18th Century Military Roads 

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The Military Roads of Scotland are outlined here (button left) on an expandable Ordnance Survey map.    Only five of the roads were built before Roy’s survey; most were completed  later, and well after the ’45 rebellion was over.   

During the 1715 and 1745 rebellions the Government had been shaken by the absence of any proper roads in the Highlands.  In the aftermath, it commissioned the army to build an extensive network of ‘made’ roads in order to improve access for troops and connect the various fortresses and barracks. This was an important arm of its pacification process. The Romans had done the same, and for the same reason, in the first century CE.  Perhaps there was also  an appreciation that trade, transport and comminication would  contribute signicantly to prosperity and also  therefore to pacification.   

Major-General George Wade was appointed Commander-in-Chief, North Britain, in 1724. His road building programme was underway by 1726. In 1740, he relinquished his command and his  successor, Major William Caulfield assumed control of the programme. Caulfield's governance lasted until 1767. Thereafter, the army project continued under several different very senior commands, until around 1790. The roads were sometimes new builds, but more usually comprehensive upgrades from pre-existing, unstructured ‘horse-roads’ to metalled ‘carte-roads’. On the eastern Aberdeenshire roads the army’s contribution was sometimes little more than intermittent repair, which was commissioned and paid for by the County authorities. Most of the roads and bridges were built by Major Caulfield, albeit that they are still referred to as ‘Wade roads'.  Wade had spent £25,000 on his roads programme; Caulfield spent £130,000. The Jacobite threat had receded by 1767 and when the latter  retired a re-appraisal took place, followed by a period of limited maintenance and repair.  There was then some further army building in the 1780s, but by now  the new turnpike commissioners  had largely appropriated the armys role.    

Completion dates were  as follows-

Fort William to Inverness (and Fort George)      Wade 1727
Dunkeld to Inverness                                      Wade 1728
Crieff to Dalnacardoch (joining the above)        Wade 1730
Dalwhinnie to Fort Augustus                            Wade 1731

Stirling to Crieff                                             Caulfield 1742
Dunbarton to Inverary                                    Caulfield 1750
Stirling to Fort William                                    Caulfield 1753
Tarbet to Crianlarich                                       Caulfield 1754
Dalmally to Bonawe                                       Caulfield 1754
Corgaff to Aberdeen                                       Caulfield about 1756
Coupar Angust to Fort George                         Caulfield 1757
Coupar Angus to Dunkeld                               Caulfield 1761
Inverary to Tyndrum                                      Caulfield 1761
Inverary to Tyndrum                                      Caulfield 1761
Aberdeen to Fochabers                                   Caulfield 1763
Huntly to Portsoy                                           Caulield 1763
Fort Augustus to Bernera                                Caulfield 1763
Fettercairn to Fochabers                                 Caulfield about 1764
Bridge of Sark to Port Patrick                           Caulfield/Rickson* 1765
Sluggan Bridge to Dalnain Bridge                     Caulfield before 1767
Grantown to Forres                                        Caulfield before 1767

Dunbarton to Stirling                                     Oughton* 1780
Stranraer to Ballantrae                                   Mackay*  1784
Fort William to Glencoe                                  MacKay*  1786
Grantown to Aviemore                                   Gordon*  about 1789
Dulsie to Aviemore                                        Gordon*  1790

*Major Rickson was the Depute Quartermaster General in Scotland. He was nominally under the supervision of Major Caulfield but entirely took control of the Galloway road.  Lieutenant General Sir James Adolphus Oughton was Commander in Chief, North Britain from 1778 to 1780 and was superseded by Lieutenant General Alexander McKay. General Lord Adam Gordon was in charge from 1789.    

Dec. 2012                                               Last updated May 2015