|Length:||155 miles (249.4 km)|
|Meets:||A40, A4144, A34, A4260, A4095, B4437, B4027, B4022, B4030, A361, A3400, B4026, A436, A429, B4479, A424, B4081, B4632, A46, A4184, B4088, B4624, B4083, B4082, A4104, B4084, A422, A4538, A4440, M5, B4084, B4205, A38, A443, A449, B4206, B4485, A4103, B4197, B4420, B4203, B4214, A465, A49, B4361, B4529, A4110, A4112, B4457, A480, A4111, B4355, B4594, B4362, B4357, B4372, A481, A488, A483, A470, B4518, B4343, A4120, A4159, A487|
|Former Number(s):||A34, A4538, A4112|
|Old route now:||B4084, A470|
|Route outline (key)|
Section 1: Oxford - Evesham
The original starting point of the A44 was just east of Chipping Norton on the A42, which became the A34 in 1935. However, since the extension of the M40 in the late 1980s, A34 traffic has been redirected onto the M40 and the A44 now starts at the far end of Woodstock Road, north of Oxford, where it joins the A40. (The road to the south is the A4144.)
Heading north underneath the new A34 extension, the A44 now proceeds northwesterly. It's dualled for a few miles until just outside the town of Woodstock, home to Blenheim Palace (well worth a stop). From here it heads through the town and along the direction of Stratford and Chipping Norton. A TOTSO with traffic lights appears here marking the original eastern end of the A44, the road to the north becoming the A3400. A mile or so down the road it multiplexes with the A361 from Banbury. Heading in the other direction, the route we have just done is now marked as "Local traffic only", and traffic instead multiplexes with the A361 northeastwards towards a roundabout with the A3400 before heading right at roundabout towards Oxford.
The A44 then runs straight through the main market street in Chipping Norton, before the A361 splits off to run straight ahead, while the A44 swings round to the right, and we enter the Cotswolds. As you might expect, the road here has many hills and turns, and is single carriageway with some tight bends, with not much opportunity for overtaking. (However there have been some recent roadworks which may suggest improvement). After a few miles we leave Oxfordshire and enter Gloucestershire.At the town of Moreton in Marsh we cross the old Fosse Way, A429, at a dog-leg junction, the A44 turning first left and then right at two mini-roundabouts. The road now sweeps up through woodland until it reaches Fish Hill near Broadway. A46 - now the B4632 - joins. A few miles ahead, we enter Worcestershire and the road becomes briefly dual-carriageway before meeting up with the A46 / A435 Evesham Bypass.
Section 2: Evesham - Worcester
On reaching the Evesham bypass, the A44 used to head to the southern end, turn north towards the town centre, then TOTSO left towards Cropthorne and Pershore before arriving in Worcester via M5 J7. But then Wyre Piddle got its bypass and the old road west of Worcester was downgraded to become the B4084.
So now, upon reaching the A46, the A44 heads to the north end of the bypass, before taking the old A4538 past Wood Norton (the BBC's training centre) towards Lower Moor. There it takes the new bypass, arriving back on the A4538 line just outside Pinvin.
It then follows the old A4538 line to the crossroads near Spetchley and TOTSOs left (hijacking the end of the A422) past Spetchley, over the M5, and onto Worcester's eastern bypass (A4440). It then turns south along the bypass before rejoining its original line west into the city itself.
Worcester has a southern bypass which could theoretically be used to cut out the city jams (it extends from here to Upper Broadheath - where the A44 leaves the city) but from the signing it's apparent the authorities want A44 drivers to brave the city streets. So, from the bottom of the eastern bypass it turns right at the island and up the London Road into town. After the A38 crosses in a staggered junction, the A44 continues via Deansway past the statue of Elgar and the Cathedral before swinging west to cross the river. The A44 then passes the cricket ground before heading out of town on the Bromwich road to meet the Western end of the bypass.
Interestingly, traffic heading from the M5 to the A44 west of Worcester is not routed this way. The road immediately to the west of M5 J7, on the original line of the A44, is still signed with that number although it does not connect to any other part of the road. This takes traffic as far as the A4440 which is used to bypass the city to the south.
Section 3: Worcester - Leominster
Leaving the city centre, the A44 turns right at the Dines Green roundabout (straight on is the A4103 to Hereford, left is the A4440 bypass). After 1/2 mile a minor road branches off to the right to Lower Broadheath (and, more significantly, The Elgar Centre). The A44 continues west until just past the village of Broadwas, where it turns north sharply to follow the River Teme until Knightwick, where it meets the B4197 (Great Witley via Martley) at the foot of Ankerdine Hill and crosses the river at Knightsford Bridge.
After crossing the Teme the A44 climbs over Bringsty Common before descending towards Bromyard. En route, it passes the Brockhampton Estate, a minor access road to the Downs (which terminates on the B4203 to Upper Sapey, Stanford Bridge and Great Witley), and the start of the B4220 (to errr, Ledbury - eventually).
The A44 bypasses Bromyard Town Centre (just - although this alignment was genuinely built as a bypass!), meets three B road accesses to the town, the A465 to Hereford and the B4214 to Ledbury. It then turns NW and heads over the downs to Bredonbury, where it resumes its westward course, passing a Visitor Centre / Nature Reserve / Roman Road in the vicinity of Steen's Bridge.
Finally it performs a very tight double-bend to avoid a mansion and cross the Lugg before meeting the A49 Leominster Bypass. Originally it continued straight on over the roundabout to go past the train and bus stations (now unclassified), but now it submissively multiplexes with the bypass to the next roundabout north, where it turns left to head through town and out towards Wales.
There are several pre-Worboys signs still mounted on the walls of buildings in Leominster, proudly displaying their A44 and A49 numbers.
Section 4: Leominster - Kington
From the bypass the A44 heads over the railway line before turning left at a former T junction (the RHS being the B4361 to Ludlow), doglegging round the town centre, before meeting a signal-controlled TOTSO to the right (straight ahead being the other half of the B4361). It then climbs through Baron's Cross to meet the oversized roundabout serving Morrisons. After passing the roundabout it then has a semi-TOTSO to the left (i.e. heading westbound an extra lane appears which turns left onto the A44, the other lane continuing straight on along the B4360 [to Kingsland], whereas heading eastbound all traffic from the A44 has to turn right at a T junction). The route through Kingsland and Eardisland (pronounced Erdsland) is the former A44.
After passing a small housing estate the A44 leaves the town and crosses over the Arrow to bypass Monkland. After a mile it crosses the A4110 (yet another Hereford to Ludlow route) then TOTSOs right at a staggered crossroads (which feels more like a T - the B4457 is pretty insignificant) to head towards Eardisland and Pembridge. Straight on is the A4112 which heads to the A438 between Hereford and Hay-on-Wye. As this road also runs between Leominster and Tenbury Wells, travelling through Leominster town centre we're effectively on a triple multiplex: A44 (dominant), A4112, B4361).
After Pembridge the A44 meanders west, passing numerous orchards en-route (most owned by Bulmers [Strongbow/Woodpecker]). The next village along is Lyonshall, where we meet the A480 from Hereford and Offa's Dyke (although you won't notice this from the road!). Lyonshall apparently also boasts a dismantled railway and a castle, in case you want to stop off and have a hike before entering Wales.
A couple of miles later and the A44 meets Kington, one of the "Gateway to Wales" towns. Here you can also join the Offa's Dyke path (whose route often goes on huge detours away from the earthwork - like here!) and visit Hergest Croft Gardens.
Section 5: Kington - Llangurig
At the first bypass island, the A44 turns right (left is the A4111 - another access to the A4112!), then straight over at the second (right-hand exit is the B4355 to Presteigne over the border). For the next couple of miles it picks up the River Arrow on the left, before turning a sharp right (north) to avoid Old Radnor Hill. After a mile it turns back towards the west at Walton and meets a pair of B-roads heading to Presteigne. A few miles further on and it meets New Radnor, which is now bypassed, before turning south and squeezing between two hills as it follows then crosses the Summergil Brook to Llanfihangel-Nant-Melan. Just the other side of the Mynd hill here is a waterfall with the interesting name of Water-break-its-neck...
From the inn here (the Red Lion) the A44 turns northwest to do some serious hill-climbing to 389 m, before winding its way downhill to a plateau. A few miles later it reaches Penybont, where it meets the A488 to Knighton (not to be confused with Kington which we passed through earlier) and crosses the River Ithon. About a mile further on it passes under the Craven Arms - Llanelli railway line and enters Crossgates - a Spar/petrol station and a roundabout with the A483 (one of Wales's few north-south routes - this stretch is the Bulith - Newtown section).
Eight miles further on and we enter Rhayader - a town big enough to stop and have a rest/food/loo break en-route to Aberystwyth - after passing two large turnoffs to Abbey Cwm-hir. Westbound traffic then heads to the left of the clocktower before immediately turning right - the crossroads is rather sneaky in that the destinations are not well-signposted in advance. Straight on is the B4518 to Elan Village (have a peek around the reservoirs that supply Birmingham with water), left and right are the A470 (another cobbled-together north-south route, which has taken over a number of roads, including the next section of A44).
For the next 9 miles to Llangurig the A44 and A470 multiplex - the A44 is the submissive partner. Just before leaving town the B4518 leaves on a direct northerly course to Llandiloes (although as it has three steep hills en-route it's probably easier to take the A470), and there's a cheap car park and leisure centre to the right. Once out of town the road is fairly level, clinging to the side of hills to the right and the River Wye to the left (which becomes our faithful companion to Llangurig and beyond!). The route gradually climbs as it heads north, passing a windfarm at Dolhelfa where it levels off before reaching the Llangurig roundabout, where it turns back to the west.
Section 6: Llangurig - Aberystwyth
The A44 starts this section at 276 m, climbs to 408 m, then descends to its terminus at less than 10 m above sea level. Surprisingly enough, there is some spectacular scenery en route (plus a windfarm or two!), with several glimpses of Pendinas monument reminding you where you're heading.
From the Llangurig roundabout, the A44 turns left (west) through the outskirts of the village, passing a petrol station en route. Straight on at the roundabout continues the adventures of the A470, which a few miles north at Llandiloes meets the River Severn.
Leaving Llangurig on the A44, the road starts clinging to hill/mountain sides as it winds its way through the Cambrian Mountains en route to Aberystwyth. The conifers to the left are part of Esgair Ychion, one of many local Forest Enterprise adventures. A few miles later, at Pont Rhydgaled, the River Wye (the road's faithful companion since Rhayader) crosses under the road and up into the hill to the north, leaving us with a tributary, the Afon Tarennig for company. The next hamlet along is Eisteddfa Gurig, the highest point en route, which hosts the "ELVIS" rock and start of a footpath up to the summit of Plynlimon. Plyn isn't particularly big (it's 752 m), even by Welsh standards, but it does boast the sources of the rivers Severn and Wye - so if it rains a lot up here, then Hereford, Shrewsbury, Bewdley and Worcester will soon know about it. On wet days, it is possible to find dense fog round here, reducing visibility to virtually nothing.
The A44 then turns south-west to begin the big descent. After about a mile is the first of the 180º bends, which also overlooks an abandoned silver/lead mine. After a further two miles the B4343 to Devil's Bridge leaves to the left and the A44 heads into the remote settlement of Ponterwyd.
The at-junction B4343 sign deserves a mention: while looking unremarkable now, in the late 1990s it was an English-only sign, with the Welsh "Pontarfynach" scrawled across it by Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (the militant Welsh Language Society - they're also the ones that stage demos whenever the royals visit mid-Wales).
From Ponterwyd, where the A4120 (back road to Aberystwyth via Devil's Bridge) and a minor road leading to Nant-y-moch reservoir start, the A44 turns NW, passing several abandoned mines en route to the Silver/Lead Mine Museum at Llywernog and the Nant-yr-arian Forest Enterprise Visitor Centre, complete with cafe, toilets and forest walks (ideal for another journey break). The descent then starts in earnest around a very large bend and into the village of Goginan, then 2 miles later Capel Bangor, where it meets the Afon Rheidol and a minor road leading to the local hydro-electric power station (fed by underground pipes from Nant-y-moch reservoir). A mile later the A44 arrives at the Lovesgrove roundabout, where there a large junction with the A4159 (effectively the Aberystwyth eastern bypass, providing a link to the A487 near Bow Street) and a conspicuous sign in the northeastern field effectively announcing that it is part of Lovesgrove Farm, owned by Aberystwyth University.
One mile further on and there are three distinguishing features almost next to each other - a house which looks like a modified, extended church tower, a fairly steep minor road leading down to Glanyrafon Industrial Estate on the other side of the Rheidol, and a skewed bridge taking the Cambrian Coaster (Aberystwyth -> Shrewsbury railway line) overhead. On the other side of the bridge is the village of Llanbadarn Fawr, which although nowadays is a satellite of Aber, in ancient times was the original settlement which spawned its neighbour (with a little help from Edward I, who had a habit of building large castles in Wales and surrounding fledgling towns with walls).
Once in the village, the A44 quickly passes a BP petrol station on the left, before arriving at two mini-roundabouts. Originally it then headed slightly to the right and passed through the main street, but Llanbadarn has been given a tiny bypass, so the A44 now ducks to the left then almost immediately TOTSOs right along the bypass (carry straight on for a detached bit of the A4120, which passes over a double level crossing (mainline and Vale of Rheidol narrow-gauge to Devil's Bridge) to Parc-y-llyn, Aber's new out-of-town retail park, and up Southgate (1:6) to meet the A487 Aberystwyth -> Cardigan at Penparcau).
The bypass is incredibly small - ¼ mile long - before the original route joins on the left. The A44 then continues for its last mile through the outskirts of Aberystwyth, meeting the newbuild (PFI) Penweddig Secondary School and the Leisure Centre on the left (reached a few hundred yards on through Plas Crug, which also leads to the cemetery!), then the old (closed ~5yrs ago) Penweddig premises on the right, before finally terminating on the A487 Penglais Hill, with a pub on the left and a tattoo parlour on the right.
From the terminus turn left to head into town (hint: quickest way to Marine Terrace and the beach is to turn up North Road, at its end turn right along Queen's Road, then left. Not very difficult and avoids the dreaded gyratory system and a lot of local traffic) or right to head up Penglais Hill to Brongalis Hospital, the main university campus, or Clarach Bay / Borth / Machynlleth.