|Distance:||46 miles (74 km)|
|Meets:||A848, A884, B8035|
|Old route now:||B8035|
|Route outline (key)|
Salen – Craignure
We start with a TOTSO in Salen, where the A848 runs straight into the A849, leaving a neglected spur of the former to run down to Salen Pier. Heading east, the road is full S2, although the 'dualled' section at Pennygown marked by the OS is simply where the two carriageways split over two different single-track bridges! The westbound carriageway crosses a butchered arched bridge, while the eastbound side uses the new bridge. Curiously, at the west end of the split, there are two crossovers for access to field gates.
Immediately beyond the bridge, the driveway on the left follows the old road line, which can be picked up properly by the graveyard a little further along - it is now used for parking and access to the council depot. The road hugs the coast now, with stunning views across the Sound of Mull to Morvern. Watch out for Calmac ferries connecting the outer isles as they travel up and down this veritable motorway of the sea. During the summer months there are also a multitude of yachts tacking back and forth, providing a mobile slalom course for the ferries!
After about six miles from Salen, we climb through forestry and near the summit meet the southern end of the A884, which connects to Morvern and so the mainland via the Lochaline to Fishnish Ferry. Dropping down out of the forest to the coast, the road passes through a couple of small rock cuttings. Careful observation will let you spot the old road forking off in a couple of places to climb over the bumps that the road now cuts through. The mile or two around the coast of Scallastle Bay is particularly pretty, and then a short climb past Craignure Golf Course on the shoreside brings us into the village. Craignure is now the main ferry port for the Mull Ferries from Oban. We have now reached the end of the S2 road, and have another 35 miles of single-track stretching out ahead of us.
Craignure – Fionnphort
The road is not dull, however, with a wide range of scenery and many pretty villages along the way. To start with, we climb out of Craignure, heading south through trees with left turns to Torosay and Duart Castles. The road then drops back to the shore at Lochdon, which curiously has a single-track bypass, before passing through more low hills for a brief drive along the shore of Loch Spelve. At the end of the loch, a minor road crosses the Lussa River on its way to Lochbuie and Croggan, whilst the A849 climbs up Glenmore through forestry above the Lussa River. At the end of the forestry, we enter the barren and desolate Glen More proper, where sheep and oncoming traffic are the only signs of life. They are certainly the most important thing for drivers to look out for, sharp bends and steep hills being slightly less frequent through the summer months.
Eventually, the brilliant blue (or slate grey) waters of Loch Scridian appear ahead, and at the last possible moment the B8035 (which we missed by yards in Salen) departs to the right to skirt the northern shore of this sea loch. We stay on the southern shore, passing the many pretty villages and farmsteads that line the road. Pennyghael, Bunessan and the terminus of Fionnphort are the biggest.
And so, after thirty five mile and an hour if you are lucky (and you started in Craignure), you have reached Fionnphort, just in time to see MV Loch Buie, the Iona Ferry, pulling away from the slip. Fortunately, it will be back within half an hour (in summer), and you can spend the intervening time watching the sunshine sparkle on the calm waters between you and Scotland's most magical Isle (or sitting in the car listening to the rain drum on the roof, wishing you were back at home in the warm)!
When the number was originally allocated, the A849 took the current route of the B8035. The road round the east coast was unclassified but was given the number B8035 in the late 1920s. The two numbers were swapped in the 1960s, probably when the Oban-Craignure ferry service gained importance.
According to some maps which pre-date the mid 1930s, the route now taken by the A849 through Glen More was no more than a path in 1922 when road numbers were first issued. However, other maps show a track through the glen, and there is some ambiguity which makes the truth difficult to discover. What can be said with certainty is that the road now followed by the A849 is not the original road through the glen. That can be seen snaking across the landscape first to the south, then the north of the modern road, before swapping back and forth a few more times. A number of bridges survive on this old road, of varying ages, but several are clearly Victorian in date as the road drops out of the glen to the west. All this proves, however, is that there was a road up the glen from the west, the section across the summit and down towards Loch Spelve being less easy to date.