|Location Map ( geo)|
|To:||Port of Ness (NB538638)|
|Distance:||27.1 miles (43.6 km)|
|Meets:||A866, B8027, A859, B895, A858, B8013, B8015, B8014, Quay|
|Route outline (key)|
The A857 is approximately 27 miles long and links Stornoway with the northern tip of Lewis (Leodhas); signage is mostly in Gaelic, although some signs are bilingual. The road is an interesting contrast, from the bustling harbour in Stornoway to the bleak, windswept north of Lewis, passing through a string of villages, separated by bleak moorland.
Stornoway - Barvas
The road commences at its southern end at a junction with the A866 close to the Ferry Terminal in Stornoway (Steòrnabhagh), where Caledonian MacBrayne ferries sail to Ullapool. The precise start point is uncertain, and a common assumption is that it starts as Castle Street, with South Beach being the A866. However, looking back at the 1923 MOT map, the A857 is marked as including South Beach, and starting at the end of James Street, where the roundabout outside the Bus Station now is. There is no evidence that this has ever changed with the creation of the A866, although signage on the ground is unhelpful and tries to direct all traffic along the A866 and B8027 rather than around the western side of the town centre.
From South Beach, including the western stub end at the harbour, the A857 heads north as Castle Street, then turns right along North Beach before turning north once more as Cromwell Street, passing the Lifeboat Station. Cromwell Street becomes Bayhead, and then meets the north end of the B8027 at a roundabout junction, becoming MacAulay Road. Traffic for the A858 and A859 is signed left soon after along the unclassified, one-way Willowglen Road, although the actual start of the A859 is at the next roundabout. Beyond that roundabout, the A857 passes the Western Isles Hospital, and continues north through the Laxdale (Lacasdail) and Newmarket districts of Stornoway.
In Newmarket, the B895 to Back (Bac) and Tolsta (Tòlstadh) forks right, but there is another miles and a half before the edge of town is finally reached. Ribbon development along the A857 has led to a seemingly endless line of houses on either side of the road sandwiched between the tarmac and the open moor beyond. At length, however, the last house is passed and the A857 winds northwest across a barren, treeless and relentlessly bleak moorland, crossing a summit of 108m before a series of long straights gently descend to Barvas (Barabhas) 7 or 8 miles away. The vast flat moorland landscape is scarred by deep gashes caused by peat digging, and when Barvas finally comes in to view, it is a long line of buildings across the horizon, with just a glimpse of the sea beyond.
Barvas - Port of Ness
Not far after entering the village, the A857 meets the A858 at a T-junction, before turning to head north, quickly passing an unclassified road to Lower Barvas (Barabhas Larach). Barvas itself is strung out along the road, followed by Upper Barvas (Baravas Uarach). The houses are well spaced out at times, each stood in their long narrow croft plots. Beyond the village, a long sweeping bend takes the road further to the north east and through a succession of similarly dispersed settlements. The A857 is generally a good wide road with excellent sight lines, but much of it is a 40 limit, with some 30 sections too.
The first of the villages is Ballantrushal (Baile an Trùiseil), site of the huge Clach an Trùiseil, a 20-ft monolith, the largest in Europe. Continuing north east the A857 passes through Upper Shader (Siadar Uarach), Lower Shader (Siadar Larach), Five Penny Borve (Coig Peighinnean Bhuirgh), and Borve (Bhuirgh). It then passes an unclassified road to Melbost Borve (Mealabost Bhuirgh) which lies down towards the coast, and onwards through South Galson (Gabhsann bho Dheas) and North Galson (Gabhsann bho Thuath), which are smaller settlements. For almost two miles there is hardly a house on the roadside, but all that changes as South Dell (Dail bho Dheas) is reached, with North Dell (Dail bho Thuath) and Cross (Cros) following in quick succession. From here there are numerous side roads to Cross Skigersta (Cros Sgiogarstaigh). Some of the turnings to the west offer views of the wave-lashed coast, but many stop short simply serving the farms and houses scattered across the landscape.
The last four or so miles of the A857 are through a long succession of dispersed villages, houses close enough together along the roadside to require a speed limit, but too spaced out to feel urban. As the road continues north, the landscape behind the houses somehow becomes more and more bleak in outlook, the drab grey houses not helping to bring any cheer, especially on grey days. Many of the gardens and grounds around the houses seem to be home to derelict cars, and whilst there are undoubtedly some very nice, desirable homes in this part of Lewis, they seem to be the exception rather than the rule. It is, however, a fascinating place to see.
Continuing north east the road passes through Swainbost (Suainebost), Habost (Tàbost) and Lionel (Lìonal). It then meets the B8013 to Eoropie (Eòropaidh) and the Butt of Lewis (Rubha Robhanais), and the B8015 to Eorodale (Eòrodal) and Skigersta (Sgiogarstaigh), before entering Port of Ness (Port Nis), where it meets the B8014 to Five Penny Ness (Coig Peighinnean Nis), Eoropie (Eòropaidh), and the Butt of Lewis (Rubha Robhanais) again. The final end of the route is at the harbour in Port of Ness. The precise end point, as with the start, is uncertain. It seems that the road stops short of the actual harbour, contrary to the norm in Zone 8, but actually stops where the road forks about 100 m from the end.
Ness is the most northerly parish in the Western Isles and has the highest proportion of Gaelic speakers in Scotland, at over 90%. According to a local tradition, the stretch of road from Galson to the Port of Ness is said to be haunted.
According to the original 1922 list, the A857 terminated at Barvas, where it met the original A859 and both ended. The road from there to Lionel was the B896. The final mile to Port of Ness was apparently unclassified. The A857 had been extended to its current length by 1932.