|Location Map ( geo)|
|Distance:||19 miles (30.6 km)|
|Meets:||A816, B8024, B8026, A8015|
|Route outline (key)|
After a long and winding route from Loch Lomondside, the A83 turns south at Lochgilphead as it heads down the long peninsula of Knapdale and Kintyre to Campbeltown. The route out of Lochgilphead follows the shore of Loch Fyne most of the way to Tarbert, where it crosses to West Loch Tarbert, an inlet of the Atlantic. It then reaches Kennacraig, home of the Islay Ferries, and current end of the trunk route.
Lochgilphead - Tarbert
From the A816 roundabout junction on the western side of Lochgilphead, the A83 heads south, mostly along the shore of Loch Gilp, although occasionally slipping slightly in land behind houses. These houses are mainly grand Victorian Villas, those on the landward side sandwiched between the road and the Crinan Canal which runs parallel to the road. This is the northern end of Ardrishaig, effectively a suburb of Lochgilphead, and home to the eastern end of the Crinan Canal which still allows boats to shortcut from the Firth of Clyde to the west coast and Hebrides, without having to spend a day sailing round the Mull of Kintyre. They spend a day in the canal locks instead!
After passing the shops and car park in Ardrishaig the road narrows to single track as it crosses the canal swing bridge, with signed priority rather than traffic lights, despite the slightly obscured sight lines. The road soon immediately to the lochside, after running behind the port buildings, and the small area of council housing quickly gives way to more Victorian Villas. Many streams tumble steeply down the hillside through the forestry above the houses, and a brief realignment just past the Allt na Craig Guest House straightens a slight bend and bypasses two old bridges.
The road now sweeps round a headland, and past the last houses of Ardrishaig as it continues south, now back to the shore of Loch Fyne proper. Occasional houses appear on the roadside as it sweeps south with good visibility and a wide carriageway which continues through the small village of Inverneill. Here the B8024 turns off on its long trek around the western coast of Knapdale through Kilberry and back to the A83 just before Tarbert. 32 miles via Kilberry or 9 on the main road!
The roadside is still relatively well built up through Inverneill and Stronachullin, but then the houses become more scattered. A layby on the shore side shows another minor realignment, and the road remains a decent width, although not quite up to modern standards, for the next couple of miles as it snakes along the shoreline in a series of bends. There are no double white centre lines, but it is nigh on impossible to overtake anything but the slowest moving traffic through here.
As the route reaches the tiny settlement of Erines, it narrows further and the centre line disappears. Signs warn of oncoming traffic in the middle of the road, but it is only if two lorries or coaches were to meet that the road is too narrow for vehicles to pass at speed. Fortunately, within half a mile the road widens out again and soon leaves the shore behind. First, though, a short inland loop at Meall Mhor may show an old alignment, but one which was replaced well over a century ago.
As the A83 turns inland, a driveway on the left leads through to Stonefield Castle Hotel. This is another loop which may once have been the main road south, but again the current alignment predates 1922 when the route was numbered. Climbing around the back of Barr Hill, we pass the main entrance to the hotel, and then the road swings sharp left at the other junction with the B8024. Still climbing, the road quickly reaches a summit and then starts the long, gentle descent through trees into Tarbert, entering the town at the top and running down between houses to the town centre at the harbour. Here the A8015 turns off left around the harbour to the Portavadie Ferry slipway.
Tarbert - Kennacraig
From the harbour in Tarbert, the road heads west, climbing steadily out of town, but hardly gains any height before dropping back to the shore of West Loch Tarbert. Just before the loch is reached, a side road turns off to the right, crossing the head of the loch to meet the B8024. This road has recently been improved to allow forestry traffic to bypass Tarbert. Half a mile further on the B8026 turns off right at Whitehouse. This is the old alignment of the A83 as it went past the pier on West Loch Tarbert.
The new road climbs through a pass behind a low hill, while the old road followed the coast. Beyond the old pier, once used by the Islay Ferries, the road is gated as it is now a driveway to a house and then a rough track which rejoins the new road as it reaches the lochside. Whilst the exact date of this realignment is not known, it is not shown on the 1956 OS One Inch map, but the B8026 has a pre-worboys sign at the junction, suggesting that the new road was built sometime around 1960.
From here it is just over 3 miles to Kennacraig, and while the road stays close to the lochside, as it takes a direct line through woodland, there are few views of the loch to be gained. Several streams are crossed along the way, but while the A83 was presumably only single track when first classified, there is no evidence of old bridges to the sides of the current two-way structures, suggesting that the old bridges were either widened or replaced.
As the road approaches Kennacraig, glimpses of the port are visible to the right, most noticeable when a ferry is berthed. This is quiet a regular occurrence, however, as Kennacraig is often used as the berth for Calmacs spare ferry, as it is roughly equidistant between the Clyde and Hebridean services. The port itself is reached via a causeway across to the island. The junction is where the trunk route currently ends, and while the onward route to Campbeltown is marked as Primary, it is maintained by the local council.