|Location Map ( geo)
|Dunvegan Castle (NG248489)
|19.2 miles (30.9 km)
|A87, B8036, B886, A863, Unclassified
|Old route now:
|Route outline (key)
The A850, one of several A-roads on Skye, originally went from Kyleakin to Dunvegan via Portree, but the Kyleakin to Borve part of the route became the A87 when the Skye Bridge opened in 1995. The Borve to Dunvegan road remains the A850, possibly along with a short section through Kyleakin to the A87. This results in a lengthy 35 mile multiplex when the residual pieces of the A850 total less than 20 miles!
The section of the A850 at Kyleakin is no longer signed, nor indeed marked on maps, and is generally considered to now be unclassified. However, it still appears in the 2018 list of Highland Council roads as the A850, and no C or U number appears to have been assigned to it. Whether this is an oversight or intentional is not clear.
The Kyleakin section of the A850 therefore possibly starts at the old ferry slipway in Kyleakin where the ferry from Kyle of Lochalsh used to sail to when this was the main route to the Isle of Skye. This service stopped when the Skye Bridge opened in 1995. It continues along the shore through the village of Kyleakin on the main street, Kyleside. At the end of the village it meets the A87 at the end of the Skye Bridge at the Kyleakin Roundabout. Here this section of the A850 ends with the A87 continuing ahead along the original route of the road via Portree.
Borve - Dunvegan Castle
The remaining part of the A850 starts at a triangular junction at Borve, four miles north of Portree. It runs northwest at first through Carbost to the head of Loch Snizort at Skeabost. Here the remains of a monastery, possibly once the seat of the Bishop, lie on an island in the river at the head of the loch. The long village of Bernisdale has been bypassed, with the original single-track road running parallel to the new road to serve the village. The A850 then climbs slightly to cross a small peninsula before descending through Arnisort to Edinbane. The Arnisort - Edinbane section, including a short causeway across the tidal head of Loch Greshornish at Edinbane, was the last part to be upgraded from single track - sometime around 1990. All the villages up to here are crofting townships, with the houses arranged along the road and the croft land behind.
After Edinbane the road crosses bleak, featureless moorland to Fairy Bridge (it has been said that this looks like any other bridge - to a human) and on to the larger village of Dunvegan where it once again meets the sea and also meets the A863. The road runs through the village - narrower now, though not quite single track - for another mile or so to Dunvegan Castle which has been the seat of the Chief of the Clan Macleod for nearly 800 years and is well worth a visit for its history and legends. The present end of the A850 seems to be by the castle's car park - although the exact point of the terminus has moved along this section of road over the years.
The scenery along the A850 is somewhat less interesting than it can be elsewhere in Skye, but it improves as Dunvegan is reached. The B roads branching off from Fairy Bridge and Dunvegan also lead to spectacular coastal scenery. Two flat-topped hills, Healabhal Mhor and Healabhal Bheag, are obvious from Dunvegan and are also known as Macleod's Tables. It is said that a clan chief once boasted that in his homeland he held banquets using far grander tables than they had in Edinburgh, and on returning had to lay on a feast using the hilltop as a table to prove it.
For the full history of the former A850 from Kyleakin to Borve, see the A87 page. The possible section in Kyleakin has changed little, except for the extension of space for ferry traffic to queue in, and subsequently the land being used for other purposes.
Apart from a short section in Carbost, all of the road from Borve to the north end of Bernisdale has been rebuilt off line, but parallel to the south, leaving the old road to serve the properties where necessary. There is then a mile of online upgrade before an old loop to the north was bypassed at the Treaslane junction. Indeed, the road through the junction seems to have been improved after the loop was bypassed in the 1960s. The old road then swings north at the Suladale Crossroads, signposted Brookside, and continues to the right of the new road as far as the turning for Fanks, where the old and new roads cross. The old road is then alongside the new on the landward side as far as Flashader, with an online upgrade through to the far side of Arnisort.
Between Arnisort and Edinbane, the old road is again visible in places on the landward side of the new road, while the village of Edinbane has been bypassed, as noted above, with a new bridge crossing the head of the loch. From Edinbane to Fairy Bridge the old and new roads cross several times, but almost the whole route is an offline upgrade. Fairy Bridge itself has also been bypassed, and then the old road continues alongside the new, criss-crossing each other most of the way to Dunvegan. In many places the old road is little more than a line in the heather, while in others long stretches of tarmac are still open to be walked on. It is not quite possible to walk the full length of the old A850, but such a walk would probably only mean 2-3 miles on the actual road.
Improvement Opening Dates
|Dunvegan - Upperglen
|The 5.5 mile scheme with diversions was work in progress in 1977 per the 1977 Scottish Development Department Report, but was not on the 1978 report indicating completion in 1977.