|Location Map ( geo)
|Leighton Buzzard (SP901238)
|Great Abington (TL518492)
|Dunstable, Luton, Hitchin
|49.2 miles (79.2 km)
|A418, A4146, B488, A4012, B440, A5183, B489, A5505, A5065, M1, B579, A6, B653, A1081, A5228, B655, A602, A600, B656, A1(M), B197, A1198, A10, B1368, M11, A1301, A11
|A5, A5065, A6, A601, A6141
|Old route now:
|Route outline (key)
The A505 forms quite an important, albeit somewhat incomplete, route through the Home Counties between Leighton Buzzard and Cambridge. As such, it could be considered to form an alternative to the M25 which connects the M1, A1(M), M11 and A11.
Section 1: Leighton Buzzard Bypass – Dunstable
At its greatest extent, the A505 began at the first roundabout south of Linslade on Wing Road in Bedfordshire, where the A418 also terminated. It went along the Leighton Buzzard bypass, popping briefly into Buckinghamshire where it headed over a railway and immediately met a roundabout with the B488 to Ivinghoe. Back in Bedfordshire, a bridge over the River Ouzel and the Grand Union Canal took it to another roundabout, with Grovebury Road, which has now been numbered extending the A4012 leading into Leighton Buzzard. The next roundabout is about 1 km ahead, where it crossed the A4146. The A505 now begins here as the old Leighton Buzzard A4146 has now been moved to a new road along a nice stretch of dual carriageway, from Wing Hill to Water Eaton, Milton Keynes!
Heading east, the A505 runs along a long section which is one lane each way, mostly at national speed limit; if my memory serves me correctly it is 50mph at some junctions, but the lanes are very wide (and this is where I did my first overtaking manoeuvre as a learner). The land is almost entirely agricultural and just for a little bit of interest this straight stretch follows the former route of a small railway from Luton to Leighton Buzzard (linking two important railways) via Dunstable, that was closed down due to lack of use many years ago. After about 2.5 km it reaches a short dual-carriageway section which features turn offs to Stanbridge on the left then Billington on the right. The road immediately turns back to a single carriageway, looping to the right slightly where after 1 km or maybe a little less another dual-carriageway section introduces another junction, first left to Stanbridge and then right to Totternhoe. The road is then single-carriageway as it crosses the old railway path it left slightly earlier. After about another 2.5 km it joins the former A5 route at a roundabout approximately 3 km north of Dunstable town centre. The new Dunstable Northern bypass (A5), which opened in May 2017, starts approximately a quarter of a mile further north of this junction with a spur. The bypass joins with the M1 at M1 J11A about where the B579 crosses the M1.
The A505 now heads south into Dunstable along the former A5. The road ascends towards a large chalk cliff through a slightly populated area. It enters through a deep chalk cutting that was originally cut away by the Romans as part of Watling Street. There's a speed camera midway through the cutting, but rarely can you reach the 40mph speed limit anyway because at the end of the cutting is a traffic-light-controlled junction. You then continue forward now in Dunstable, where you reach another traffic-light-controlled junction, with the B5120 to the left, leading into Houghton Regis and up to J12 of the M1, and an estate road to the right. The road then continues towards the town centre in about 800 m, where the A505 turns off to the left, at a crossroads, down Church Street towards Luton, with the A5183 straight on .
Now this brings up another point... This would mean that the A505 is now incorrectly assigned, because it begins in the 4 Zone....
Section 2: Dunstable – Luton
We head in an easterly direction towards the M1 along the line of the Icknield Way. After a mile and a half, the road becomes dual carriageway. At a roundabout, we have the option of turning right onto the A5065 (which according to some maps is now the mainline of the A505), which runs parallel to the A505, but avoids M1 junction 11. We, on the other hand, remain on the A505 to a roundabout under the M1. This whole junction is constrained by houses and other businesses. If the M1 is widened through here, this junction is likely to need significant remodelling.
After crossing the M1, we enter Luton. We continue past retail parks and reach another opportunity to find an alternative to the A505 - the A5228 forms a kind of northern ring road to Luton, although it doesn't actually meet up with the A505. The A505 continues its relentless drive towards Luton Town Centre, where we meet again the A5065, joining the town centre southern bypass road. This next section is urban dual carriageway with a mix of roundabouts, at-grade junctions and even a grade separated junction. We pass over Park Viaduct then the carriageways diverge and drop down to another roundabout, which marks the present southern terminus of the A6. The obviously missing flyover gives a hint of what might have been, but instead, we turn right along the old A6, now numbered A505, towards the south of Luton and the Airport. We pass more retail parks and Luton Airport Parkway Station. We negotiate a couple of small roundabouts as we climb out of the valley onto Airport Way. A right turn at the second roundabout takes you via the A1081 towards the M1; the A505 turns left over the railway then immediately into a deep cutting. If you look up at this stage, you may well see aircraft passing overhead - the road passes the west end of the Luton Airport runway, which is situated on top of the hill to your right.
The next roundabout marks the main entrance to the airport, but we continue straight on past the Vauxhall plant. We're now heading north on a route threaded between a couple of large housing estates, until we reach another roundabout with the A5228. Here we turn right, onto dual carriageway. Beware of the speed cameras round here!
Section 3: Luton – Letchworth
Then, having taken a lengthy route around Luton, we emerge into the Hertfordshire countryside. The road is now a reasonably good dual carriageway - two lanes each way, except for a short westbound climbing lane. However, some particularly tight bends will catch out a complacent driver.
The dual carriageway runs out on the edge of Hitchin. On the fringe of the town centre, we reach a roundabout with the A602, which provides a good route to the A1(M) southbound. The A505 turns left here, avoiding the town centre, then turns right at the next roundabout to skirt the north of the town centre. After passing under the railway, we emerge into a short (1 km) belt of land separating Hitchin and Letchworth.
Just after entering Letchworth, recognised as Britain's first Garden City, we could make a short diversion off the A505 along Broadway. The next junction is a roundabout, where we could turn into (amongst others) Sollershott West or Sollershott East. This roundabout, known as Sollershott Circus, is generally recognised as being the very first roundabout in Britain (if not the world), having been built c. 1909. Signs on the roundabout inform passers-by of this fact. To get back to the A505, turn right along Sollershott East.
Section 4: Letchworth – Great Abington
From the centre of Letchworth, the route of the A505 has changed following completion of the Baldock Bypass. Previously the A505 continued in a north-easterly direction along Baldock Road, passing under the A1(M), then through the middle of Baldock. Upon leaving Baldock the road broadened out to dual carriageway and continued towards Royston. The section from the middle of Letchworth to the east side of Baldock now forms part of the B656, and the A505 now follows the former A6141 Letchworth Gate to A1(M) junction 9.
After crossing the motorway, the road is now dual carriageway. There is a junction with the B197 (which is the former A1 Great North Road). At the next roundabout, the Baldock Bypass (opened in 2006) begins by heading off to the right. It climbs gently towards the Weston Hills and passes through a short cut-and-cover Weston Hills Tunnel, built to preserve the line of the hills. The rocky cuttings now form an important ecological habitat for butterflies. East of the town, it rejoins the old A505 and continues to Royston, passing a racing gallops south of the dual carriageway as the road reaches Royston.
Royston is bypassed to the north by a road completed in 1982 and has junctions with the A1198 (ex-A14) and the A10. The western section up to the A10 is two-lane dual carriageway, with the remainder being single carriageway, with space reserved on the southern side for future expansion. Around the time the bypass was opened, the administrative boundary between Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire was moved northwards to the new road. Signs detailing the 'crossing' between Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire are at the A10 junction, despite the road forming the boundary for much of the length.
The A505 then continues eastwards through South Cambridgeshire, eventually passing the Imperial War Museum airfield at Duxford before meeting the M11 at junction 10. There's a short hop to the A1301, before we reach a short section of dual carriageway leading into a new junction with the A11 (with only north-facing slip roads) where the A505 ends.
The original route of the A505 was from Dunstable to Luton, so only the section between the A5183 and M1 is original. It is perhaps not surprising that this middle section of the road is the poorest in terms of quality. At the eastern end, the route was extended eastwards from Luton to Bourne Bridge, along the A601 in 1935. At the western end, it was extended into the 4-zone during the latter half of the twentieth century.