A9 Blackcock

A snapshot from a moving vehicle

A snapshot from a briskly moving vehicle

The A9 has a bad reputation from everyone’s perspective. The police hate it because it’s so dangerous, drivers hate it because of the speed cameras, and mountain hares hate it because so many of them get flattened on it. By contrast, I love the A9. Fortunately, I don’t drive it so often that I am bored by it, and the trips I take to the North are usually anticipated with a degree of excitement. I do hate the M8, the M74 and the top half of the M6, but familiarity has bred contempt in all three cases.

Perhaps the best thing about the A9 is the dramatic shift from lowland to upland as you cross the Highland line a few miles North of Bankfoot, and the subsequent wildlife watching opportunities make even the most boring journey fly by. Grouse buzz over the road at Drumochter, and when I was driving up to Sutherland on Saturday, long queues of stags were stretched out in the snow by Newtonmore.

Most exciting of all was the sight of a tree-full of blackcock a couple of miles North of the House of Bruar, above the junction to Struan and Calvine. This is the heart of Perthshire blackgame country, and some of the best leks I have ever seen have been between this point and west towards Loch Rannoch. Perhaps fifteen cocks were crowded together in the purply branches of a silver birch tree just a few yards off the road, and I turned around at the next junction to give them another look. Fortunately, my girlfriend was in the passenger seat with a long-lens camera, and although the blackcock were up and moving by the time we came back past, she did manage a couple of snaps.

The A9 is perhaps not the best road in the world, and I maybe went too far by saying that I love it. It would be more accurate to say that I love being driven along it, so that I can peer out of the window like a six year old.

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