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A2 road (Northern Ireland): Wikis


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Coordinates: 54°40′55″N 5°52′48″W / 54.682°N 5.880°W / 54.682; -5.880

UK road A2.svg
A2 road
Length (miles) 239
Length (km) 385
Direction South - North
Start Newry, County Down.
Primary destinations* Warrenpoint
End At border crossing near Muff, County Donegal and Culmore, County Londonderry
Roads joined M2, M3 and A12 Westlink in Belfast
M5 near Newtownabbey
A26in Coleraine
A5 and A6 in Derry
* Primary destinations as specified by the Department for Transport.
The A2 coastal route shown in red from Derry to Newry.

The A2 is a major road in Northern Ireland, a large section of which is often called the Antrim Coast Road because it follows the scenic coastline of County Antrim.

Mostly a single carriageway, the road actually follows the majority of the coastline of Northern Ireland. It is connected in several places to other major roads.

The Causeway Coast



The road begins in the city of Newry, County Down and heads north-east through the fishing towns of Warrenpoint, Rostrevor and Kilkeel.

After Dundrum the road continues via Ardglass to Strangford, where traffic following the road takes a car ferry to Portaferry. From there it meets the Irish Sea coast of the Ards Peninsula at Cloughey, and follows it through Portavogie, Ballyhalbert, Millisle and Donaghadee to Bangor, County Down, from where it forms a major dual carriageway to Belfast.

After its intersection with the M3, it continues through Belfast city centre's complex one-way system via the Queen's Bridge and Queen Elizabeth Bridge, past the Custom House and on along Corporation Street, eventually joining York Road. Along this stretch and further out the Shore Road, the main route is formed by the M3, M2 and M5, until the M5 ends in Newtownabbey in the northern suburbs of Belfast.

After a suburban stretch through Jordanstown, Greenisland, Carrickfergus and Whitehead, it enters open countryside en route to Larne, beyond which the most notable section of the road, the Antrim Coast Road, begins (see below).

After leaving the coast at Cushendall the road continues to Ballycastle before travelling along the Causeway Coast to Portrush and on into County Londonderry through Coleraine and Derry to the border with the Republic of Ireland.

Currently upon approach to Derry city it is a dual carriageway from Maydown to The Foyle Bridge (Ireland's Longest Bridge) but from the end of 2008 work will begin on further dualling of this route from Maydown to City of Derry Airport an Airport which is rapidly expanding.

Antrim Coast Road

The Antrim Coast Road is regarded as one of Ireland's most scenic drives. This part of the road is not a primary route; it is relatively narrow and lightly used. It runs along the coast for some 40km, from the Black Arch near Larne to the Red Arch near Cushendall, passing through the villages of Ballygalley, Glenarm, Carnlough and Waterfoot.

In the early 1800s, in the reign of William IV, the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland said the Glens of Antrim were ‘cut off from any reasonable communication by the badness of roads over mountains and slopes varying from 1 in 6 to 1 in 12’. The Commissioners conceived a great project to build the Antrim Coast Road to give better access for the inhabitants, to open up the Glens for trade, and give some form of unemployment relief.[1]

The Antrim Coast Road was promoted by the Commissioners, but it was their civil engineer, William Bald, who had the vision of building the road along the foot of the cliffs. He did so between 1832 and 1842, under the watchful eye of the County Surveyors of the day – Thomas Woodhouse (1832 - 1836) and Charles Lanyon (1836 - 1842)[2].

It was a superb achievement for its day and made a great difference to the people of the Glens. Before the road was built, they sailed across the North Channel to Scotland to trade their goods, because the short sea crossing was easier than travel by land to the nearest market town.

William Bald had the vision of building the road along the foot of the cliffs, some of them over 100 metres high. This was a novel idea, as previous plans had been to build the road some distance inland. But this would have meant steep gradients as the road traversed the valleys of the Glens as they ran down from the Antrim Plateau to the sea. Bald decided to blast the cliff face which then fell down onto the foreshore to form the base for the new road.

In his report to the Commissioners[3] Bald writes:

‘30,0000 cubic yards of rock have been hurled down on the shore almost entirely by blasting, which has been executed by care and judgement. This has been greatly assisted by the use of Beckford’s Patent Safety Fuse, an invention of the greatest certainty and economy which reduces, in a great degree, the chance of those accidents to which the operation of the miners has been particularly liable’.

The Antrim Coast Road was completed in 1842 at a cost of £37,140 - some £12,000 over budget - much to the displeasure of the Commissioners. It then remained largely unchanged until the late 1960s. But there were frequent rockfalls, because the geology of the Antrim Coast is limestone, greatly faulted and fissured, which is overlain by considerable depths of basalt, also weathered and rotten near the surface.

In February 1967 there was a major fall of rock onto the road south of Glenarm, and in May 1967 there was another which completely blocked the road[4]. At this point the cliffs are some 100m high, so Antrim County Council decided to build a new road 30m on the seaward side of the old one. The Council decided to do the work largely by direct labour and started to acquire the plant and equipment needed for the job. They opened up a quarry and began to construct a new embankment, but on the night of 31 October 1968 there was a 1 in 70 year storm which washed away the part of the causeway that had not yet been protected by rock armour. The work restarted in 1969 and a reinforced concrete sea wall was constructed, again by direct labour. Altogether 97,000 tonnes of rock armour were placed and the scheme was completed in November 1970, over 3 years after the road was closed.

William Bald was a civil engineer who left an immeasurable legacy to the people of the Glens of Antrim, and created one of the finest tourist routes in the world. But despite extensive research no portrait of him can be found, although he has two memorials. The first is a small plaque on the road just north of Larne. A second memorial was erected in August 2008 in Burntisland by the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Burntisland Heritage Trust[5].

Tourist attractions

Owing to its length and the fact that it follows the coast, the road passes a large number of Northern Ireland's tourist attractions. These include:


  1. ^ David Orr. Presidential Address to the Institution of Civil Engineers: 'At the Heart of Society', 2007
  2. ^ Margaret C Storrie. 'The Man Who Built the Antrim Coast Road'. Geographical Magazine. London. 1971
  3. ^ Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland. Annual Report. The House of Commons. London. 1834
  4. ^ Malcolm Turner. Reconstructing the Antrim Coast Road. Institution of Civil Engineers Northern Ireland Region. Belfast. 1972
  5. ^ Burntisland Heritage Trust. 2008


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