A2 (Northern Ireland)
|Location Map ( geo)
|Bangor, Belfast, Larne, Coleraine
|237.1 miles (381.6 km)
|A1, A28, A50, A24, A25, A20, A48, A21, A55, M3, A20, A11, A12, M2, M5, A8, A42, A43, A44, A29, A26, A37, A515, A6, A5, A40, N13
|Route outline (key)
The A2 follows the whole coast of Northern Ireland, visiting four of its six counties on the way. It is a route that varies enormously in character: from narrow, winding coastal road to major distributor connecting Belfast to its suburbs in Counties Antrim and Down.
Newry - Belfast
The A2 currently starts at the southern end of the A1 Newry Bypass, and follows the old route of the A1 into the town itself. Having crossed the easternmost bridge in the town, it then makes a sharp right turn to run along its original scenic route on the north side of Carlingford Lough. The section from Newry to Warrenpoint is D2, with the original S2 alignment continuing to Kilkeel. The A2 then turns to run northeast along the coast of County Down, with the Mourne Mountains in the distance, as far as Newcastle. Beyond this, as frequently happens with the A2, it forms a "long way round" part of a route, in this case from Clough to Strangford, avoiding Downpatrick, up to the edge of Strangford Lough.
The A2 carries onto the other side via a ferry to Portaferry, and heads around the east Down coast to Bangor, which is bypassed. From here into Belfast, the quality of the road improves heading into the city, and there are dual-carriageway bypasses of Holywood and Syndenham. The mainline of the road becomes the M3, while the A2 runs over the Queen's Bridge, and turns north to head back out of the city.
Belfast - Coleraine
The section from Belfast to Derry is known as the Causeway Coastal Route and is full of scenic delights. While the Revd. Ian Paisley regarded this part of the A2 as "one of the most beautiful [roads] in the whole of the United Kingdom", some also regard it as one of the most scenic drives in all of Ireland, if not, indeed of Europe. While the initial section out of Belfast is not too spectacular, things pick up as we head out along Belfast Lough, through Carrickfergus, where there's a sharp turn left at Cloghan Point to head northwest. Then A2 then runs along the western edge of Lough Larne into Larne itself.
North of Larne, the primary route ends. The A2 runs north, out of the edge of the town, and the scenery turns up a notch, hugging the coastline and sandwiched between the sea and the mountains. From here up to Ballycastle, the A2 runs in the Antrim Coast & Glens AONB. The road north of Larne runs to the east of Black Hill, with a good view of Scotland on a clear day. It then passes through Glenarm and Carnlough to continue round the coast. The A2 picks up the A43, before running under the Red Arch, and turning the corner to lead into Cushendall. From here, it turns to run more inland to Ballycastle, avoiding Cushendun, albeit with numerous hairpins as it navigates the various mountains in the area. After Ballycastle, the A2 turns to run around the Causeway Coast ANOB to Portrush, picking up and dropping off the B146 which leads to the Giant's Causeway itself. Shortly after the town, it crosses into County Londonderry. There's then a sharp left turn at Portstewart, and the A2 heads into the centre of Coleraine.
Coleraine - Derry
The A2 avoids the centre of Coleraine, forming one short stretch of its rather convoluted one-way system, and crosses over the Bann Bridge. It then forms part of another "long way round" route to Limavady via Castlerock; there are two more direct routes, the A37, and the B201. The road runs close to the Atlantic coast for a short stretch after Castlerock, and passes by the Umbra Nature Reserve before turning back inland. It crosses over the spectacular Coleraine-to-Derry railway line at a level crossing, and meets the more direct B201 at a roundabout in Artikelly. It turns westward here, and almost immediately meets the A37 at another roundabout, where it regains primary status.
After Limavady, the road improves considerably. Its heads through the centre of Ballykelly, which has not yet been bypassed, and Greysteel. There's a fairly quick run past Ballykerry Airport before the A2 arrives at the City of Derry Airport. From here onwards, the road is dual carriageway all the way to the outskirts of the Walled City. The A2 bisects the A514 and A515 City Bypass, and follows the east coast of the River Foyle down to the Waterside. Here, it meets the A6, which arrives from Belfast at a set of traffic lights near the Ebrington Barracks, a former military installation now converted into a popular events venue at the end of the new Peace Bridge. The A2 executes a TOTSO here, and is a single carriageway with up to six lanes as it heads down the Foyle. It turns left at a roundabout which has been constructed solely to provide acces to the Ebrington site, and becomes an urban dual carriageway as it runs alongside the wide Foyle estuary. There is another roundabout near the railway station, and the road then meets the A5, which continues straight ahead towards Omagh and, as the N2 to Dublin. This section has an unnecessarily low 30mph speed limit throughout. The A2 executes another TOTSO, and turns right onto the impressive Craigavon Bridge. This former railway bridge has two decks, and to remain on the A2 it is possible to use either of them to reach the Cityside, although the upper deck provides much the better view of the historic walled city centre.
Arriving on the Cityside, the A40 departs from the end of the bridge's lower deck to head towards Letterkenny in the Republic of Ireland. From both the upper, a left turn at the same point will take you around the walled city to the notorious Bogside district, the famous Free Derry Corner, and the Bloody Sunday Monument, via the B507. From both the upper and lower decks, you can continue to follow the A2 as it now runs parallel to itself on either side of the Foyle. The A2 stays close to the river, again as an urban dual carriageway, as local roads provide access to the city centre. The dual carriageway ends at a roundabout near the imposing City Hotel, and the A2 then runs out into the suburbs along the wide Strand Road, with two lanes in each direction.
To the north of the town, the road splits. West goes towards the N13 and Letterkenny. North goes to the R238 at Muff, and onwards to the North Donegal Coast. Since both of these destinations are in the Republic, the A2 has to end its coastal drive here.
Trunk Road sections
The A2 has several trunk road sections. They are as follows:
- Newry - Warrenpoint: part of the T15
- Northern Ireland - A24 at Clough: part of the T2
- Bangor - Belfast: the T1
- Shore Road Roundabout (M5) - Carrickfergus: part of the T21
- Limavady - Derry: part of the T7
The original route of the A2 had a gap from Clough to Donaghadee that was filled by the Class II B11. This was due to the link requiring the ferry from Strangford to Portaferry. The A2 was quickly extended over this section although the ferry remains.
The Antrim Coast Road section had always been popular with tourists, but by the turn of the the 1970s, the holiday trade had gone into decline as a result of The Troubles. Consequently in 1972, David Howell, then Minister of State for Northern Ireland, proposed an extension of the "Development of Tourist Traffic (Amendment) Act (Northern Ireland)" to allow improve funding and grants for the area along the Antrim Coast. The proposals were enthusiastically welcomed by the Revd. Ian Paisley, then MP for Antrim North, and consequently today the A2 along the Antrim Coast is a popular tourist attraction again, with numerous hotels and B&Bs accommodating people wanting to explore the coast.
During the early 1990s, the then-MP for Antrim East, Roy Beggs, proposed moving the Whiting Mill and Limestone works, which sat near the A2 at Glenarm, on the north coast, in order to provide a more attractive environment for tourism.
Northern Ireland Road Site
- A2 Newry – Warrenpoint
- A2 Londonderry – Maydown
- A2 Hazelbank – Newtownabbey
- A2 Greenisland – Carrickfergus
- A2 Sydenham Bypass / Holywood Bypass
- A2 Ballyrobert – Bangor
Causeway Coastal Route