovers' Tryst (7-14 October 2017) sees this old military road walked from Newton Bridge to Glen Cochil on 10th October; the entire route from Crieff to Dalnacardoch is the subject of a talk that evening. There is also an opportunity to visit the Sma' Glen with an archaeologist from the Perth & Kinross Heritage Trust on 11th October. Other historic routes featured as part of the festival include the hill track from Callander to Comrie, the Ardtalnaig to Comrie Drove Road, the Rannoch Drove Road and the Kenmore to Amulree track.
From the centre of Crieff the course of the military road can be followed north-east along Ferntower Road to reach Crieff Golf Course. As there is nothing left of the road over the golf course, it is advisable to take a detour along the track to the north of the course. At the north-east edge of the golf course, the route crosses a gully and skirts around the east side of the Knock of Crieff before striking north, crossing the road to Monzie and joining the A822. After about 600m, the track of the Wade Road diverges from the A822 and goes directly north-east across the moor to a point (NN898267) near the Foulford Inn. Opposite the inn, commences the first really distinct section of the old road, going NNE over the shoulder of the hill towards the Sma' Glen, dropping down to the modern road 2km further on (NN905294). A kilometre beyond, off the A822, lies Clach Ossian.
The major off-road section of the route starts 1km further north beyond Newton Bridge where at NN890318, the divergence of the old road westwards from the new is easily identified by the presence of a (now grass-topped) Wade bridge. Crossing this simple bridge, go for 2km along the old road which roughly parallels the new one before rejoining it briefly. 800m further on, the old road passes above Corrymuckloch and goes directly to Amulree where, fortunately for walkers and cyclists, vehicular traffic now uses a new bridge bypassing the narrow Wade Bridge.
From Amulree, Wade's Road continues north, cutting the corner of the A826 by climbing over the hillside, across Glen Fender and into Glen Cochill. After crossing and recrossing the A826, the Old Military Road keeps straight up the west bank of the Cochill Burn for over 3km, passing a little Wade bridge opposite Scotston. The straight section continuing across the moorland after passing Scotston is on rather boggy ground and eventually is lost in forestry plantations about 800m south of Loch na Craige where the modern road is rejoined. The Wade Road passes the loch 100m to its east.
On the descent towards Aberfeldy the Wade Road goes arrow straight down through trees towards Gatehouse, where the two roads coincide. They part for the final time at NN870485 and the old road goes straight to the heart of Aberfeldy down the old Crieff Road directly to The Square.
OS Landranger 52 (Pitlochry and Aberfeldy) or 58 (Perth & Alloa, Auchterarder)
From 1730, one of the earliest military roads built under the auspices of General Wade linked Crieff with Dalnacardoch, a distance of 44 miles. Here the focus is solely on the part between Crieff and Aberfeldy, as the remainder of the route north to Dalnacardoch remains almost entirely in use by the modern road network. Frustratingly for General Wade, there was delay in completion of Aberfeldy's Tay Bridge and it was not officially opened until 1735; JB Salmond sets the opening scene of his book Wade In Scotland (1934) on this stretch of military road with the General travelling to the great bridge's opening ceremony.
The first section of the road is very interesting in that it shows just how direct the military roads were as it runs straight into Crieff; in contrast with the modern A85 which is less direct. However, there appears to be some debate over the exact course of the road north of Crieff. It is followable until the golf course where Ordnance Survey depict it crossing over directly and then turning north. William Taylor's The Military Roads of Scotland and the aforementioned JB Salmond both describe it as passing Ferntower. That being said, Salmond's description is somewhat vague; his subsequent reference to the gate of Monzie Castle and Taylor's to its entrance can both be taken to mean the East Lodge at NN883240. Indeed Taylor's own map appears to be at variance with his written description and grid references. If further detail about the historic line is required, we suggest consulting the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland website and considering the information therein; in fact RCAHMS helpfully sets out extracts from both Salmond and Taylor's books alongside its own detailed surveys for the whole route.
The first road Wade's successor, Major Caulfeild, had built was a southwards extension to this route (in 1741-42) in order to improve access between Stirling and Dalnacardoch. The entirety of the route from Stirling to Dalnacardoch is beautifully shown on Taylor and Skinner's map published in 1776.
A former King's House is located at Amulree, but its origins stretch back further than Wade for it was founded as a drovers' inn in 1714. This is perhaps not surprising for Amulree lies at a crossroads of old routes - to Crieff, Kenmore, Aberfeldy and Logiealmond. Theresa Mackay has researched into female innkeepers; she says of Janet McLaren, for a time the innkeeper at Amulree, "she saw horse dealers and constables and ministers and government officials and school inspectors... And she not only provides them with bed and food she also runs her farm, she hires men to work in her hayfield, she sells whisky to road construction workers. So her days were absolutely full. It shows how important the inn was to the sustainability of the area". Mrs McLaren's 1832-1835 notebook is held by the National Records of Scotland.
Amulree formerly had a Tryst in May before one was established at Crieff; once the latter developed it is known that drovers used the route south through the Sma' Glen to reach it. Wade's Roads often exploited existing drove roads and this one it seems was no exception.