From Roader's Digest: The SABRE Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Location Map ( geo)
Cameraicon.png View gallery (30)
From:  Strathcarron (NG931431)
To:  Kinlochewe (NH027619)
Via:  Shieldaig
Distance:  34.3 miles (55.2 km)
Meets:  A890, A832
Former Number(s):  A890, B857, B858
Highway Authorities


Traditional Counties


Route outline (key)
A896 Strathcarron - Kinlochewe
This article is about the current A896 in Wester Ross.
For the former A896 in Wick, Caithness, see A896 (Wick)

The A896 is a mainly single-track road connecting the villages of Lochcarron, Torridon and Kinlochewe in Wester Ross. It came into being in 1963 when a 7.25 mile new S2 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 of the older sections have now been widened to S2, particularly at the southern end, and it seems likely that much of the rest will follow in the next few years.


The A896 in Lochcarron

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. This notorious road was built in the 1970s to avoid the Strome Ferry. The A896 therefore follows the A890's former course into Lochcarron village, which is a long, spread-out settlement, strung along the loch shore. The road turns away from the coast just before the old A890 route forks left as a narrow road along the coast to the former ferry crossing at Strome, meanwhile the A896 bears right and heads steeply up the hill in a sweeping bend 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. The road doesn't seem to know whether it is single track, or two way, alternating every so often as it climbs over the hill. Some of the newer sections have been widened by filling in the verges between passing places, other sections show clear evidence of having been realigned, however slightly, in the past. The result is that while most of the blinder bends are now two-way, there are still some unexpectedly narrow single track stretches, particularly where forward visibility is good. At the bottom of the hill, the road winds through the village of Kishorn, scattered around the head of Loch Kishorn. Hugging the coast briefly, past the vast beaches at the head of the loch, it is fully S2 as it runs along the narrow coastal ledge at the base of the hill for over half a mile. However, this ends at the turning for Applecross via the Bealach na Bà - a high mountain pass frequently closed by winter weather.

The A896 heading north at the bottom of the Bealach na Ba

Continuing north, the A896 follows the River Kishorn, climbing up past several lochs, into a low pass between the mountains. There is a brief view 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 but includes a pleasant run along the tree lined shore of Loch Dughaill. 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. The road then skirts along the side of Loch Shieldaig, looking out to Shieldaig Island. This stretch of the road has also been widened as much as possible, as it is hemmed in between the old stone sea wall and the steep hills rising up to the east.

Entering Shieldaig, the new-build road begins. While 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 a wide S2 with generally good sightlines and smooth bends. However, the topography forces a couple of sharper bends which require care. It begins close to the sea, but gains height to reach over 100m on the way; there's a large car park near the highest point, with views of the Torridon Hills across the loch to the north.

The road descends through woodland to meet the sea near the small settlement of Annat, then a long straight takes it over the Torridon River and directly into 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 village shop and community centre close by. The unclassified road through Torridon connects the villages along the north side of Loch Torridon, eventually terminating at Diabaig, where only a footpath leads on around the coast.

Glen Torridon

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 it 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 then 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. Across the watershed, the character is similar to that of Glen Torridon, as it passes Loch Clair (another good viewpoint) and the start of the Coulin Pass through to Strath Carron, an ancient hill pass still used by walkers. The A896 continues north east as it descends through woodland alongside the Garbh river to end at a T-junction with the A832 in Kinlochewe.


The original road network around Upper Loch Torridon

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 Shieldaig. Meanwhile the B858 ran from the coast at Torridon east to Kinlochewe and the A832. A new road was built to connect these two roads and the whole thing renumbered A896 upon opening. The 7.25 mile Balgy Gap road was opened on 9 September 1963 by Michael Noble, Secretary of State for Scotland per the Balgy Bridge plaque. Works would appeared to have continued since it was described as completed in the 1964 Report. It was the first scheme of the Highland New Roads Programme (announced in 1959).

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.

The origins of the route start with Thomas Telford and his commission on Highland Roads and Bridges in c1810 when he built the section from Lochcarron to Shieldaig. The Torridon road was built later, by the county, perhaps as late as the 1840s. Prior to the roads, the main lines of transport had been by sea, with rough paths and drove roads accommodating cross country travellers. Although it is often stated that there was no road between Shieldaig and Torridon, this is incorrect. The various properties were connected by tracks and estate roads, with the A896 route following this route between Shieldaig and Balgy Bridge. The onwards section to the Torridon Inn survives as an estate road, little changed, since the new road was built.

Other improvements to the route over the years are almost entirely online upgrades, as the general alignment, both vertical and horizontal, of the current road shows. However, the one noticeable difference is in Lochcarron village, where the B857 originally started at the back of the Free Church on Church Street, and climbed up along the house driveway to meet the current line of the A896.

Related Pictures
View gallery (30)
Signs for the road to Applecross in 1980 - Geograph - 2315798.jpgA896-snow1.jpgA896-snow2.jpgNew Cromasaig Bridge - Geograph - 603152.jpgA896 Allt Slugach - ERDF sign.jpg
Other nearby roads
A800 • A801 • A802 • A803 • A804 • A805 • A806 • A807 • A808 • A809 • A810 • A811 • A812 • A813 • A814 • A815 • A816 • A817 • A818 • A819

A820 • A821 • A822 • A823 • A824 • A825 • A826 • A827 • A828 • A829 • A830 • A831 • A832 • A833 • A834 • A835 • A836 • A837 • A838 • A839
A840 • A841 • A842 • A843 • A844 • A845 • A846 • A847 • A848 • A849 • A850 • A851 • A852 • A853 • A854 • A855 • A856 • A857 • A858 • A859
A860 • A861 • A862 • A863 • A864 • A865 • A866 • A867 • A868 • A869 • A870 • A871 • A872 • A873 • A874 • A875 • A876 • A877 • A878 • A879
A880 • A881 • A882 • A883 • A884 • A885 • A886 • A887 • A888 • A889 • A890 • A891 • A892 • A893 • A894 • A895 • A896 • A897 • A898 • A899

Defunct Itineraries and Motorways: A804 • A806 • A817 • A818 • A823(M) • A825 • A833 • A859 • A862 • A872 • A876 • A882 • A896

SABRE - The Society for All British and Irish Road Enthusiasts
Discuss - Digest - Discover - Help