|To:||Kenton Bar (NZ213678)|
|Distance:||65.6 miles (105.6 km)|
|Meets:||A168, A61, A684, A168, A66, A67, A68, A1150, A1(M), A689, A688, A177, A690, A691, A183, A1(M), A693, A1, A184, A167(M), A189, A191, A1, A696|
|Former Number(s):||A1, A6127, A696|
|Old route now:||B6265, A168|
|Route outline (key)|
A long north-south route in northeast England, the A167 has been much lengthened over the years. Almost all of what is described below was at one time the A1 - and as that road has been rerouted or upgraded the A167 has taken over more of it.
Section 1: Topcliffe to Northallerton
This stretch can claim to be one of the forerunners of the A1 although the A168 and the present A1 routes were concurrent. In fact the Ministry first included the A167 in the original designation before hurriedly changing it when they realised that everyone used the more westerly route past Scotch Corner.
We start on the D2 A168 at junctions at both sides of Topcliffe village, although neither is really recommended for through traffic. There is a tiny one-way system in Topcliffe itself due to the narrowness of the roads. After a long straight northwest past RAF Topcliffe on the right (now an army barracks), we then come to the A61 running west from Thirsk which we cross on a roundabout at the curiously named Busby Stoop Inn (now an Indian restaurant). The road then becomes a bit narrower, but is pretty good passing the old RAF Skipton on Swale on the left (Topcliffe and Skipton were both 6 Group Bomber Command airfields as were nearby Dalton and Dishforth. Coming back from raids and sorting that lot out must have been horrendous). After Sandhutton, the road meanders up the River Wiske past Kirkby Wiske and Newby Wiske. The North Yorkshire police college is at Newby Wiske. Eventually we meet the A684 coming in from Bedale and they multiplex into Northallerton, where the A168 is met again. The old road went along the High Street but the current route of the A167 is along a parallel relief road; the High Street is still open to through traffic, however, and is part of the B1333. The multiplex ends at a roundabout, the A684 heading for Ellerbeck and the A19, and the A167 heading north toward Darlington.
Section 2: Northallerton to Chester-le-Street
Towards Darlington the road continues as non-primary still closely shadowing the East Coast Mainline railway, which it crossed in Northallerton. The road is largely unimproved and passes through a few small villages.
Beside the little village of Dalton-on-Tees (which is actually bypassed) is the turn off for Croft Motor Racing circuit, this can be the scene of large traffic jams in the summer on touring car weekend.
A further mile up the road and we reach Croft-on-Tees which straddles the border of Yorkshire and County Durham. Here the A167 crosses the Tees on a magnificent stone arched bridge.
We head straight for Darlington now. The road turns primary, a status it will keep until we reach Chester-le-Street, at a roundabout where it crosses the A66 southern bypass. Turn left here for the A1(M) south via the famous A66(M); turning right takes you around the Darlington ring road and ends up in Teesside.
The A167 then proceeds through the centre of Darlington. However, it no longer travels down the main street: instead it takes a diversion to the east along an incomplete D2 ring road, just catching sight of the Bank Top station building en route.
Heading out of Darlington the road is wide, as is much of the previous A1, as this road was the original route until the A1(M) was built in the 1970s. A wide but busy road takes you up to the grade separated roundabout junction with the A1(M) at J59.
We then skirt to the East of Newton Aycliffe, never really seeing the centre of the town. A short dual carriageway bypass gives way to single and then a few miles down the road we get to the newest part of the A167, the Chilton bypass. Until very recently traffic used to go straight through the middle of this village, but now traffic coming off the roundabout is directed down a single-carriageway road to the West before rejoining the original road just north of here.
We then drop down a hill before climbing up to Ferryhill which we bypass in a narrow cutting which is older than it appears to begin with.
After getting through Croxdale and crossing the River Wear there follows one of my favourite sections of dual carriageway: most other local authorities would have restricted this to 50 mph or less, but not Durham County Council. It remains at NSL despite its tight and twisty character: definitely worth a drive. It also features one of the most confusing roundabouts, called 'Cock o' the North' (named, as many roundabouts are, after a now-demolished pub), which isn't actually a roundabout at all, as the northbound A167 doesn't have to give way!
We then bypass the majority of Durham to the west, but the road still goes through Neville's Cross. You can turn off here at traffic lights to go into Durham along the A690. We then head to the roundabout with the A691 which leads up to the ex-steel town of Consett. Most of the villages around this area were former pit villages: if you went back a hundred years this area would be littered with coal mines.
We then run on another relatively new bypass past the curiously named Pity Me, which is believed to be derived from the French, "petit mare" which means small lake. The roundabout at the end of the bypass can be used to access the Arninson Centre which has the usual array of out of town shopping. The access road used to be signposted to meet the A1(M), perhaps one of the more extreme examples of future-proofing, as that would rely on a crossing of the River Wear that has not even got to the planning stage!
Section 3: Chester-le-Street to Newcastle
It's back onto dual carriageway now for the run into Chester-le-Street. It's another section of relatively narrow dual which until recently was NSL, but is now down to a 50 mph limit. A few years ago the council decided to improve the safety of the road by closing most of the central reservation gaps and instead installing three new roundabouts, the upshot of which is that the road is very stop-start these days; however, in reality something did need to be done about the junctions.
We pass straight past Nettlesworth and Plawsworth which has a very nice pub in the Red Lion and a pick-your-own strawberry farm right across the road. The road also goes straight past Chester Moor, who were successful in their campaign to get the speed limit reduced on this stretch of road.
The road passes straight under the East Coast Railway again and to the east of Chester-le-Street; however to do this is needs to take a very sharp turn to the right and then back to the left again to avoid diving straight into the river Wear! The Chester-le-Street cricket ground is then to the right, home of the Durham County Cricket Club. We then pass around Chester-le-Street, a rather scary section with concrete barriers in the central reservation. The next section after the roundabout is a short blast down to junction 63 of the A1(M). This section of D2 between the two roundabouts is all that remains of the old Birtley bypass before the A1(M) was built.
From about the 1930s until the 1970s when this road was the A1, it followed the current alignment of the A1(M) up to junction 65 and then down into Low Fell and Gateshead; however now the motorway has arrived and the A167 takes a dogleg left to head up towards Birtley.
This section is actually a multiplex with the A693, both road numbers being mentioned equally on the signage. When heading in the opposite direction this section is not signed as the A167 at all, you are instead diverted down Park Road (another former route of the A1 and now the B6290) and for southbound traffic this section of the A167 effectively does not exist!
If you were to continue on the A693 you would head up to Stanley and eventually Consett. Passing by the famous Beamish open air museum in the process. However we turn right here and lose primary status as we join the Roman road through Birtley. There is sparse housing around here, hence the 40 mph limit, and we pass under an impressive bridge which now carries a cycle path, but once carried the Consett & Sunderland railway, which ceased to serve any purpose after Consett's heavy industry died. A few hundred metres later at the Barley Mow roundabout we enter the Metropolitan Borough of Gateshead.
We are again running parallel to the East Coast railway to our left as we pass by various industrial buildings, including Komatsu who always have an impressive number of diggers parked outside!
A couple of sets of traffic lights later and we are through Birtley and can start climbing up to meet the A1 once again, the last time we will meet this road until the end of the A167. Like many of the roads around this area this has been changed around quite a bit. Before the A1 the road out of Birtley, and indeed the Great North Road, used to run straight up Long Bank, which has now been sliced into two pieces by the A1. Even after the A1 was built it used to run straight into Low Fell on what is now the A167; however after the A1 Western Bypass was completed it now runs straight down to Team Valley. The junction was modified as a result and part of the old approach road is still intact just south of the junction.
This roundabout is a favourite for drivers trying to cut off the A1 and join further down the road to avoid the jams on this stretch; however they have now been thwarted due to the installation of traffic lights on the southern section of the roundabout.
After we get around the roundabout we get onto a short section of 50 mph dual carriageway taking us into Low Fell. But before that is the now famous 'Angel of the North' sculpture by Anthony Gormley, which towers over both this road and the A1. There is free parking here for anyone who wants to visit. After the dual carriageway we suddenly drop to 30 mph and we are in Low Fell. Although the road is still wide, progress is somewhat slower due to many junctions and traffic lights, and especially in the main shopping street of Low Fell.
You can turn left at Low Fell to go down the steep Belle Vue bank to the Team Valley trading estate, which just like at Pity Me has the usual array of out-of-town warehouses.
As we pass by the former site of Gateshead College on the left we run parallel to Saltwell Park, which has been described as one of the finest examples of Victorian parkland in the country.
Our journey down a shallow incline towards the Tyne is then stopped by joining a flyover, going over most of Gateshead town centre: this is the A167 Gateshead Highway. As it stands, it is very short and very congested and only has one intermediate junction; however it was not meant to be this way. This flyover was meant to continue all the way across the River Tyne on a new bridge built to the east of the current Tyne Bridge, it would then link up with the Central Motorway East somewhere near Manors.
As that was not actually built we are then dumped off the fly-over and have to merge with traffic coming from the A184. At this point the A167 number disappears for a few hundred metres to be replaced by the A184, not that the road number is on your mind at this moment. This part of the A167 probably has one of the most complicated sets of traffic lights, roads, side roads, and switchbacks anywhere in the country; however somehow it seems to cope with the massive amount of traffic pushed onto it, so after a few delays at red lights we are released to drive across the magnificent Tyne Bridge. Upon reaching the Newcastle side you have a choice to go up the old A1 route up Percy Street, or continue on the Central Motorway by diving through a tunnel under the Swan House roundabout. It's here where the A167 reaches its most lofty status, of A167(M).
Much has been written elsewhere about the A167(M) so I won't go into detail here. Suffice to say that going North the road is usually fast and congestion free, which is certainly not the case going South: quite often in the morning there is standing traffic starting from the Tyne Bridge and lasting the entire length of the motorway and continuing up the A167 itself. However the Central Motorway is still a marvel of engineering with its double-deck roadway to get North and Southbound traffic through the same space.
After the excitement of the motorway we then come down off the elevated section and the motorway ends, without even as much as an end-of-motorway sign. The road continues as grade-separated dual carriageway past the Town Moor up to Cowgate roundabout. Back in the dim and distant past when this was still the A1, the A1 designation used to turn right and head up alongside the Town Moor to Gosforth, and this section of road was the A696. But that all changed when the A1 was moved out of Newcastle city centre to the Tyne Tunnel.
Here things get slightly confusing as you basically have two choices, to go left towards Westerhope or right towards Kenton Bar: both of these are listed as the A167 on maps. However only the road towards Kenton is signed from the A1 as the A167, so we will use this as the route.
We head right on the roundabout and after a short single-carriageway section to fit through some shops and housing we are back on dual again. A few roundabouts later we meet the A1 again for the final time as the A167 ends here. Here you can turn left to take the A1 south again back to see the Angel of the North, turn right to take the A1 up to Edinburgh, or straight on to take the A696 to Newcastle airport and eventually the A68 and Edinburgh.
As may be expected, none of the above was numbered A167 on classification in 1922. At that time the road ran from the A1 at Topcliffe northeast to Thirsk and the A61 (this is now the A168 and B1448). Then in 1924 the A1 was rerouted between Boroughbridge and Darlington to go via Scotch Corner instead of Northallerton (as that was the way that traffic actually went). As part of the renumbering, the A167 number was given to the bypassed section of A1 and the A168 was extended along the former A167 from Thirsk to Topcliffe.
In the next section of renumberings, in 1935, the A167 was extended further south still. It was given a short multiplex with the A1 across the River Ure in Boroughbridge and then took over the A1079 from there into Green Hammerton to end on the A59. This section of road was originally the A66 and was renumbered in the 1924 renumberings; 1935 tied up a few loose ends here, such as extending the A59 to York.
The original road from Topcliffe to Boroughbridge was severed with the construction of RAF Dishforth during World War II. The new road was built to the north and for some reason was numbered A168 rather than A167. This meant that a new number was needed for the road between Boroughbridge and Green Hammerton; it became the unimaginative A1167 and, following the construction of the A1 Boroughbridge bypass in the 1960s, is now part of the B6265.
The northern end of the A167 remained on the A1 in Darlington until the A1(M) was constructed in County Durham in 1969. The old A1 became an extension of the A167 up to Chester-le-Street. The Birtley bypass followed in the following year. Here, however, the old A1 was given a different number, A6127: this road then took on the A1 north into Newcastle when the main road was rerouted via the Tyne Tunnel in the 1977.
When the A1 moved again onto the western bypass in 1990 the A6127 suddenly found itself out-of-zone and was abolished. The A167 took on the entire of that road's former route, including the motorway section in the centre of Newcastle, to give the road its current length.