I've just read on the BBC News website about the most unpopular roads in Scotland, according to an internet survey. Unsurprisingly, the top three are Inverness roads – the A96 (to Aberdeen), the A9 (to Stirling and Thurso) and the A82 (to Fort William and Glasgow).
I'm always amazed at how much Inverness is said to be booming for business and tourism despite so many things constraining it – no university (yet… though watch out next year), poor public transport into and round the city, housing growth lagging behind demand, a castle you can't get into unless with a Group 4 escort, licensing laws that only recently extended beyond 1.30am, poor visitor provision generally, and of course the roads.
Having spent plenty time on the roads of the highlands and beyond in my last job, I can testify to the A9, A82 and A96 being awful roads. Mostly single carriageway yet nearly always congested, there are regular reports of fatal crashes, and I've had a number of hairy moments myself (many my fault, admittedly). Most of these could have been avoided if they were all dual-carriageway, allowing lorries and caravans to go at snail pace without holding the rest of us up.
At least with the A9 and A82 you get spectacular scenery. I particularly love the A9 between Inverness and Thurso – it's a long and tortuous drive, but as long as you aren't in a hurry and don't mind the occasional use of second gear, the scenery is breathtaking, with all the beautiful beaches, pretty villages, dramatic cliffs, thick forests, and majestic castles and mountains you could ask for.
The same can't be said about the A96 – the scenery, mostly flat farmland, is not much to look at, and driving is no faster than the train. There is, however, an outstanding pie shop in Keith. And what more could you want than a decent pie?