|Location Map ( geo)
|Barra Island Circular
|Castlebay (Bàgh a' Chaisteil) (NL664981)
|Castlebay (Bàgh a' Chaisteil) (NL664981)
|12.9 miles (20.8 km)
|Route outline (key)
The A888 is the only classified road on the Isle of Barra (Barraigh), at the southern end of the Outer Hebrides (or Western Isles), and forms a circular road around the Island. As such it is one of very few classified roads in the UK not to meet another. The road is single-track with passing places apart from the stretch through the village of Castlebay (Bàgh a'Chaisteil) – the mainland ferry port for the island and biggest area of habitation.
There are two ferry ports on Barra, but only one which directly connects with the A888, that being in the island capital of Castlebay (Bàgh a'Chaisteil) on the south side of the island. The terminal lies on a one-way loop to the south of the mainline of the A888, following Pier Road with a give way mid way along giving priority to traffic coming off the boat. The road then climbs up the hill to a give way with the mainline, faced by a rather confusing sign pointing to Bagh a Tuath (North Bay) in both directions! Turning left to circle the island clockwise, the road is two way to start with, passing the islands main facilities including the High School and Co-op Supermarket. After skirting round the head of Bagh Beag, the road passes the turning to Vatersay (Bhatarsaigh), connected to Barra by the Vatersay Causeway, and drops to single track.
The road cuts through a shallow pass between hills to reach the west coast at Tangasdale (Tangasdal), with its sandy bay. A large hotel overlooks the beach, and then the road gains a centre line as it cuts round the hill to the next bay. To the west, the Atlantic waves crash on the rocky shoreline, often just a few metres from the road. Side roads turn inland to Borve (Borgh) and Craigston (Baile na Creige), before the road passes another wide empty sandy beach. It then has to cut through the lower slopes of Beinn Mhartain as they crash into the Atlantic, before an easier run through the dunes and Machair of Allasdale (Allathasdal). The road now turns eastwards and cuts inland past side turnings to Cleat (Cleit) before the summit at 47m. It then drops down past Loch an Duin to Northbay (Bagh a Tuath) and one of the busiest junctions on the whole island, as it is here that the road turns north to the famous Beach Airport and also the small Sound of Barra Ferry to Eriskay and South Uist.
Turning south, the road fights its way down the east coast past a turning for Bruernish (Bruairnis) and through Balnabodach (Buaile nam Bodach). There are a couple of scenic little inlets on this deeply indented coastline, with the A888 using a causeway around the heads of the bays. The small settlements of Earsary (Earsairidh) and Brevig (Breibhig) are separated by another climb over a rocky headland, and then the road turns inland once more, climbing to over 100m as it crosses the shoulder of Heabhal, the islands highest hill. Just below the summit, the old road can be seen continuing ahead as a grassy straight, but the A888 now turns and plunges down the hill, through Garrygall (Gearraidh Gadhal) and so back in to Castlebay. The road widens out to S2 at the top of Pier Road, and then climbs up and over a low hill to the other end of Pier Road, and so we have gone full circle. At only 13 miles long, it does not take much more than half an hour to travel along.
Back in 1922, no roads were classified on Barra, although within a couple of years the B889 had been recycled for the island ring road, after its original route on South Uist became part of the A865. It didn't take long, however, for the route to be further upgraded as Class I and so gain the A888 number.
Various improvements have been made to the route over the years, particularly on the west coast where laybys and cuttings show several localised upgrades. However, the only significant realignment is on the eastern approach into Castlebay, where the road has been completely rebuilt on a new line into the village. The old road, as noted above, continues ahead as a grassy track between fences to meet the side road above Gleann. Here, it turns south and remains in use as it winds down the hill, keeping right at the fork, and so arriving in Castlebay near the Craigard Hotel. The current line of the A888 seems to be entirely new build as far as the western end of the side road serving Ledaig (Leideag).