|Location Map ( geo)
|21.6 miles (34.8 km)
|A861, B8043, B849, A849
|Route outline (key)
The A884 is one of the very few classified roads in Britain which crosses a ferry, indeed one of only two which crosses from the mainland to an island. In conjunction with the A861 and Corran Ferry, it forms the most interesting way of getting to the Isle of Mull.
The A884 starts on the A861 in Glen Tarbert, a mile or so east of Strontian, and after initially heading south over the Carnoch Bridge, the now single track road heads westwards along the southern shoreline of Loch Sunart. Despite being single track, the road is liberally supplied with passing places, and has reasonable sight lines, allowing good progress to be made unless the ferry traffic is coming towards you! After nearly 4 miles, the road turns inland, climbing up the surprisingly steep Liddesdale hill, with the minor road to Laudale continuing along the shore of Loch Sunart for a couple more miles. This is wild country, the northern edge of Morvern and with very little habitation, it is a very picturesque part of Scotland and a wonderful drive.
In a little over a mile, the road has climbed up to the summit at nearly 900ft, 270m. After crossing the watershed, the route drops down slightly, as it curves around the head of Glen Dubh, meeting the equally lonely, and scenic B8043. If you are coming back this way, then it is well worth taking the B road as an alternative, it is hardly slower, and has some breathtaking views. A block of forestry lies below the road, as it follows the contours round the head of the valley. After climbing a little to another, lower, summit, the road descends into Gleann Geal which it follows to the River Aline. Compared to the climb of Liddesdale Hill, this is a long gentle descent, often with good long sightlines as the road gently winds down the hillside. This is also a very scenic section of the road, winding down through woodland and across open moorland, but always with good views and enough warning of oncoming traffic.
Several of the bends have been widened to S2, and one long realignment to remove a detour round the craggy hillside is all two-way, but the majority of the road is still single track. The Abhainn a'Ghlinne Ghil is now close at hand to the left, with evidence of the old road visible between as the glen levels out and passes through old woodland. The road then turns southwards again at Acharn, and crosses the river at Acharn Bridge, while the river continues west to Loch Arienas. Less than a mile further on, the lochs outflow, the River Aline is crossed at Achnagavin Bridge near Claggan, where a minor road heads west to the scattered houses at the head of Loch Teacuis. The A884 follows the river south, past scattered houses and another turning leading east to Ardtornish and its castles, before climbing into the trees once more. From the summit, it drops down into the village of Lochaline, at the mouth of Loch Aline and on the sound of Mull. This is the only significant settlement on the entire road, certainly the only village. At the entrance to Lochaline, the B849 turns right twice, and is perhaps the emptiest road in the Highlands. The road then sweeps down the hills, through a shallow cutting, into Lochaline, where the A884 splits, with a spur going down to the current ferry jetty and the main road carrying on through the village to the older West Pier, now used as a timber pier for exporting logs, and by a diving school.
This is not the end of the road though - after crossing the Sound of Mull on the small Lochaline to Fishnish Ferry, the A884 carries on for another half a mile, climbing up through forestry as the access road from the ferry to the A849. The last fact about the A884 is that it is effectively entirely a single track road with passing places.
The mainland section of the A884 was originally part of the B849, which the road still meets in Lochaline. The A884 came into existence in the mid-1920s, presumably to cater for steamer traffic from Lochaline (west) pier. As can be seen from driving the route, much of it has been upgraded at some point in the past, albeit without making it two-way. At the time traffic volumes were almost certainly low enough that this wasn't a problem, however with summer tourist traffic the road can now be a bit stop-start, especially when encountering traffic coming off the ferry.
The origins of this route possibly lie in c1880 when a Poor Relief Road was built out to Drimnin (at the end of the B849). The mileposts used on this road, which is now a private estate drive at its furthest end, are the same as those along the full length of the A884, suggesting that the two routes were conceived and built as a single project. However, the surviving records only refer to the section west from Lochaline, making it difficult to be sure when the A884 route dates from. Clearly, it is unlikely it was built after 1880 though.
The road along Loch Sunart has been improved online, largely due to the narrow coastal strip between the loch and steep hillside behind. However, the climb up Liddesdale Hill has been substantially rebuilt on a new line with the old road traceable in amongst the trees at the edge of the forest to the east. Another loop of old road lies to the east across the summit. All of this work appears to date from between 1956 and 1963, based on mapping evidence. A small loop lies to the south just below the summit, but the rest of the road around the head of the glen is mostly online. The junction with the B8043 appears to have been moved north or westwards, but it is difficult to identify exactly what changes have taken place here, or to date them with the maps available.
Continuing south, the improvements date from between 1963 and 1972, and comprise an almost complete realignment. At first, the old road can be seen to the north of the new road, but as the A884 swings to the south west, old and new lines cross over, and for most of the journey down the glen, the old road can be spotted wiggling across the hillside to the left of the new road. In a few places, the new road has been built over the old, particularly lower down when it gets close to the river bank, and there is the long southwards meander of the old road where the new road has been built as S2. Both Acharn and Achnagavin Bridges have been replaced, with the old and new roads criss-crossing between the two. The old road then crosses the Loch Teacuis road end and continues along the edge of the forest to Larachbeag, where it again briefly swaps with the new road.
As the road climbs up from the River Aline, the old road is again lower down the hill on the left, but climbs across it near the forest entrance, and there follows a long run through the forest to the B849. In 1922, when the main road was the B849, and Lochaline was accessed by a side road, this line made sense, but when the A884 was created, it turned sharp left, then right to reach Lochaline. This double bend persisted until about 1973. The new road line continued into the village, with a sweeping bend replacing the old wiggly road which was retained as property accesses, and is an interesting feature of the descent into the village.
The road was not extended onto Mull for some years. The island's original entry points were at Tobermory, Salen and Craignure - but with the reduction of steamer traffic the need for a shorter crossing from the mainland was identified in the 1970s. A road was built to the previously-existing Fishnish pier from the A849 Mull coast road; this later became the southern end of the A884, and the current spur to Lochaline pier was undoubtedly made part of the A884 at the same time.
|Claggan - Lochaline
|The 4 mile reconstruction with diversions was in progress in 1972 per the 1972 Scottish Development Department Report but not shown in the 1974 report indicating a 1973 completion.