|Distance:||34.3 miles (55.2 km)|
|Former Number(s):||A890, B857, B858|
|Route outline (key)|
The A896 is a mainly single-track road connecting the villages of Lochcarron, Torridon and Kinlochewe in Wester Ross. It came into being in the 1960s when a new road was built along the south shore of Upper Loch Torridon to connect the ends of the former B857 and B858, at which time both of these roads were renumbered A896. It is a very scenic route, but one that requires care, particularly in wet or snowy conditions.
Several sections have now been widened to S2, and it seems likely that much of the rest will follow in the next few years.
Strathcarron - Kinlochewe
The road starts at a TOTSO T-junction near Strathcarron, where the A890 turns off along the former B856 to head for Kyle of Lochalsh along the coast. The A896 follows the A890's former course into Lochcarron village, which is a long, spread-out settlement on the loch shore. Where the old A890 route continues as a narrow road along the coast to the former ferry crossing at Strome, the A896 bears right and head up the hill to cut across the peninsula towards Kishorn.
The road has been two-way through the village and up the initial hill, but now it narrows in places as it goes over the pass and down the steep-sided Cumhang a' Ghlinne. This leads through the small settlement of Sanachan. The road doesn't seem to know whether it is single track, or two way, alternating every so often as it winds around the head of Loch Kishorn. Hugging the coast briefly, it is fully S2 along the base of the hill for over half a mile, but this ends at the turn for Applecross via the Bealach na Bà - a high mountain pass frequently closed by winter weather.
The A896 then follows the River Kishorn north, climbing up past several lochs, before hugging the hillside with views down (in clear weather) to Loch Damh and up to its mountain, Beinn Damh, with its distinctive "stirrup mark" near the summit. The descent to Shieldaig along Glen Shieldaig is less open; just before the village, a turning on the left is the all-weather coastal route to Applecross - a long route which was built in the 1970s and almost certainly saved most of the scattered coastal communities from desertion and ruin.
Entering Shieldaig, the new-build road begins. The old road ambles leisurely along the seafront; the new strikes rightwards up the hill behind the village. From here to Torridon along the south side of Loch Torridon, the road is high-quality S2 with generally good sightlines and smooth bends. It begins close to the sea, but gains height to reach over 100 m on the way; there's a large car park near the highest point, with views of the Torridon Hills and also out to sea.
The road descends through woodland to meet the sea near the village of Annat, then a long straight takes it over the Torridon River and directly to Torridon village. There is a National Trust for Scotland information hut and a camp site and youth hostel in the village, making it a popular place to stay. It's also the centre of a strong community, with the local primary school, village shop and community centre all close by. The unclassified road through Torridon connects the villages along the north side of Loch Torridon, eventually terminating at Diabeg, where only a footpath leads on around the coast.
From Torridon, the road (now single-track again) heads up Glen Torridon. It's a classic glaciated valley, with the steep slopes of Liathach (to the left) terminating on a relatively wide valley floor. A mixture of twisty bends and substantial straights takes us gently up to Lochan an Iasgair, where there's a big car park on the left, used by walkers and climbers to access Beinn Eighe and the back of Liathach via a path up into Coire Dubh Mòr.
The road enters the Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve, and the mountain that gives it its name dominates the northern side for the rest of the route to Kinlochewe. The character is similar to that of Glen Torridon, as it passes Loch Clair (another good viewpoint) and descends the Garbh river to end at a T-junction with the A832 in Kinlochewe.
As stated above, the A896 was originally two unconnected B-roads. The B857 started on the original line of the A890 in Lochcarron and headed north to the coast at Sheildaig. Meanwhile the B858 ran from the coast at Torridon east to Kinlochewe and the A832. In the 1960s a new road was built to connect these two roads and the whole thing renumbered A896. Which bit is the new-build is quite obvious as the road improves in quality considerably for this section.
Then in the 1970s the A890 was diverted onto a new road round the south of Loch Carron, avoiding the necessity to cross it via the Strome Ferry. The A896 was extended along some of the bypassed section to meet the new road (where there is still a TOTSO) whilst the rest was declassified.
Original Author(s): Toby Speight