|Distance:||64.8 miles (104.3 km)|
|Meets:||A4, A3604, B3111, B3118, A367, A3062, B3108, A366, B3110, A361, B3099, A3098, A350, B3414, A362, B390, A303, B3083, A30, A3094, A360, A345, A338, A27, B3079, A3090, M27, A31, A326, A336, A35|
|Former Number(s):||A30, A3080|
|Old route now:||A4, A35, A33|
|Route outline (key)|
The A36 is the principal route from Bristol and Wales to the central south coast, though in recent times the "long way round" combination of the M4, A34 and M3 has taken some of the pressure off it. A lot of the road remains rural single carriageway.
The A36 through Bath
The A36 starts at a TOTSO junction on the western outskirts of Bath. A dual-carriageway section of the A4 trunk road from Bristol ends at traffic lights, where it bears off as a non-primary route to the left along Newbridge Road, while the A36 continues along the main line onto Lower Bristol Road. The first section of the road skirts the centre of Bath to the south, and is signposted as the main route for through traffic, while traffic for the city centre is directed along the A4. The A36 runs right up against the elevated Great Western Railway through Twerton, which is accessed via several minor roads that exit directly through tight Victorian bridges. The A36 then distances itself from the railway and skirts around Oldfield Park. The A3604, which is so short that it hardly merits a number, provides a link over the River Avon to the A4 in Newbridge, before reaching a gyratory the provides access to city centre via Midland Bridge. On the westbound side of this gyratory is an old plaque affixed to a wall just above the level of the pavement, informing passers-by that they are precisely one mile from the Guildhall, which is located in the very heart of the city near Bath Abbey. The road then becomes squeezed between the railway and the river and reaches a strange elongated roundabout near Churchill Bridge. The Great Western Railway runs along the middle of this roundabout, before passing immediately over the Avon and into Bath railway station. The A367 crosses the A36 here, heading north to meet the A4 in Queen Square, and south towards Odd Down, Radstock, and Shepton Mallet.
Then there's a very short section of dual carriageway, running alongside the Avon. Until June 2015 the carriageways used to split into a one-way system, whereby eastbound traffic passed along the purpose-built Rossiter Road, while westbound traffic used the built-up Widcombe Parade. Widcombe Parade has now been restored to the status of a local high street, and the dual carriageway now ends to the west of it. A36 traffic in both directions now uses Rossiter Road, which crosses the Kennet and Avon canal to lead into Pulteney Road.
The A36 turns north to follow the river. On the way, a signal-controlled T-junction right beneath another railway bridge. Turn left here to drive straight into the heart of the city along North Parade, past the home of Bath Rugby Club at the Rec. Then we encounter a roundabout, where a right-turn will take you up the steep Bathwick Hill through some of the most expensive real estate in England, and also to the University of Bath. At Sydney Gardens, a turning to the left marks the start of Great Pulteney Street, the magnificent Georgian avenue that leads down to the Great Pulteney Bridge - a bridge over the Avon lined with shops that was presumably inspired by the Pontevecchio in Florence. It is also at Sydney Gardens that the A36 splits in two. The left-hand road is a spur over Cleveland Bridge which rejoins the A4 (and, by extension, the A46); the right-hand one takes the A36 out of the city towards Warminster. This, incidentally, is where the A36 assumes trunk road status, which it retains for virtually throughout its length. From here, the A36 begins to leave Bath behind, passing through the adjoining village of Bathampton. Here, there is access to a private toll bridge over the Avon to Batheaston, and again both to the A4 and A46.
Bath – Warminster
The A36 then comes close to the Avon again, and follows its twists and turns to Monkton Combe. This section of road is a pleasure to drive the the traffic is light, although it is busy all too often. There is a dense covering of trees as it reaches a staggered signal-controlled junction with the B3108, which crosses the river for Bradford-on-Avon. The unclassified road in the opposite direction climbs steeply up Brassknocker Hill, and provides commuters with a difficult but more direct route back to Bath.
After the lights, the A36 climbs out of the valley past Limpley Stoke through more tree-covered twists and turns where the road is subjected to a 40 mph limit. At the top of the valley it breaks out of the trees. Here the quality of the road improves somewhat, and it gains the National Speed Limit. It races by the quaintly-named villages Farleigh Hungerford, Hinton Charterhouse, and Norton St Philip, which are all accessed via side roads. One of these roads is the A366, which crosses over our route at a brutal staggered crossroads that is very difficult during peak periods, and which is the scene of frequent accidents as a result. By this time, the A36 has crossed from Somerset into Wiltshire, passing through open farmland. The road then runs down a long overtaking straight (albeit with a potentially dangerous dip in the middle), to Woolverton. There is a painful 30 mph limit through this scenic village, and a farm to the right where alpacas can sometimes be seen sharing a happy little field with chickens, sheep and a donkey. After Woolverton there is a section of esses where the A36 dips down to and over the River Frome, which is great fun to drive at speed. Another long straight takes the road up to meet the famous A361 at Beckington.
At the start of the Becktington bypass, A361 departs to the left for Trowbridge, while a turn to the right will take you into the picturesque village. The A36 takes precedence over the A361 along a short section of dual carriageway, which is excellent for making progress through the traffic. At the end, there is another roundabout where you'll need to be back in the left-hand lane if you wish to continue with the A36 towards Warminster; the right-turn here sees the A361 depart again, this time for the pleasant market town of Frome. Frome is well worth a short diversion. There is also a small exit off this roundabout that leads onto an abandoned former alignment of the road, where you can find the excellent White Row Farm Shop, and a number of other interesting local businesses.
The next section is straight, and there is a long climbing lane leading up to an unusual (for a single carriageway) a multi-grade junction with the A3098. This road leads to Westbury. The A36 approaches Warminster across a plain, and then navigates to the south-west of the town via a long and undulating single-carriageway bypass, punctuated by roundabouts and with frequent climbing lanes. Part of the bypass is another multiplex, this time with the A350, as it winds its way from the M4 all the way down to Poole. The A362 also leaves us from one of the roundabouts, heading back towards Frome. A short deviation along this route will take you to Longleat, the stately home and safari park.
Warminster – Salisbury
The Warminster bypass is quite long, extending not only around the periphery of Warminester but also the neighbouring villages of Bishopstrow and Norton Bavant. The former A36 through all three settlements is now the B3414. There is also a bypass around Heytesbury, the next village, before the road returns to its original route, and winds along the Wylye Valley. Soon there's a junction with the B390, which runs over Salisbury Plain towards the London-bound A303. On the corner between the two roads is an army camp, as there so often is in Wiltshire. The road then passes through a tight S-bend before straightening out past Upton Lovell and Boyton, both of which lie off the main road. The A36 also misses Codford by virtue of a bypass running slightly off the original line of the road. The road then arrives at the Deptford interchange. This is an odd hybrid multi-grade junction with the A303, where the road splits into a dual carriageway with an unusually wide central reservation. The join the A303 towards London involves a simple free-flowing movement between the two carriageways, but traffic undertaking the opposite movement must execute a convoluted loop-the-loop with the need to merge and then turn off a local road part-way through. Traffic wishing to join the A303 and head for the South West must make a similarly awkward round-about manoeuvre, while traffic joining us from the South West must simply stop at a signal-controlled crossroads in the middle of it all.
After the junction, the A36 reverts to single carriageway, though some of the worst bends have been straightened out in places. This section of road has in the past had some signs campaigning for a relief road displayed along it. The road continues to run alongside the River Wylye, avoiding Steeple Langford courtesy of a single-carriageway bypass. It meets the B3083 at a sharp bend to the right just outside Stapleford. Shortly afterwards, it enters Stoford, where there is a 30 mph speed limit. There used to be a speed camera here, but it appears to have been removed. The is only a brief section of countryside before the road passes through South Newton, where the speed camera remains in place. The road runs closely alongside the Wylye through the barely-noticeable hamlet of Chilhampton before crossing the path of the Bath-to-Portsmouth railway line and arriving at Wiltshire's historic county town.
The A36 misses the centre of Wilton, but it is joined here by the A30, which will remain with us through a multiplex that stretches into Salisbury. The A36 is currently the dominant number, having taken over precedence from the A30, which is little more than a local road here, during the 1980s. After meeting the A3094 at Quidhampton, the A36 then enters Salisbury, which is the first properly built-up area through which the road has passed since Bathampton.
The modern Salisbury relief road runs around the ancient city centre. It is a dual carriageway, which meets the A360 as it comes down from Devizes and Stonehenge, and the A345 as it comes down from Marlborough and Old Sarum. At the next roundabout, the multiplex with the A30 ends, as it leaves us for Basingstoke and London. Here the A36 turns sharply southwards, picking up another multiplex with the A338. This road has joined from a multiplex of its own with the A30, and it remains with us until the next roundabout where it resumes its journey towards Bournemouth and, via the A354 that begins only a short distance away, Weymouth. All around the Salisbury ring road, there are minor roads connecting to the city's historic centre and the suburbs; all of these are grade-separated. After the final roundabout with the A338, the A36 makes a south-easterly course for Southampton. The quality of the road drops markedly, as it runs through numerous industrial and retail parks before clearing the city.
Salisbury – Ower
As soon as it leaves Salisbury, the A36 becomes a dual carriageway again, as it skirts around Alderbury. It then returns to being a long, wide and fairly straight single carriageway, on which sets the A27 off towards Romsey, at an inconspicuous signal-controlled crossroads near Whiteparish. The A36 enters the Langley Wood National Reserve, and there aren't many settlements except for Plaitford. As we arrive there, enter Hampshire; just before the Shoe Inn at Plaitford, a small stream runs under the road, marking the border between the two counties. In fact there used to be a small bump in the road where the different authorities' roads began and ended.
The A36 is then very straight and very busy, and governed by a 40 mph limit as it runs between the villages of West Wellow and Canada. There is a roundabout serving these two villages roundabout half way along the straight. There is then a long, tree-lined run down to a roundabout junction with the A3090 at Wigley. This road is the former A31, stretching north-east towards Romsey and the Hampshire county town of Winchester. There are then two sections of A36. The more important of the two is a dual carriageway linking the roundabout to the M27 at Junction 2.
Ower – Totton
At this point, the A36 appears to be split in two. The mainline from Salisbury continues onto a former spur of the M27 (which just possibly was numbered A36(M)) up to Junction 2, with the A326 towards the New Forest continuing the through route at the other side. Meanwhile, back at the roundabout at Ower, the original line of the A36 becomes non-primary as it turns right to run through the village and over the M27, where it drops off a short section of similarly non-primary A31 on the other side. There's a junction with the A326 as it comes down from the junction with the M27, causing the A36 to run beneath the grade-separated dual carriageway.
The road continues through the countryside for a few miles before reaching Calmore. Here, there is a roundabout with an extensive residential area off to the right. The A36 continues into Testwood, where the road is wide and straight, and passes through various industrial areas. The final section runs through to the centre of Totton, where it meets the A336 at a roundabout by the local Conservative Club. Turn right here to head towards the New Forest. Turn left to head through Totton on Commercial Road.
Then, running parallel with the south coast railway line, the A36 reaches the banks of the River Test. Here it splits and flows freely onto its brother, the A35, which proceeds onto the the Redbridge Causeway and continues towards Southampton.
The A36 originally started at St Andrew's Gate, Avonmouth, which formed the front entrance to the Royal Edward Docks. It then ran along St Andrew's Road and Avonmouth Road to what's now M5 J18. From here to the centre of Bristol, it ran along the Portway. (Interestingly the Portway had not been built in 1922 and the A36 was just allocated its projected route; the older route through Shirehampton, Stoke Bishop and the Triangle was the A4018 as the only classified road to Avonmouth; this was downgraded with the completion of the A36 and is now a combination of the A4018 and the B4054). Beyond Bristol, the A36 ran on what's now the A4 to its starting point.
The spur over Cleveland Bridge in Bath was originally given its own number when classified in 1927 following the removal of the bridge's tolls - the A3080.
At the other end, from Totton, the A36 used to run on the Redbridge Causeway over the River Test, then along Redbridge Road, Millbrook Road and Commercial Road into the north end of Southampton City Centre, before ending on the A33 at its junction with Above Bar Street. This latter section of road has been extensively rebuilt and upgraded since the 1950s; its number is now A33.