|Location Map ( geo)|
|To:||Menai Bridge (SH558712)|
|Distance:||173.8 miles (279.7 km)|
|Meets:||A4076, B4327, B4330, A40, B4583, B4331, A4219, B4313, B4587, B4329, B4332, B4582, A478, B4546, A484, B4548, B4333, B4334, B4321, A486, B4342, A482, B4577, B4337, A485, A4120, B4346, A44, B4572, A4159, B4353, A489, A493, B4404, B4405, A470, A496, B4410, A4085, A497, A4971, A498, B4411, B4418, A499, A4085, A4086, B4547, A4087, A55, A5, A4871|
|Former Number(s):||B4328, B4330, B4331, A497, B4410, A499, A4087|
|Old route now:||A470, A497, A4085|
North & Mid Wales TRA • South Wales TRA
|Route outline (key)|
The A487 is one of the most important roads in Wales. It covers the majority of the west coast from St Davids to Menai Bridge, and is a primary route for most of its length, including a section where it multiplexes with the A470, another important north-south road. Along the way, it runs through two national parks: Snowdonia and Pembrokeshire Coast. Despite its length and importance, it is predominantly single carriageway, although the road has been upgraded in numerous places.
Section 1: Haverfordwest – Fishguard
There are a lot of A-roads in Haverfordwest and two of them are primary - the A40 trunk road runs east from here towards London, and north towards Fishguard, bypassing the town to the north east, whilst at the same time running through the town. The A4076 trunk road bypasses to the south-east, on its way to the oil refineries at Milford Haven. All the other A-roads are part of the non-primary A487 – identifying its official start point is anyone's guess. The two contenders are the roundabout on the inner version of the A40 at Cartlett Road, where the A487 heads west over the River Cleddau. The other contender is a couple of miles south where the south-eastern bypass meets the old Milford Road. Either way, the two arms meet at what appears to be a large one-way system on the north west side of town, eventually emerging into the Pembrokeshire countryside en route to St Davids.
The road starts off being single-carriageway, heading north-west. After a few miles we reach Newgale Sands, where the A487 descends down to beach level, running behind the sand dunes of St Brides Bay. For the next stretch, the sea is about a mile away on our left, though we catch glimpses rather than a panoramic seascape. At Solva, we descend once again to sea level to the natural harbour. There is a shop here which has an entrance at road level, then two or three upper floors. At the top, you emerge outside, finding yourself at ground level once again.
We make our final approach to St Davids, Wales's smallest city, which has a Cathedral set down in the valley. The Cathedral is much simpler than many of the English Cathedrals, and has that slightly rugged feel about it. It is said in some circles that two pilgrimages to St Davids is the equivalent of one to Jerusalem or Rome.
The A487 runs through the heart of the City Centre (more of a village square, really), then almost doubles back on itself to begin its journey up the West Coast of Wales. This section runs further inland, so there aren't as good views of the coast, before sloping down towards Goodwick, crossing the railway en route. At Goodwick, we meet the western terminus of the A40 at the entrance to Fishguard ferry Terminal. At the roundabout, we turn right, gaining primary and trunk road status as we do so (although technically this road is numbered A40), and run alongside the sea into Fishguard itself, where our short multiplex with the A40 ends at another roundabout. The A487 turns left, and heads into town, meeting a spur of itself (part of the old A40) in the town centre.
Section 2: Fishguard – Aberystwyth
After passing through the centre of Fishguard, the A487 drops down to the bridge over the River Gwaun at Lower Town. The narrow bridge and tight streets here have led to a 43ft/18m length restriction with a diversion via the A479 and A40 for traffic heading from the North being signed from Cardigan/Aberteifi 18 miles away. The road then climbs up towards a view point over Fishguard Harbour. Then it begins its journey around Cardigan Bay towards north Wales, passing the large turning area provided for over-length vehicles that find themselves having got this far.
We skirt the northern fringes of the Preseli Hills, from which, it is said, some of the stones at Stonehenge originate. We pass through the small village of Newport/Trefdraeth, then run inland for a while (the B4582 takes a more direct route) before reaching Cardigan/Aberteifi, the terminus of the A478 and the A484. This market town is bypassed now, but the road used to cross the River Teifi via a narrow bridge. The section from Fishguard to Cardigan is in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.
Beyond Cardigan, the A487 generally heads northeastwards. We continue to run a short distance inland now, but most of the left turns take you towards the sea. At Synod Inn, we cross the A486 and the much improved route to Caerfyrddin. A left turn here takes you to New Quay and more sandy beaches. The A487 also heads for the coast, reaching it at the seaside town of Aberaeron, which also marks the end of the A482. After this, the A487 runs close to the coastline, generally being under a mile from the sea, for some distance.
As the road turns away from the sea, it starts to descend down to the approach to Aberystwyth, a windswept university town with lots of pubs and a funicular railway going up the cliff. The road meets first of all the A485 from Tregaron, then the A4120 from Devils Bridge. The A487 takes the main road through the centre, but through traffic is signposted along the A4120, which canons off here to bypass the town via the A44. The A487 itself passes round the foot of Pendinas up to the River Rheidol and crosses it at Trefechan Bridge. It passes right into the town centre, and runs along the front entrance to the station. It meets the A44 on the other side of town, coming all the way from Oxford via Evesham, Worcester and Rhayader.
Section 3: Aberystwyth – Cross Foxes
Because of the presence of the Dyfi estuary, the A487 now runs inland, so it can cross it further inland at a suitable bridging point. It meets the estuary at Glandyfi, which has been a significant bottleneck in the past as the road, sandwiched between rock and railway, was barely wide enough for two HGVs to pass. Major improvements in the early 2010s have replaced the previously tight and twisting alignment with a wide, well engineered road which has vastly improved both safety and traffic flow. Following Glandyfi, the road runs alongside the river and the railway into former Welsh capital - Machynlleth in Montgomeryshire, where a right turn in the town centre takes you onto the A489.
The A487 meanwhile crosses underneath the railway by the station and crosses the river at the Dovey Bridge (Pont ar Ddyfi). The bridge is over 200 years old and Grade-II listed, and is a significant obstacle on the route, particularly for goods vehicles. The bridge is regularly struck by HGVs, requiring extensive repair, and has had to be closed due to flooding on several occasions. As of the current date (2021) there is an ongoing project to replace the bridge with a new structure around half a mile upstream while retaining the old bridge for non motorised users.
At the other side of the Dovey Bridge, the A493 departs for Tywyn to the left back along the Dyfi, while we turn to the right into woodland. This marks a significant point in the A487's route, as we enter Gwynedd, and in turn, the Snowdonia National Park (our second national park on this trip).
From here, the A487 runs through thick woodland up the Dulas Valley, with picnic areas and woodland walks available if you feel so inclined. At Corris, the road passes round the southern edge of Cadair Idris, sandwiched between this and Craig Gogh and the Abercorris mountains. There's a narrow side road that leads down to the B4405 at Talyllyn and the valley back to Tywyn. In the past this very narrow single-track road carried two-way traffic, allowing traffic to "short cut" in both directions. Sensibly, this rout is now One-Way from the A487 North. The main road itself joins just round the corner.
The A487 then has a steep climb up Bwlch Tal-y-Llyn/Tal-y-Llyn Pass alongside Cadair Idris. Tal-y-Llyn is the preferred route in bad weather over Bwlch Yr Oerddrws/Dinas Mawddwy on the A470 as its more sheltered and at a slightly lower elevation, meaning there's less likelihood of snow and ice.
The road (which suffers from periodic rockfalls) runs parallel to the river leading back to Talyllyn, and there's a parking spot halfway up to admire the view (complete with SOS phone). It clears the top of the pass, and slopes gently down to a straight section at Hafod Oer leading up to Cross Foxes.
Section 4: Cross Foxes – Gellilydan
At Cross Foxes Inn we meet one of the other major north-south routes - the A470. Once upon a time, it was the A487 that took priority through here; the other road was the A458 until the 1970s and the establishment of the A470 as the most important Welsh north-south route (taking on many other roads on its journey north). We eventually reach the small town of Dolgellau, where we meet the end of the A494. It has a bypass now, but as recently as the 1980s, the queues to get through here were horrendous. The streets were too narrow to cope with the traffic, and what is actually a pleasant town was marred by the volume of queuing traffic on the road. Today, the bypass runs on the track of the old railway, which allows it to be tucked in against the road network to the north and the River Wnion to the south. The old road passes overhead without a junction. There are two left turns here, each side of the River Mawddach. First, we meet up with the A493 which has come the "long way round" from Machynlleth via Tywyn and the Mawddach Estuary, and secondly the A496, which in itself a long way round, following the river's north bank towards Barmouth and Harlech. The bridge over the Mawddach is a modern construction, and allows Llanelltyd to be bypassed.
The A487 continues north on its multiplex with the A470 through Coed y Brenin Forest Park - quite different scenery from the coastal setting of the southern part of the A487. We eventually reach Trawsfynydd - home of a former Nuclear Power Station. What on earth was that doing in the National Park? The A4212 runs east to Bala on the A494, after which, three miles north of Trawsfynydd, we reach the end of our multiplex with the A470 (which turns off to the right towards Ffestiniog and Blaenau Ffestiniog).
Section 5: Gellilydan – Caernarfon
The A487 resumes its mantle now, heading west through the Vale of Ffestiniog, sometimes alongside the famous Ffestiniog railway towards Tremadog and Porthmadog. It meets up with the A496 at Maentwrog, which crosses the road to head up to Blaenau Ffestiniog. Immediately after this, the road crosses the River Dwyryd, running along its northern bank to Penrhyndeudraeth. There's a junction with the A4085 in the town centre, which provides access to Snowdonia.
Since 17 October, 2011, the A487 now runs on the Porthmadog bypass, with the old road ahead being an extended A497. This takes a great deal of through traffic out of the town, and does away with the summer long queues along The Cob, over Britannia Bridge and down the High Street. It leaves its former route at the new roundabout just north of the Minffordd Station (interchange between the Ffestiniog Railway and National Rail), and strikes west under the new narrow gauge railway bridge and down along the southern edge of Garth Quarry to the River Glaslyn. Here the road crosses the river, north of and parallel to the Network Rail line, and heads straight across Traeth Mawr (Big Beach!). The road then climbs slightly higher on its embankment to cross the Welsh Highland Railway line and the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway line south of Pen-y-Mount Station. Here the road swings north west to meet the former A487 (now A4971) at a new roundabout by Bodawen. From here to bypass Tremadog, the road curves round the built up area to meet a newly fashioned roundabout at the A498/A498 junction west of the town.
The A487 carries on through Penmorfa and resumes its course, skirting the south west edge of the mountains towards Caernarfon. It meets the A499 at Llanwnda, and crosses over the main railway from Porthmadog in the process. Previously, the A487 ran through the centre of Caenarfon, where you could find a full grade separated junction with the A4086, but was bypassed in February 2022. The old road through town has been renumbered as the A4871. The highlight of Caernarfon has to be the well preserved castle, scene of the investiture of the current Prince of Wales in 1969, though the former A487 through town has always managed to avoid meeting it as it is on the other side of town.
Section 6: Caernarfon – Menai Bridge
After Caernarfon, our last lap of the A487 takes us alongside the Menai Strait with the railway. There's a bypass of Y Felinheli (opened 1994) which ends at a junction with the A4087 and B4547. Soon after, there's a grade separated junction with the A55 North Wales Expressway, just before that road crosses the strait via the Britannia Bridge. The final couple of miles north of here is non-primary as the road heads towards Bangor, and the A487 terminates on the A5 at the Antelope Roundabout, named after the nearby pub. To the right is the centre of Bangor, while to the left is Telford's magnificent Menai Suspension Bridge.
One of the longest 3-digit roads on classification, the A487 is described in the 1922 Road Lists as Fishguard - Cardigan - Aberystwyth - Machynlleth - Dolgelley - Maentwrog - Carnarvon.
The original start point of the A487 was at a junction with the High Street and West Street in Fishguard, both part of the A40. It ran along Main Street and through the town, as it does today. From here to Penrhyndeudraeth, the route of the road is basically unchanged aside from minor alignment alterations, with the notable exception of Dolgellau. The A470 did not exist this far north then and so the road was numbered A487 in its entirety. After Penrhyndeudraeth the road followed the course of what is now the A4085 to Beddgelert across Snowdonia. It ended on what was then the A499 just outside Caernarfon.
In 1935 the A487 was extended west via St Davids to Haverfordwest, taking over the B4331, B4330 and B4328. In the same year the B4410 which was the original number of the road between Porthmadog and Caernarfon was upgraded to Class I status as the A4085. For fairly obvious reasons, the trunk road along the west coast was routed this way rather than along the A487 through Beddgelert and so in the 1960s the A4085 and A487 swapped numbers in the area. The A487 also took over the A497 from Penrhyndeudraeth to Porthmadog and then the A499 through Caernarfon. Again, the last section of the A499 into Bangor was not trunk whereas the parallel A4087 was, so the A487 went this way instead, giving the road its current northern terminus.
Around 1975, the A470 took over a stretch of the A487 in Merionethshire and the 2011 Porthmadog bypass has also occasioned some renumbering. The new bypass road is the A487. The old road from Minffordd over the Cob to Porthmadog (Criccieth roundabout) has reverted to its original number of A497. The bit of Tremadog Road between the new Bodawen roundabout and the Criccieth roundabout in Porthmadog is now the A4971. The two fragments of road through Tremadog to the hospital roundabout and to the T-junction near the Bodawen roundabout are both A498.
Route in Dolgellau
The alignment from Dolgellau to Llanelltyd is substantially different to today's, and partially runs on an old railway route. The original alignment branched off from the current alignment about a mile east of town and stayed on the south bank of the Wnion. It met the end of the A493 in the town centre, and headed north to cross the river at Y Bont Fawr (The Large Bridge) and the old railway by the station. The A494 then turned right, while the A487 turned left to run on the north bank, past Hengwrt, crossing the Mawddach at Llenelltyd Bridge, east of the current one. In the centre of Llanelltyd, the A496 turned left while the A487 turned right.
Y Bont Fawr in Dolgellau dated from the 17th century, yet was a convergence point of five main roads, two of them trunk. Needless to say it was a notorious bottleneck. The Llanelltyd Bridge dated from around the 18th century and was unsuitable for HGVs passing through it. A bypass for both was proposed around 1970, and construction started in 1977, using some of the closed railway line. It opened to traffic in 1981, by which time the A470 numbering had occurred. The A493 was also rerouted over a new bridge to avoid Dolgellau.
Caernarfon and Bontnewydd Bypass
The 6 mile road from Goat roundabout to Plas Menai roundabout opened on 19 February 2022. The original opening, planned for the day before, was cancelled due to Storm Eunice. 22 structures including culverts and 7 bridges were constructed. The bridges were:
- crossing over the Welsh Highland Railway
- 300m viaduct over Afon Seiont
- 280m viaduct over Afon Gwyrfai and its flood plains
- 4 bridges carrying existing roads under or over the new road.
Measures to minimise the environmental impact of the scheme included 170,000 plants, providing around 14 hectares of new native species, woodlands and scrub, as well as over 12.5 miles of new hedgerows.
Contractor was a Balfour Beatty / Jones Bros joint venture, cost £139 million.
|1936||Tre’r-ddol Bypass||The 0.3 mile road was opened on 11 December 1936 by Major Sam Evans, Divisional Road Engineer of the Ministry of Transport for Wales and Monmouth. The bridge spanning the river was to be known as Pont Brain, after a former coppice known as Allt-y-brain. Cost £4,000.|
|1990||Cardigan Bypass||Was to be opened on 18 December 1990 by Wyn Roberts, Welsh Minister per a transcription of the South Wales Daily Post (of 14 December 1990) . Cost £12 million.|
|1994||Y Felinheli (Port Dinorwic) Bypass||The 3.3 mile road from Plas Menai roundabout at Griffiths Crossing to Y Felinheli roundabout was opened on 28 March 1994 by Wyn Roberts, Minister of State for Wales. Contractor was Morrison Shand Construction Ltd., contract price £7.46 million.|
|2011||Porthmadog, Minfford and Tremadog Bypass||The 3.3 mile road opened on 17 October 2011. Carriageway width was 7.3m. It included 8 bridges including a 150m viaduct over River Glaslyn. A special bridge costing £650,000 was built to to save the rare lesser horseshoe bats from being killed by vehicles. Contractor was a Balfour Beatty / Jones Bros Civil Engineering UK joint venture, cost £35 million.|
|2022||Caernarfon and Bontnewydd Bypass||The 6 mile road from Goat roundabout to Plas Menai roundabout opened on 19 February 2022. Further information is given in the history section.|
- The A487 Trunk Road (North & South of Plas Menai Roundabout, Y Felinheli and North & South of Faenol Roundabout, Bangor, Gwynedd) (Derestriction) Order 2016
- The Fishguard To Bangor Trunk Road (A487) (Caernarfon And Bontnewydd Bypass And De-Trunking) Order 2018 - Caernarfon and Bontnewydd Bypass new road order and detrunking of the bypassed section
- The A487 and A40 Trunk Roads (Fishguard, Pembrokeshire) (One Way Traffic) Order 2020 - This order provides for the changes to one-way traffic flows in Fishguard resulting from the construction of the new relief road in the town centre.