|Location Map ( geo)|
|Distance:||10.4 miles (16.7 km)|
|Meets:||A35, M5, B3181|
|Old route now:||A35, A38, B3137, A361|
|Route outline (key)|
Once a major road running from coast to coast, the A373 has been cut back over the years and is now a short road in south Devon.
The route starts on Honiton High Street which immediately causes head-scratching. This was the old A30 prior to the by-pass opening, but what it is now is anyone's guess. The OS map cites it as the A35 (non-primary) but also shows the A35 as coming down the hill to the roundabout at the top end of town and then bending back on itself to join the bypass at its eastern end. Only one sign on the ground gives the High Street any number (A375) and the A30 is signed to the A35 only at the eastern exit. Then again, the A373 itself isn't signed as such from the traffic lights where it begins! M5-bound traffic from Honiton is signed along the A30 to Exeter — a longer road but an infinitely better one.
For the intrepid traveller who is determined to take the A373, it leaves over the A30 bypass without a junction, and almost immediately becomes a typical old-style Devon A-road, twisting and turning through the village of Awliscombe and steadily uphill round some very unpleasant bends. It threads its way between other little villages and eventually makes it as far as the outskirts of Cullompton where it promptly expires at junction 28 of the M5, which is an odd half-diamond/half-dumbbell type affair. The road onwards into Cullompton is now numbered as the B3181, and one has to suspect that it's only the reluctance to have a motorway junction devoted to a B-road that keeps the A373 from being downgraded to that number throughout. However, everywhere else south of the M5, other than in Honiton, it's still defiantly signposted as the A373.
Once upon a time the A373 was a significant cross-county route from the coast of north Devon to that of south Dorset. It started in Ilfracombe, and followed what today is the A361 through Braunton to Barnstaple. It then took the main road to South Molton, which again was renumbered as the A361. From South Molton, it dived south towards the village of Witheridge, and then east to Tiverton, where it used to TOTSO at the old Rackenford road. One curious oddity is that the old Rackenford road, formerly the B3221, is a shorter and quicker route between Tiverton and South Molton. One can only imagine that the A373 was routed the way only so that it could serve Witheridge. Today, both sections have been superseded by the North Devon Link Road, with the Barnstaple to South Molton stretch being unclassified, and the South Molton to Tiverton road being the B3137.
The old A373 then made its way through Tiverton and out the other end on what today is the unclassified road to Halberton. In Halberton village, the A373 split into two for a long period. To the left, the road passes through Sampford Peverell, past what today is Tiverton Parkway railway station, and on to the A38 at Waterloo Cross (then latterly to the M5 at J27). This road was originally classified as A397, but was renumbered as a spur of the A373 in the 1935 Road numbering revision. To the right, it carried on as the mainline A373 (despite having a TOTSO) through to the village of Willand (this became part of the B3391 in the 1970s), where it multiplexed with the A38 to Cullompton before resuming its modern day route.
An alternative, more direct, but slower route between Tiverton and Cullompton runs via Newte's Hill. Known as "Tiverton Road" in Cullompton, this avoids the need for a multiplex. Indeed, this route had in fact been considered as the route of the A373 in the original road numbering drafts. However, the Southern Road Engineer reported to the MOT that no local bus services used this road and he had surveyed it on one day in July 1922 without seeing a single vehicle on it. Consequently, the A373 was routed via Halberton instead.
In 1983, one of the first sections of the North Devon Link Road opened as a dual carriageway between the M5 at J27 and the A396 at Tiverton. This stretch was opened as the A373, and despite becoming the A361 in 1988 when the NDLR to South Molton opened, signage referring to this stretch as the A373 is still in situ.
East of Honiton, the A373 took the route of the modern day A35 trunk road. The A35 used to run along the coast on the A3052 route via Lyme Regis, Seaton and Sidmouth through to Exeter. The two roads met at Charmouth, where the A373 terminated. This section became part of the A35 in the 1960s.