At the beginning of the 17th century, Perth and Kinross already had a complex network of roads and tracks. These ranged from small informal paths to deliberately maintained roads and causeways. Significant research into the locations and oral history of Scottish drove roads was undertaken in the mid-20th century (Haldane 1952). However, physical investigation of these routes in Perth and Kinross has been limited and many questions remain regarding their origins and how long they were in use. Further research into traditional land routes in Perth and Kinross, including the use of drove roads, would be helpful.
It was sometimes thought in the past that ‘no roads were made in Scotland until the seventeenth century’ – a claim that is patently untrue (Moir 1957). Yet, the post-medieval period did see developments in land transport which significantly speeded up travel within Perth and Kinross. A major expansion to the road network took place in the 18th century, after General George Wade’s review of fortifications in the Highlands noted problems with travel between strategic locations, and the period from the late 1720s to the late 1760s saw large-scale construction of roads and bridges (a programme initially overseen by Wade and later by William Caulfeild). Two major new routes were established through Perth and Kinross – significantly altering the landscape between Dunkeld and Dalnacardoch, and Crieff and Dalnacardoch. Extensive research has been undertaken regarding the routes, bridges and rationale behind both Wade and Caulfeild’s building programmes (Stephen 1936; Taylor 1976; Curtis 1979; Farquharson 2011). However, more research regarding the experience of the ordinary soldiers working on the projects and the impact of the new routes on surrounding communities might be of interest. The Crieff to Dalnacardoch military road has been less affected by road upgrades and improvements than the Dunkeld to Inverness military road, and is mostly surrounded by agricultural land. A combination of metal detecting survey and small-scale test pitting or excavation could be used to try to identify the locations of camps used during the road’s construction.
The new military road network improved connectivity between the Highlands and the rest of Britain. During the late 18th century, the Highlands became an increasingly popular tourist destination, especially as conflict in Continental Europe posed challenges for travel outside of the British Isles. The 18th and early 19th centuries saw numerous travel accounts published which contain detailed descriptions of journeys in Perth and Kinross. Notable accounts include those of Richard Pococke (who travelled here in the 1740s, 1750s, and 1760s), Thomas Pennant (1760s), Barthelemy Faujas de St-Fond (1780s) and James Hogg (1800s). Although these are clearly outsiders’ perspectives on the region, they are an invaluable source of information about the experience of travel in Perth and Kinross, and sometimes describe otherwise poorly documented sites, customs and communities. These texts have received a degree of scholarly attention in relation to themes such as the formation of British identities, but are still underutilised as sources for the landscape and infrastructure of Perth and Kinross (Colbert 2012; Smethurst 2012).
The late 18th and early 19th centuries saw further development to the road system with the construction of turnpikes. The modern A90 owes its origins to the turnpike from Perth to Dundee. This transport project was hailed by a late 18th-century minister of St Madoes as ‘one of the greatest improvements that has ever taken place in this country’ (Black 1792, 574–5). Toll houses were built beside many of these new roads to accommodate the workers who collected money from travellers. Perth and Kinross has numerous surviving toll houses, with over 30 recorded in the region. There are also in excess of 270 milestones, more than in any other Scottish council area. The high density of milestones arguably reflects the historic importance of Perth and Kinross for road transport. Because toll houses, milestones and other remains of the 19th-century road system are frequently close to busy modern routes, they are sometimes in vulnerable locations. Careful monitoring of these monuments to the region’s transport history would be beneficial.
The introduction of railways in the mid-19th century revolutionised long-distance travel in the British Isles. Perth and Kinross was not at the forefront of the introduction of rail transport to Scotland, which was pioneered by the waggonways from collieries to the coast. Railways came first to Perthshire as a short link to Coupar Angus from Newtylein 1841, and only later stretched to make Perth an important transport hub. The region’s early rail routes have been quite well-researched and aspects of the infrastructure, designed by Joseph Mitchell among others, still impress. The initial idea that railways could integrate with roads has resulted in the still remarkable severing of two parts of Coupar Angus from each other, although it is now a road that runs along that line.
Yet, it was Perth which ultimately became the region’s, and arguably Scotland’s, premier example of a ‘railway junction town’. By the end of the 1860s, railways from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen, Crieff, Dunkeld and Inverness all converged on Perth (Adams 1978, 113). To create this new transport network, tunnels and cuttings were dug, bridges and viaducts constructed and a host of stations, signal boxes and railway cottages sprang up. Many are still in use today, while others have become redundant to the needs of the modern rail network. The late 20th century saw efforts to record many of these sites (Daniels and Dench 1980; Thomas and Turnock 1989). However, given the continuing pressures on these structures, further recording and monitoring would be desirable. Greater research into the processes by which the railways were built, including the accommodation of navvies and the destruction of pre-existing buildings and transport links, should also be a priority.
Finally, the brief history of Perth’s trams should be noted. A horse-drawn tram system opened in Perth in 1895, but was converted to electricity in the early 1900s (Hume 1983, 205). At the end of the 1920s, the tram network was replaced by buses, and the former tram depot on Perth Road (MPK8658) in Scone now lies under a modern block of flats. Roadworks may well reveal evidence of this form of transport in Perth and its immediate environs.