|From:||Lochmaddy (Loch nam Madadh) (NF919679)|
|To:||Carinish (Carinis) (NF843594)|
|Meets:||Pier, A867, B893, A867|
|Former Number(s):||B891, B893, B892|
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
|Route outline (key)|
Route: North Uist (Uibhist a Tuath)
Sitting at the northern end of the Uist Chain of islands, and separated from Harris by the Sound of Harris, North Uist is a large flat island, which the A865 loops around the north, west and south coasts of. However, in 1922 when road numbers were first allocated the route was given three numbers, the B891, B893 and part of the B892, which also followed the modern A867 route. This was soon seen as a mistake, however, with the A865 number being allocated very quickly, perhaps as soon as 1923, to form a spine route all the way down to Lochboisdale on South Uist.
An apparent anomaly is that the A865 takes the long way across North Uist, leaving the A867 to take the short cut south from Lochmaddy to the North Ford Causeway which crosses to Benbecula. The reason behind this is not currently known; however while the A865 passes through most of the settlements on the island, the A867 crosses a barren moorland, and so was perhaps less well trafficked in those early days. Another possible explanation is that as the A866 is on Lewis, there is a possibility that the A867 number was not allocated until the following year.
Lochmaddy - Hosta
Starting in Lochmaddy, the Ferry Port for the ferry to Uig on Skye and so the mainland, the A865 heads north west through the small village. After about a mile, it reaches a TOTSO where the mainline curves round to the left to become the A867, while the now-single-track A865 forks right and quickly leaves Lochmaddy behind. The low hill of Blathaisbhal lies ahead, and the road curves around the loch of the same name to pass to the north of the hill.
A short stretch of S2 takes the road back to a north-west direction, and then a longer S2 section marks a realignment, avoiding a small tidal loch, although old maps seem to suggest that this loop was cut off before the road was numbered! An unclassified road turns right, leading out to the scattered communities of Loch Portain, and then the road curves around the Crogearraidh Hills, with the B893 turning off right as the road drops back to single track. The B893 heads north towards the Sound of Harris, but strangely has never been realigned to cross the Berneray Causeway and so reach the Sound of Harris Ferry, leaving this part of the Western Isles Spine route as an unclassified road.
Ahead now are 20 miles of single-track road, despite 1960s maps suggesting some sections are two-way. In truth, the road is often almost wide enough for two cars to pass, but not at speed and this discrepancy can probably be put down to the fact that modern cars are wider than those of 50 years ago.
There are houses scattered along the roadside as it curves around the various bays and inlets of Traigh Bhalaig, then a straight section over a low hill leads to Grenitote (Greinetobht), Sollas (Solas) and Malaclete (Malacleitt), a chain of small villages strung along the coast. The coast itself is never far away, a maze of dunes, machair and vast sandy beaches which are begging to be explored, but with no real roads leading into them.
At Malacleit the road turns south and curves around the vast Vallay Beach (Traigh Bhàlaigh), which stretches out to the isle of Vallay, connected to the main island by a tidal causeway across the beach. As the road turns back to the north west, a minor road continues south, crossing the island to the south coast. Beyond the beach lies roughly 3 miles of open moorland to cross. After an initial gentle climb past a couple of small lochs, the road undulates westwards, past side turnings to Griminish (Griminis) and Scolpaig before turning south into Balmartin (Baile Mhàrtainn) and Hosta.
Hosta - Carinish
At Hosta, a track leads down to the first of many accessible beaches along this ragged coast, and a little further on a crossroads is reached. Right also leads to a beach, at Tigharry (Tigh a' Ghearraidh), whilst left is a military road up to the installation at the top of Cleitreabhal a Deas. This road is also, however, open to the public and offers a stunning view south to the distant hills of South Uist. A telescope also marks the viewpoint west to St Kilda, the main reason this road is open to the public.
The road is now curving round to the south east, albeit in little bends punctuating long straights. The road from Tigh a' Ghearraidh rejoins as the road enters Balranald (Baile Raghnill). Whilst never really forming a village scene, the roadside is now almost continuously lines with scattered houses and farms as it heads south west through the Paible (Paebeil) district of North Uist, rejoining the coast at the sands of Oitir Mhòr. The next string of villages are Cladach Kyles (Cladach a' Chaolais), Cladach Kirkibost (Cladach Chirceboist) and Cladach Illeray (Cladach Iolaraigh).
Stretching out to the south are the vast sands of Tràigh Leathann, sheltered by Kirkibost Island and then the settled Baleshare (Baile Sear) which is connected to North Uist by the Baleshare Causeway. The road to the causeway is also signed as leading to the 'Roadend Sculpture', surely a Sabristi's dream? In reality it is just a pretty bench with a stunning view. Before this however, the southern end of the A867 is reached at Clachan na Luib.
From here, the A865 makes more of an effort to be S2, trying to live up to its role as the main route south, but there are still more sections of single track than two-way road as it heads south through Cairinish (Carinis). It does, however, finally become full S2 for the last mile as it approaches the North Ford Causeway, which crosses the North Ford to Grimsay and Benbecula.