|Location Map ( geo)
|14.5 miles (23.3 km)
|A846, B8017, B8018
|Route outline (key)
One of just two A-roads on Islay, the A847 runs west from the A846 (the other one) at Bridgend keeping close to the coast of Loch Indaal at all times. The first half is two-way, before it drops to a wide single track with passing places, but this is plenty for the small volume of traffic using it. It is a scenic route which follows the eastern coast of the beautiful Rhinns of Islay, but it is worth exploring the side roads that lead off to the beaches and hidden coves of the west coast!
Starting at Bridgend, the road turns off the A846 next to the Bridgend stores, filling station and hotel, which is actually the bulk of this village, and heads west, winding through the woodlands of the Islay House estate. The shore quickly comes into view, with a wide expanse of sand at the head of Loch Indaal visible at low tide. At high tide, the beach almost disappears. After a couple more wiggles, the road is right on the shore, and stays there, or at the back of the dunes at least, for several miles. The ground the road is crossing is (or is very like) Machair, the fertile sandy ground which is a haven to wild flowers and basically only found on the Hebridean Isles and west coast of the Highlands.
A number of right turns lead off towards the west coast, including the B8017 and then the B8018, the latter reaching the coast at Sanaigmore. The road then turns southwards, and the beach diminishes to leave a rocky shore with sandy coves as it comes to the first village, of Bruichladdich. Little more than a row of houses strung along the roadside, the famous distillery (one of eight on the island) is at the heart of the village, with a pier roughly opposite from which the whisky was once shipped, and the raw materials imported.
Continuing south, it is now just a couple of miles to Port Charlotte, roughly halfway along the road. This pretty village steps down to the shore and small pier and is well worth a short stop for exploration. A right turn in the heart of the village leads up past the school before crossing the Rhinns to the west coast at Kilchiaran Bay, and then turning south to meet the A847 once more. The road through the village has a couple of narrow pinch points which see the white line disappear, but it remains wide enough for two cars to pass (as well as parking in many places) through to the NSL signs at the far end. Here it starts to reduce in width, with shallow passing places in the verge. A large caravan park – the only one on the island – is passed on the shore side and the road stays a little inland, but with the rocky coast never out of sight.
Nerabus is the next settlement passed through, little more than a couple of farms and a scattering of houses, and here the road loses touch with the coast. It is never really that far to the shore, but as the road turns a little further inland, a slight rise in the ground means that the sea finally disappears at Octofad Farm. A right turn here, which looks to be no more than a rough track, is signed at the further end as a road to Octofad, suggesting it is another of the 'abandoned' roads that can be found on Islay.
The sea does return to view, but as the road slowly diverges from the shore, and with high hedges and undulating ground, it is not the constant companion of the earlier miles. There are, however, just a few miles left, and after passing the farm of Wester Ellister, the road turns behind a bracken coasted hillock, before suddenly the sea appears ahead. This is almost the end of the road, with just half a mile or so left dropping down to the pretty village of Portnahaven. At first glance there seem to be just a scattering of houses here, but suddenly the old village around the harbour appears and the road turns and drops down between rows of houses to reach the shore once more at a bus turning place. The A847 itself appears to turn right at the bottom and cover the last few yards of this shore dead end before it runs out of island. The next land due west of here is in Canada.
All of the route of the A847 was originally built by Thomas Telford as part of his commission on Highland Roads and Bridges. Despite the few upgrades and improvements that have been made, not least widening the eastern section, the current road seems to follow Telfords line with minimal deviation.