|Location Map ( geo)|
|Distance:||33.3 miles (53.6 km)|
|Route outline (key)|
The A855 is approximately 33 miles long, encircling the beautiful Trotternish Peninsula at the north end of Skye. It is single-track for much of its length, undergoing fairly frequent repair as it is mostly built on top of a peat moor. Despite nominally being a coast road, the route is more often than not inland, with only glimpses of the sea available, particularly on the east coast of Trotternish. Despite this, however, it is a spectacular drive, and reveals some of Skye's finer features.
The road commences at a junction with the A87 to the west of Portree town centre. From here it heads east as Bridge Road, wiggling through the pretty town as The Green, Bank Street, which passes above the old harbour, then Bosville Terrace, Mill Road, and finally Staffin Road as it climbs out of town and past the last few straggling houses. It soon becomes single-track as it heads north onto the open moorland, passing through a shallow valley where sheep freely roam across the road. This is the second highest point on the whole road, reaching around 160m after a steep climb. After less than a mile of single track, the road becomes two-way once more, having been widened online in c2010. Unfortunately this means that the alignment hasn't been improved, with awkward little kinks and sudden crests keeping speed down.
As the road drops down towards Loch Fada, another single track section can be seen ahead, winding between a couple of houses. It is thankfully short at less than half a mile, however, and soon the road is opening up again as it continues north past Loch Leathan. Here there is a much older section of S2 which has a better alignment allowing traffic to flow better. At the head of the loch, double yellow lines suddenly appear, and then around the bend the large parking area for The Storr and the Old Man of Storr rock formations appears. This can often be busy during the summer months, despite looking like an immense waste of tarmac in the winter! On the opposite side of the road, a track and path lead down to the coast at the power station for the Storr Lochs Hydro Scheme, which supplies power for the whole island.
From here the road runs past some forestry and then hugs the contours on the steep coastline past Bearreraig Bay, where its summit at 187m is reached before a long steady descent past Rigg. It then climbs again over a lower ridge before dropping down through Tote and Lealt. Nearby are the remains of an old mineral railway that led to Loch Cuithir, where diatomite was extracted and processed at a plant on the shore below. As the road runs north, there are some sweeping bends as it rises and falls, short straight climbs and despite the closeness of the sea, only occasional, mesmerising views of the water below. After the village of Valtos, the road cuts across the end of Loch Mealt, the old road now left as parking for the spectacular falls where the river plunges down the cliffs into the Sound of Raasay far below. It is also a good viewpoint for the basalt columns of the Kilt Rock cliffs.
Continuing north the A855 reaches Staffin, by far and away the largest settlement along the route (obviously not including Portree and Uig at the ends). Staffin is really a collection of smaller villages that have slowly coalesced into one scattered settlement, with the shops, and other facilities along the roadside. Whilst there have been some fine views of the inland cliffs already on the road, to see them dropping to the sea, a short detour along the road signposted for 'Staffin Slipway' is recommended. At the northern end of the Staffin area, the A855 passes the turning for the minor road which climbs up and over the hairpins at the Quairaing (a series of spectacular rock formations) high above to the west, continuing to Uig. Just around the next bend, the road drops back to single track once more.
Continuing north through Flodigarry, the narrow road follows a series of tight little bends as it winds between the rocky hillocks that litter the landscape. It is also steadily turning west past Balmacqueen and Kilmaluag, home to pretty whitewashed cottages, and then the ruins of Duntulm Castle can be seen on a small promontory ahead. The road winds down to the shore here, the closest it has been since Portree, but it is not a particularly enticing beach and there are no parking areas. From here, though, there are fine views west to Harris and Lewis across the Minch, and as the road continues south so the Uists also come into view on a clear day. In the middle distance, the small rocky islets of the Minch can be identified, and then Skye's own Waternish Peninsular comes into view.
The road climbs a little, as it winds southwards, clinging to the bottom of a cliff, before finding an easier line cut into the hillside and reaching Osmigarry. This scattered village is home to Flora MacDonald's Monument, who's story, so closely entwined with that of Bonnie Prince Charlie, draws many people to visit Skye each year. Passing the interesting Skye Museum of Island Life, the road is heading inland once more, through Hunglader, Kilmuir and Kilvaxter, which together form an almost continuous line of buildings along the roadside. Below Balgown lies a vast shallow valley, which until it was drained in 1763 was Loch Chaluim Chille. After dropping a little to Linicro, the road climbs past Totescore to meet the other end of the Quiraing Road, at a sharp junction high above Uig. It then then drops steeply down round a hairpin and through Idrigill, into Uig, where it ends at a sharp fork junction with the A87.
In 1922, the A855 number was only allocated to the road from the A850 in Portree to the pier. The onward route north, as far as Brogaig at Staffin, was the B887 (although this was not on exactly the same route), with the road north of there being unclassified. However, this situation did not last for long, with the A855 extended along its modern route by 1932. The spur to the pier remained part of the A855 for some time. It is now unclassified; this probably happened in the 1970s when the other port spurs on Skye were downgraded.
More recently, and as noted above, the Highland Council have attempted to improve the final single track sections of the road from Portree to Staffin. This has seen two sections widened on line, with mixed results. However, there remain two shorter sections of single track, and whilst that along Loch Fada would be expensive to improve, and is short enough to not be a big problem, there is no clear indication if the section closer to Portree is likely to be widened anytime soon.