|Location Map ( geo)
|Port Bannatyne (NS066674)
|Port Bannatyne (circular route) (NS066674)
|Rothesay, Kingarth, Ardscalpsie
|22 miles (35.4 km)
|A886, B881, B878, B875
|A845, B880, B878, B879, B877
|Old route now:
|Route outline (key)
The A844 is one of Britain's many island roads. The road forms a circular route around the southern half of the Isle of Bute and is one of two Class I roads on the island. Most visitors to Bute arrive at one of the two ferry ports, the island capital of Rothesay, or the 'backdoor' via the Kyles of Bute Ferry and A886. For tourists, the latter is perhaps the more popular due to its short distance, low cost, high frequency and access to Argyll. We shall therefore start at the point where the A886 meets the A844 at Kames Bay.
Isle of Bute Circle
The junction at Kames Bay with the A886 is the first of many TOTSOs on the route, as it gives priority to traffic following the coast between Rothesay and the ferry. Continuing south east around the bay the road soon reaches the first major place on Bute, the village of Port Bannatyne. At a fork, the A844 cuts away from the shore and runs inland through the village, before rejoining the coast at Ardbeg at the north end of Rothesay Bay. The shore is lined with elegant Victorain Villas, reflecting Butes popularity at the time for weekend retreats from Glasgow and the surrounding towns by the wealthy industrialists, while hotels and boarding houses catered for the workers and their families.
After a short break in the houses as Skeoch Wood drops to the shore, they resume as the road enters Rothesay, the county town of Bute. Rothesay is quite a pretty town and gives its name to the Duke of Rothesay, one of the titles of the eldest son of the Scottish monarch. More fine Architecture lines the roadside, including the stunning Art Deco Rothesay Pavilion and the elegant Winter Gardens, reimagined as the Discovery Centre on the beach lawns. The road continues round the bay, past shops and cafes to the main ferry terminal for the ferry to Wemyss Bay in Renfrewshire, from where Glasgow is easily accessible by rail or the A78. Opposite the pier is the junction with the B881, a road that will be met again on the other side of the island.
The road continues, now heading north east around the south side of the bay to Bogany Point and Craigmore, where it turns south again to Ascog, effectively the end of Bute's long coastal urban area. The road through Ascog and beyond is a mixture of woods and small groups of buildings, including the stunning estate village of Kerrycroy. Here the road sweeps inland to skirt round the Mount Stuart estate, home to the Marquess of Bute. The former Marquess is former F1 driver and team mate of the late Ayrton Senna, Johnny Dumfries, although he latterly went by the name John Bute. Although the road leaves the sea, it is never that far way as Bute is a small island. The road climbs slowly up through woods and fields to a summit of 89m, before dropping back down to meet the B881 at Kingarth.
Kingarth is the southernmost part of the A844, and so from here it turns west, then quickly north west as it multiplexes with the B881 for nearly 3 miles. The coast lies a couple of fields away to the west, with fine views across the Sound of Bute to Arran. The road TOTSOs near the hamlet of Ambrismore (with the B881 continuing ahead back to Rothesay) and then skirt around Scalpsie Bay. A series of laybys and parking areas offer viewpoints, as the road navigates around Tarmore Hill, with Butes neighbour, the 60m high Inchmarnock Island, coming in to view as the road turns to the north once more. The sandy St Ninian's Bay now lies down on the shore, but the road is turning inland again, climbing a little to the junction with the B878 at Milton. This was another TOTSO, but the A844 now turns a hairpin, while the B878 turns right and goes back to Rothesay, not much more than a mile away.
The A844 is now heading south west, back towards St Ninian's bay, but before reaching it a sharp bend to the right leads onto the last bit of the circular route. A long straight leads north, slowly losing height, to reach Ettrick bay, a vast empty sandy beach. Instead of curving round the bay, however, the A844 once more turns inland and meets the B875 at another TOTSO near to a cemetery. This is just over the watershed on what is a narrow neck between Butes Hills. A straightish piece of road then leads east past Kames Castle, with an old tramway alongside, and so back to the start. You can now turn right and do the entire A844 again (or some of it) or head left on the A886 back to the mainland via the Kyles of Bute Ferry.
The original route of the A844 was its current route along the east coast from Rothesay to Kingarth. In the 1920s, it was extended along most of the other classified roads on the island to form a loop with a short stem, a sort of d-shape. This explains the large number of TOTSOs, as they mark the original route.
The A844 took over the whole of the B877 from Ettrick Bay to Rothesay (which gave the road the stem), the B879 from Kames Castle to Ballanlay and the B880 from Milton to Ambrismore. To complete the loop, it also took over part of the B878, from Ballanlay to Milton, and A845, from Ambrismore to Kingarth, leaving the remainder of these two roads behind. In the 1970s it was decided that the stem of the A844 off to Ettrick Bay was unnecessary and it was downgraded to become the B875.