A4 (Northern Ireland)
|Location Map ( geo)|
|Distance:||69 miles (111 km)|
|Meets:||A3, M1, A29, A45, A5, A34, A32, A46, A509, N16|
|Old route now:||B34|
|Route outline (key)|
The A4 is the main road towards the west of Northern Ireland. It starts in Portadown, branching off the A3, and heads up to the M1, meeting it at J12. It multiplexes with the motorway west until the motorway's end at J15, where it regains its number and continues west through Enniskillen to the border at Belcoo, where it becomes the N16 to Sligo. West of Ballygawley, where it meets the A5, it is entirely single carriageway although lengthy sections feature hard shoulders.
The A4 begins its scenic journey at an unusual fork in the A3 in Portadown. The A3's carriageway splits to accommodate the junction, and there are traffic islands separating several of the traffic movements from one another. It is controlled by traffic lights. Although the A3 is a primary route, linking Lisburn to Portadown and Armagh, the A4 is not; the route it follows has been superceded by the M1, which heads from Belfast and Lisburn to Dungannon. Immediately, the A4 sets off to meet it along a long, straight stretch of road named, appropriately enough, Dungannon Road. It passes through very gently undulating farmland. There are farm buildings and occasional houses along the route. The A4 reaches the M1 at junction 12, where it loses its number and runs with the motorway in a multiplex as far as Dungannon. The old route of the A4, now downgraded, is traceable to the north of the motorway.
When the M1 ends at junction 15, where the A29 crosses over from Dungannon to Armagh, the A4 regains its number and continues as a very modern, high-quality dual carriageway for about seven miles. The landscape is lush and green, with occasional trees and gorse bushes surrounding the route. It heads down a long slope to the south of the town of Ballygawley, where it meets the A5 at a roundabout. From here, traffic from Belfast for the part of Northern Ireland to the west of Lough Neagh will turn north, for the town of Omagh and other destinations in County Tyrone. Traffic for County Monaghan, over the border in the Republic of Ireland, will turn south.
The A4 continues westwards with an overtaking lane in our favour for a short distance before it swaps to the other side and continues for some length. The road then returns to being a conventional single carriageway, before crossing the River Blackwater and meeting the A28. This route heads back, along the Irish border to the south, towards the town of Aughnacloy and Armagh. This road meets the A4 at a mini-roundabout in the middle of the small town of Augher. A 30mph speed limit is in force throughout the town. As the A4 exits the town, there is a small lake visible to the right, providing an indication of the direction in which we are heading: to Northern Ireland's Lake District.
The A4 then becomes fast and sweeping once again, as it heads towards the village of Clogher. The road heads up the main street towards St Macartan's Cathedral, which is built at the highest point in the settlement. The road then winds its way downhill again, and back into the countryside. The B168 departs from the right, and heads off for the village of Fintona. The A4 continues through the lush green countryside towards Fivemiletown.
Here, the A4 forms a rectangular box around the town centre, one that is partially a one-way system. It is westbound traffic only that is allowed to continue straight on along the south side of the box through the town; eastbound traffic on the A4 must negotiate the west, north and east sides of the box - all of which permit traffic in both directions. The B122 departs from the north-eastern corner of the box for Fintona, the Round Lake Park and Garden, and the Blessingbourne Country House. The B107 leaves from the north-western corner of the box for Clabby and Edenmore.
The A4 heads out of Fivemiletown past the Clogher Valley Rugby and Golf Clubs, along a partly realigned route down to Colebrook River. Here, the Colebrook Triumphal Arch can be found a short distance away from the road, before it crosses over the river. The road passes close to Brookeborough without passing through the village (the old A4 here is now the B515. The road sweeps on to Maguiresbridge which is also on Colebrook River. Here again, the A4 avoids passing through the urban area. It is on both sides of the town by two branches of the A34, which head south Lisnaskea, Newtownbutler, and Clones, which is over the border.
The roads curves north at Maguiresbridge, and heads for the city of Enniskillen. It passes Lisbellaw courtesy of another bypass. As its approaches the River Erne, it turns further north and runs close to the water while it passes Enniskillen Golf Course. In the centre of the city it meets the A32 at a crossroads. The A32 heads away to the right, bound for Dromore and Omagh. The road straight ahead continues into the heart of the city, leaving the A4 to turn left and follow Wellington Road around the town centre to the two bridges on the Erne. Here, next to the Enniskillen Castle Museums and in the shadow of St Michael's enormous parish church, the A4 crosses the river using both bridges by means of a rectangular gyratory system. Another branch of the A32, which we first encountered on the other side of the town centre, ends here. So does the A46, which runs along the southern shore of Lower Lough Erne to meet the N3 at Belleek on the Irish border. The A4 turns left, and runs out of Enniskillen along the opposite side of the River Erne from the one it ran along on its entry into the city. As we leave, we get a glimpse of Castle Island in the middle of the river which, somewhat disappointingly, doesn't have a castle on it. Nonetheless, Enniskillen is a very attractive and interesting city, well worth a visit.
We head out through the suburbs of Carrigan and Drumgallen, along Sligo Road. At the Drumgallen roundabout, the A509 heads south to Upper Lough Erne and the Irish border, where it continues as the N3 to Cavan and Dublin. The B81 departs from the right, and heads up to meet the A46 on the shore of Lower Lough Erne. Shortly afterwards, the B32 departs from the left, destined to become the N87 as it crosses the border into County Cavan. We then cross over Sillees River and pass through the barely noticeable settlement of Letterbreen. The road is not as wide or sweeping as it was before Enniskillen, but despite having some tight kinks it is still open and fast.
The final stretch of the A4 heads along the northern shore of Lough Macnean Lower, which becomes clearly visible to the left of the road as we approach Belcoo, which nestles between the lough we've just passed and Lough Macnean Upper. The road is narrower here than it has been through most of its length. At the end of the lough, the road curves around to the left. As we enter the attractive town centre, the B52 heads up Railway Street (although the railway is long gone) to Hollywell and Garrison on Lough Melvin. The road continues out of the town and passes over Belcoo River, which links the two loughs. Here the carriageways are for some reason separated by a hatched area with solid white lines, and we pass into the village of Blacklion, which is in the Republic of Ireland. The only indication that we are passing over the border, apart from the water, are signs advising that the speed limits are now in kilometres per hour. From here, the A4 continues as the N16 to Sligo.
The A4 is one of the few roads in Northern Ireland to have a section downgraded due to the arrival of a motorway. It originally ran west of Ballynarry along what's now a medley of unclassified and B roads (much of which is the B34) to Dungannon. From here, it ran along the Ballygawley Road, through Ballygawley itself, and rejoined the current route west of town.