|Location Map ( geo)|
|From:||Tighnabruaich Pier (NR984733)|
|Distance:||25.4 miles (40.9 km)|
|Meets:||Pier, A8003, A886|
|Route outline (key)|
The B8000, a long road around the western shore of Cowal, is a delight to drive, but not many people seem to bother. With the 'new' A8003 route connecting Tighnabruaich and Kames more directly to the outside world, there seems to be little need for anyone to drive the B8000 unless they live on it or are Sabristi! Originally numbered as the B837 and later the A886, it has been the B8000 since the mid 1960s.
Tighnabruaich - Millhouse
If people do drive the whole length of the B8000, it seems most likely that they will start in Tighnabruaich after crossing Cowal from Dunoon, or they will start from the Portavadie Ferry, both at the southern end of the route. The road therefore starts at Tighnabruaich Pier, another instance of a Scottish B-road starting at a pier, although the original start point of the classified road appears to have been about 200m further east along the coast where a lane turns up the hill; the B8000 has always started here. To the east, an unclassified road continues along the shore and through the village before becoming a driveway serving the further houses along the shore of the Kyles of Bute.
Heading west, the road runs past some elegant villas looking out over the water, and after a brief detour inland past some shops, it reaches the junction where the A8003 now drops into the village, but this is the last junction with a classified road for the next 22 miles! Although the junction is old, the route of the A8003 beyond the village was only built in the 1960s. The road has now turned to follow the shore south from Tighabruaich into Kames, slowly climbing away from the waters edge. The two villages are almost conjoined, with just the length of the Shinty Field between them, After some wiggles up the hill, the road turns sharp right outside Kames Police Station. There is a crossroads here, with the other two arms dropping down to the shore and eventually curving round the headland to rejoin the B8000 a mile or so to the west at Millhouse. The B8000 meanwhile follows a long straight up and over the low hill, with a couple of bends dropping it into Millhouse.
Millhouse - Otter Ferry
Millhouse is another crossroads, albeit set at a slight stagger, with the rather awkward straight-on route dropping down to the shore at Portavadie, where the Portavadie Ferry crosses to Tarbert on Kintyre. However, the B8000 turns sharp right again and starts the long journey north. The map shows the road as single track, but for much of the way it is really S1.75, in other words just about wide enough for two cars to pass slowly anywhere along the way, but heaven help anyone who comes across a lorry, as the passing places are few and far between! The first half mile or so is fairly level, past some fields and into woodland, but then there is a sharp climb, mostly through forestry, up to a summit of 165m. Loch Meldalloch appears suddenly on the right, and is followed by a steep descent past the farm, before the gradient eases as the road drops down to cross the River Auchalick.
An easier climb lifts the road up again, curving across a hill with the waters of Loch Fyne sparkling in the afternoon sunshine below to the left in the otherwise desolate landscape. The small settlement of Kilfinan sits on the hill above the Kilfinnan Burn, with the road then climbing back into more forestry plantations, losing sight of the coast as it does. Twice crossing the 100m contour, the road winds through the trees, before a longer straight has some small fields on either side. Then, as it descends, a road to the right is signposted 'Clachan of Glendaruel'. This narrow, winding hill road crosses to the A886 just to the north of the A8003 junction - a very long way to get back to where you started from!
Otter Ferry - Leanach
At the bottom of the hill, the road bursts out onto the coast at Otter Ferry, where it takes a sharp right to avoid plunging into the sea. As the name suggests, this is an ancient ferry crossing of Loch Fyne, and the little stone pier ahead proves it. On the corner is the Oystercatcher Pub; set in an idyllic place it is a real 'get away from it all' destination! The road is now heading north east on a narrow shelf right on the water's edge, with overhanging trees dappling the sunlight as it dances across the road ahead. After a mile or so the road ducks inland at Largiemore Holiday Park, but not for long. The same happens at Lephinchapel and Lephinmore, but while the road is a little wider again, it is still within jumping distance of Loch Fyne. All along the shore here, the landward side is predominantly steep wooded slopes, with some forestry. A few hilly fields appear, particularly where the streams tumble down into the loch.
Finally, at Lachlan Bay, the road turns away from the shore and heads up Strathlachlan towards the A886. On the far side of the bay stands a ruined castle, with the grand house that replaced it looking out across the loch. There is also a car park, old chapel and holiday park, showing a variety of land uses over the centuries. The road climbs slowly up the Strath, past a pretty roadside chapel and then over the bridge. Houses are scattered along the roadside, and then the road forks at a cottage. Both arms are part of the B8000, the right fork climbs quickly to the main road at Leanach while the left fork, now more or less S2 again, takes a slower route to a reprofiled junction at Leachd.
The road was originally numbered B837, except for the shorter fork at the northern end, which was part of the B836. The former had been upgraded to become the A886 by 1932. In the 1960s and 70s, many of the Cowal Peninsula's roads were upgraded and so the B8000 swapped numbers with the A886; the old B8000 was a shorter road along Loch Ruel to Colintraive and over the ferry to Bute. Subsequent improvements to the new A886 route have seen the fork at the northern end of the B8000 added, as the main road now cuts across the hillside higher up, avoiding the zig-zagging original road.