It branches from the A9 near Tain and runs generally north through Bonar Bridge and Lairg, until Tongue. At Tongue the road turns east, following the north coast, passing through Thurso, and eventually ending at John o' Groats, where it meets the A99.
The second part of the A836 branches of 3 miles after Ardgay onto what used to be the B9176 road and is 14 miles long where it meets with the A9. This is still a major road even although slightly narrower than the stretch between Tain and Lairg.
The A836 passes through some of the loneliest and sparsely populated parts of Britain, and despite having an 'A' classification, is a single track road in many places. It is a hazardous route in winter owing to the narrow road width, sharp gradients and turns, and is particularly not a recommended route for goods and livestock vehicles, unless strictly necessary.
The North Coast 500 scenic route runs along part of the A836.
- Rob Humphreys, Donald Reid (2002). Scottish Highlands & Islands. Rough Guide Travel Guides. Rough Guides. p. 296. ISBN 978-1-858-28880-2.
- "Great drives: Inverness to Ullapool". The Daily Telegraph. 27 June 2000. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
- "Dornoch Firth (bridge)". Hansard. 9 May 1972. Retrieved 6 September 2016.