|From:||Stornoway (Steòrnabhagh) (NB426340)|
|To:||Rodel (Roghadal) (NG049830)|
|Distance:||57.9 miles (93.2 km)|
|Meets:||A857, B897, A858, B8060, B887, A868, Unclassified|
|Former Number(s):||A858, B897|
|Route outline (key)|
The A859 is the main road from Stornoway on Lewis to Leverburgh (An t-Ob) on Harris and then on to the end of the island at Rodel. Contrary to what you may think, Lewis and Harris are one landmass (indeed the third largest of the British Isles), the boundary between them being the range of hills that crosses from Loch Seaforth in the East to Loch Resort in the west. In the past, these created a barrier to the local inhabitants in much the same way as the Solent or Menai Straits do further south! Today, the boat has given way to the car, and the A859 makes the daring crossing.
Stornoway - Tarbert
Stornoway is the only ferry port on Lewis, and by far the largest town in the Western Isles. The A859 starts at a roundabout with the A857 to the north of Stornoway, and slowly turns round to take its southwesterly course across Lewis. It soon meets the former starting point of the A858, although since that route was re-routed in 2005 it is now another 6 or 7 miles before we meet it.
In the meantime, the B897 turns off to the left on its way to Crosbost, an unclassified road from the same place rejoining the A859 near the A858 turn off. At Laxay, we briefly turn west along the shore of Loch Erisort, meeting the B8060 at the head of the loch at Baile Ailein. We then start climbing through the mountains, passing from Lewis to Harris as we go, and hardly seeing a cottage or turning for 10 or 12 miles.
After passing in the shadow of Clisham, the highest mountain on the island, we drop back to the coast, meeting the B887 at Aird Asaig. Here, we briefly turn east along West Loch Tarbert, and enter Harris's capital of Tarbert.
Tarbert - Rodel
Ferries from Uig on Skye arrive at Tarbert, where the tiny little A868 serves the pier, and the new access road and bridge for Scalpay. The road has now crossed from the northern shore of West Loch Tarbert to the southern shore of East Loch Tarbert, and so entered South Harris, the square bit at the bottom!
The only other major road on South Harris is the 'Golden Road', so called because of the amount of money it cost to build. It serves the eastern coast, while the A859 crosses back to the rich Machair-lined western coast. At the bottom, it curves round to the south shore and so enters Leverburgh, or to give it its proper name, An t-Ob (and called Obbe in English till the 1920s). The name Leverburgh comes from Lord Leverhulme (Sunlight Soap and all that) who tried to establish a fishing port here, but died before much work had been done.
It is into Leverburgh that the Sound of Harris Ferry sails, crossing from North Uist, and so forming a critical piece of the Western Isles transport network. However, the A859 bypasses the pier (which is served by an unclassified road) and continues to Rodel at the south east corner of the Lewis/Harris Island. It finishes with a flourish, however, in a great big loop around the church of Rodel, the only mediaeval church in the Western Isles, and one of the very few in the Highlands and Islands to look anything like your typical English parish church. It's not though, with the tower built on a rocky outcrop at the end of the nave, and some rather nice furnishings in its sparse interior.
On classification in 1922 the A859 existed elsewhere on Lewis. The road immediately west of the A857 in Stornoway was the original eastern end of the A858, whilst the rest of the road to Rodel was numbered B897. The complete lack of Class I roads in the Western Isles outside of Lewis was remedied later in the 1920s when the B897 was given the recently vacated A859 number.