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A851

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A851
Location Map ( geo)
Cameraicon.png View gallery (13)
Road to Lochaber
From:  Skulamus (NG663227)
To:  Armadale (NG639037)
Distance:  15 miles (24.1 km)
Meets:  A87, Mallaig Ferries
Highway Authorities

Highland

Traditional Counties

Inverness-shire

Route outline (key)
A851 Skulamus - Armadale

Route

The A851 is approximately 15 miles long and runs along the Sleat (pronounced Slate) Peninsula on Skye, connecting the main A87 trunk road at Broadford to the ferry port of Armadale. After some substantial upgrades in the last few years, it is now an S2 road throughout. It is known as the 'Road to Lochaber' to mirror the A830's tag of 'Road to the Isles'.

Skulamus - Armadale

The main road through Sleat

The A851 starts at a junction with the A87 in the settlement of Skulamus towards the east end of Broadford. From here it heads south west, rapidly leaving the village behind to cross open moorland. For just nearly 4 miles the road follows the course of the old single-track road which can be seen mostly intact alongside. The bridges along this stretch of the road are strangely distinctive, especially for a road built so recently, with stone parapets topped with stone pyramids over the abutments. As it drops down to Loch na Dal, an unclassified road turns west to Drumfearn, marking the end of the offline improvements, and then another unclassified road heads east to Kinloch Lodge Hotel. As the road approaches the shore, the scenery changes from the bleak open moorland to a much greener, more welcoming landscape. It is not without reason that the Sleat Peninsula is known as the Garden of Skye.

The road undulates along the shore, and as Loch na Dal opens out to the Sound of Sleat, it enters the small village of Duisdale. Here, the former A852, now an unclassified road, turns left to the village of Isle Ornsay. The road now turns to the south west, leaving the shore behind for a while as it crosses to Teangue, passing an unclassified road to Ord, Tokavaig, and Tarskavaig along the way. At Teangue the road rejoins the coast of the Sound of Sleat, before winding through the small villages of Ferindonald, Kilmore and Kilbeg (home of Sabhal Mor Ostaig the Gaelic College). Anyone who drove this road before it was widened will be surprised at how the old single-track lane has been improved to a wide S2 route with only minimal realignment.

Next to the college in Kilbeg, the unclassified road through Ord, Tokavaig, and Tarskavaig returns to the A851. From here, it is just a couple of miles along the shore to the tiny village of Armadale. Again, much of this section used to be a narrow, winding road along the shore, but after some substantial rocks were placed along the shore, the road has been widened to full two-way width. Halfway along this final section, sits Armadale Castle in parkland with the Clan Donald Visitor Centre. Armadale village lies ahead now, and after passing the garage, the former A853, now unclassified, carries on to Ardvassar, Calligarry and Aird of Sleat, while the A851 turns to the left. The last hundred yards or so of the road as it drops down to Armadale Pier is the only section that is not full S2, although it is still reasonably wide. The pier at the end is where Caledonian MacBrayne ferries sail to Mallaig (hourly in summer, two a day on Mondays to Fridays in winter).

History

In the 1970s the A851 was essentially still single track throughout. A short section along the coast of Loch na Dal is marked as two-way on maps, but it was not as wide as todays standards require. The northern end of the road was steadily improved through the 1990s, and then in the early 2000s with the final section of the A830 being completed, a concerted effort was made to widen the remaining narrow sections of the road to create a fully S2 road from Fort William to Broadford via the ferry.

Starting in Broadford, the first half mile or so has been widened online, but then the old road forks right, and runs off across the moorland while the new road climbs a little. It stays down to the right of the new road for around 2.5 miles, sometimes almost alongside, at others meandering off across the moor. Although a little overgrown here and there, this section is open for walkers and cyclists. There is some water damage to the surface in places, but nothing that cannot be negotiated. The new and old roads then briefly swap sides, but the second old bridge is missing, meaning that there is a short stretch where walkers need to use the new road, before the old road resumes. The two routes then run alongside each other for just over a mile to the Drumfearn junction, where the side road briefly uses the old A851 to connect to the new road.

Painted pavements approaching Armadale

The rest of the A851 is largely an online upgrade of the old road. There is a brief stretch of old road at a farm entrance roughly opposite Kinloch Lodge, and a bend has been realigned just before the 40 limit at Duisdale. For the next mile or so there are a number of suggestions that the road has been subtly moved to improve the alignment, but nothing substantial of the old road survives before the Allt Duisdale Bridge, after which the old road loops along above the new road for about a mile. Through Teangue, Kilbeg and Ostaig, the old road has been stretched out by shaving banks and moving boundaries to find just enough room to squeeze an S2 road through. A footway is alos provided, some of it as a proper raised pavement, especially at junctions, but much of it just a strip of tarmac outside the verge line of the road - meaning that the road lining is asymmetrical across the width of the tarmac.

After crossing the Ostaig Burn, the road runs along the coast, with rock armour piled on the shore to allow the road to be widened. This was amongst the last of the improvements to be completed, in 2009. Again, the footway is provided, as a raised pavement when on the inside of a bend, but just painted when on the outside of a bend.

The 1922 MOT Road List defines this route as: Broadford - Ardvasar Pier





A851
Junctions
Crossings
Related Pictures
View gallery (13)
Armadale-ferry1.jpgA851-armadale.jpgA851-a853.jpgSkulamus1.jpgArmadale linkspan - weight limit signs.jpg
Other nearby roads
Skye
Kyle of Lochalsh
A800-A899
A800 • A801 • A802 • A803 • A804 • A805 • A806 • A807 • A808 • A809 • A810 • A811 • A812 • A813 • A814 • A815 • A816 • A817 • A818 • A819

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A880 • A881 • A882 • A883 • A884 • A885 • A886 • A887 • A888 • A889 • A890 • A891 • A892 • A893 • A894 • A895 • A896 • A897 • A898 • A899

Defunct Itineraries and Motorways: A804 • A806 • A817 • A818 • A823(M) • A825 • A833 • A859 • A862 • A872 • A876 • A882 • A896


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