|Location Map ( geo)|
|Distance:||35.7 miles (57.5 km)|
|Meets:||A83, B839, A886, A880, B836, A885, B8041, A885, unclassified|
|Route outline (key)|
The A815 is approximately 40 miles long and forms a connection between the A83 trunk road and the tip of the Cowal Peninsula; however it carries very little through traffic to and from the central belt of Scotland, as the Clyde ferries carry the bulk of traffic across the river, cutting journey times substantially, and making commuting from the Clyde coastal resorts to Glasgow and its satellite towns a possibility for many. The A815 can easily be considered a road of two halves, its relatively short length notwithstanding, as the sections to the north and south of its TOTSO at Sandbank at the northern end of Dunoon are very different in character.
Cairndow - Sandbank
At the northern end, the A815 commences at the Dunoon Road End T-junction with the A83 in Glen Kinglas, close to the village of Cairndow. Heading south, it almost immediately crosses the Kinglas Water and bends sharply to the west shadowing the course of the nearby A83 for a short while before sweeping south-westwards on a long straight through forestry land. It passes through a T-junction with the single-track B839 Hell's Glen Road and the Tinkers' Heart, a Scottish travellers' monument comprising 26 quartz pebbles, before dropping down to the eastern shores of Loch Fyne at St Catherines.
So far, the A815 has been mostly fast and forested, but after the village of St Catherines it generally sticks closer to the shore, with the loch often visible in fleeting glimpses between the trees. The old road was closer still to the shore, and for a couple of miles it is still open to walkers and cyclists, as it provides access to a number of shoreside properties. At length the small settlement of Creggans is reached, a prelude to the larger village of Strachur just rounda the corner. Here, the A815 turns inland at a T-junction with the A886 on the lochside, and bypasses the bulk of the village off to the left. Now heading south-east, on a largely new line, it crosses the low watershed and the River Cur in quick succession. The tiny settlements of Glenbranter and Invernoaden have also been bypassed as the road drops down to pass along the eastern shore of Loch Eck.
After so many miles of fast, well aligned road, the lochside road winds along just above the shore, undulating gently as it goes. There are a handful of shore improvements, but the road is generally narrower and slower than before. At Whistlefield, a minor road climbs through Glen Finart to reach the shore of Loch Long at Ardentinny, but this is the largest settlement on the lochside, and only comprises a handful of properties. As the road reaches the end of the loch it continues south, following the course of the River Eachaig. Benmore Botanic Gardens lie across the river, while the Puck's Glen ravine and waterfalls are to the east. The A880 then turns off at Ardbeg, more often referred to as Kilmun Turn, to skirt the Holy Loch and follow the shore round to Ardentinny.
The road almost doubles back on itself as it crosses the River Eachaig, on the new Eachaig Bridge, before turning south again and also crossing the Little Eachaig River. The road is now skirting round the flat lands at the head of the Holy Loch, although trees hide the water from view. The B836 turns off to the right, on its long and scenic journey across to Loch Striven and then Glendaruel, while the A815 straightens out again, now bound south-east once more, before entering the rather strung-out settlement of Sandbank on the western shores of the Holy Loch.
In the centre of Sandbank the road turns north-east briefly at a 90-degree TOTSO with the A885. From here it forms the coastal route to Dunoon, while the A885 provides the more direct route into the centre of the resort. Almost immediately, it meets the very edge of the Holy Loch and slowly resumes its south-easterly course along the windy shore through Ardnadam. After Sandbank, the character of the A815 is much changed from its earlier forested surroundings, as it hugs the coast for most of the remainder of its journey. The road rounds Lazzaretto Point before entering Hunter's Quay, where the small ferry terminal offers the prospect of fast and frequent crossings to McInroy's Point on the south bank of the River Clyde near Gourock. From here it passes through Kirn along the appropriately named Marine Parade, and then Alexandra Parade into Dunoon proper where the short B8041 follows Queen Street around the north of the town centre. The A885 has split in two in the town centre, so the A815 first meets it at a mini roundabout with a tiny centre circle, then again by the pier where the one-way Argyle Street doubles back north.
Heading south from the centre of Dunoon, it is clear that the town grew to prominence as a Victorian coastal resort, thanks to the steamers sailing from Glasgow, and latterly the Renfrewshire railheads and bringing it within easy reach of many thousands of Victorian holiday-makers travelling from Glasgow and the industrial towns of Lanarkshire. The A815 passes the ancient remains of Dunoon Castle, the very obviously Victorian Castle House Museum, and Dunoon Victorian Pier before reaching its second ferry terminal, from which passenger ferries continue to make frequent crossings to Gourock.
The road performs a U-turn at the headland between the Rock Café and the University of the Highlands and Islands' Argyll College, briefly sweeping inland, before continuing southwards along the western shores of the Firth of Clyde. It passes through Bullwood, Ardhallow (with its early twentieth-century coastal battery), Innellan (with its golf course), and Newton Park, all of which feature lines of elegant Victorian terraces and villas on the hillside above the road, basking in the views across the Clyde. The next village is Toward, with two junctions for Toward Point. At the first junction for Toward Point Lighthouse, the road turns away from the water and heads westward for almost half a mile before reaching its current and rather inconspicuous terminus at the second junction for Toward Point.
The carriageway continues west from this point, but is unclassified. In 1922, the original ending of the A815 was at the first of the two junctions towards Toward, but it was soon extended westwards along the increasingly narrow unclassified road to end abruptly on the western shoreline at Port Lamont. The classified route appears to have been cut back again to the second of the Toward junctions in the 1970s, although it is not clear why. From Port Lamont, a scenic minor road continues north along the shores of Loch Striven for nearly 5 miles, but is ultimately a dead end at the entrance to the Glen Striven Estate.
From its start at the Dunoon Road End junction, the A815 follows a new line built in the 1970s and 1980s. However, it never deviates far from the old route, which for the first few miles appears to be the line laid out by Thomas Telford as his 'Ardno Road'. The descent to the old Allt Kinglas Bridge and climb back up is now almost impassable, even to walkers, but at the entrance to the Ardkinglas Estate, the old road can be found and walked for 2 miles up the hill to gain some fine views across Loch Fyne. From the estate entrance, the old road forks right at the gatehouse, and cuts a delightful path under the trees, past a small group of houses and on in a series of long straights until it is cut off by the new road. Here a path crosses the old stone wall and runs through the trees for a short distance before crossing back into a turning head at the 'Tinkers Heart', an ancient marriage spot for travelling people. The top of the hill is a short distance away, and then the tarmac cuts across a field, coming to an end just before the field edge.
On the far side of the thick belt of undergrowth a pair of laybys on the new road mark the crossing point, with the old road continuing on the far side, back amongst the trees as it curves round to the Drochaid ath na Mein (bridge) spanning the Allt Coire No. The old road then turns sharply back along the further bank and is again cut by the new road. A further section can be found in the field beyond, followed by another short section running out from a farm access, but both are comparatively inaccessible. At the bottom of the hill, the A815 runs through St Catherines village, and there is a surprising amount of evidence for the old road on the shore side of the current line. Suspiciously wide gaps in trees, short sections of tarmac crossing driveways and a couple of laybys all add up to a route that was thoroughly rebuilt.
Beyond St Catherines, the new road follows the old until a right turn gives access to another 2 miles along the shore, still fully open to walkers and cyclists as property accesses, but closed to through traffic in a couple of places. The new road then resumes the shoreline route of the old into Creggans and past the A886 junction. Just around the corner, however, the old line through Strachur village can be found, most of it still the village road, which then crosses the new road to follow the minor road to Glen Branter. Apart from the old loops at Invernoadan and Whistlefield, the A815 down Loch Eck is essentially still on the old line, a handful of laybys indicating minor improvements. On the Approach to Dunoon, the new Eachaig Bridge has been built on a new curving alignment, and there are other minor improvements, notably at the junctions, on the way to Sandbank. Other than the extension beyond Toward noted above, there are only very minor changes south of Dunoon.