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Location Map ( geo)
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From:  Liverpool (SJ346908)
To:  York (SE601509)
Via:  Preston, Skipton, Harrogate
Distance:  106 miles (170.6 km)
Meets:  A57, A580, M57, M58, A570, A565, A582, A5072, A5071, A583, A6, A6063, A5085, M6, A677, A666, A671, A682, A56, A65, A61, A661, A658, A1(M), A1237, A1036
Former Number(s):  A6063, A671, A1079
Old route now:  A65
Primary Destinations
Highway Authorities

Lancashire • Liverpool • North Yorkshire • Sefton • York

Traditional Counties

Lancashire • Yorkshire

Route outline (key)
A59 Liverpool - Skipton
(A65) Skipton Bypass
A59 Skipton - York Northern Ring Road
A59 York Northern Ring Road - York


The A59 is another great northern road, and another Lancashire-Yorkshire affair. Its route is somewhat roundabout - but if the road were more direct it would be the A58. Although no longer trunk, the road is still mostly primary.

Liverpool - Preston

The A59 starts right in the centre of Liverpool in the area of the Churchill Way flyovers and the entrance to the Birkenhead Tunnel. It heads due north as a dual carriageway and soon passes the slip roads leading to the Wallasey Tunnel. Some maps claim that the tunnel is a western extension of the A59 and so the road starts at the northern end of the M53 in Bidston; this is unlikely to be the case.

The section from Liverpool city centre up to the A59/M57/M58 interchange (known as Switch Island), heads out of the city as single carriageway, but mostly 4 lanes, passes Aintree racecourse, and then hits Switch Island. It is far quicker for traffic heading out of Liverpool to use the S2/3 A565 and A5036 around the docks area.

This is a legendary cock-up of a junction, and makes the original Catthorpe Interchange (M6/M1/A14) look like a shining example of good junction design! The problem is that two motorways end here, the A59 is a significant route heading north/south, and then the northern 'sort-of' ring road round Liverpool and to Bootle docks joins in the party too. Hence a five-way meeting, although interestingly, the two motorways probably carry the least traffic. One big roundabout, with the A59 perhaps on a flyover, would have been sensible, but we end up with an hybrid half roundabout/traffic light mess, with slip roads veering off here there and everywhere. It was a full roundabout at one time - but you do need some imagination to see that now.

I suspect part of the problem was that the A59 north of here was due to be bypassed by the now-scrapped M59, which would have run along the first bit of the M58, before heading off north towards Ormskirk and Preston - hence the effort in channelling traffic from the A59 onto the M58. Plans are afoot to "upgrade" the junction, but I don't see how other than starting from scratch. To add to the confusion in 2016 the new link road bypassing Crosby, the A5758, finishes on this junction.

Anyway, between Switch Island and Ormskirk, the A59 is a good dual carriageway, and former trunk route, with a few traffic lights, and roundabouts linking minor roads, so not generally flowing well. At Ormskirk, the A59 reverts to single-carriageway, on a very old bypass (1923 - the old Lancs County Council had a very enlightened and pioneering view of roadbuilding), although the effect has been negated by building houses, shops etc along its length. With the M59 project long-since scrapped, a more conventional A59/A570 bypass has been planned, but may never happen. The A59 has never gone through Ormskirk; on classification in 1922 the number was routed along the then-unbuilt bypass, with the road through town (connecting the two sections of A59) the A5070.

North of Ormskirk the A59 is a reasonably good, albeit busy, road passing through little towns like Burscough, and villages like Rufford, before the traffic-light-controlled crossroads at Tarleton, where the A565 from Southport joins; this can be a bit of a bottleneck in summer. A dangerous three lane section from here has now been two-laned, and before long we hit the Hutton bypass, a good dual carriageway, probably from the 1960s - one of those roads with wide verges containing separate footpaths and cycleways - so much better than simply painting a foot-wide strip down the side of the existing carriageway. There was a dangerous crossroads on this stretch, which led to poor visibility - rather than shutting off the junction, they built a totally pointless roundabout instead, which slows things up a bit. Further towards Penwortham the A59 goes over a minor road on an old railway bridge, complete with side junctions, this minor road utilises the old railway track.

We pass Lancashire Police HQ, still on an old style D2, then the road bypasses Penwortham towards the east on a new D2 to link up with the A582 at the Booths supermarket roundabout. The A59/A582 continues as a D2 towards the River Ribble following the course of a disused railway in a cutting. The road number allocation along these new stretches are confusing with at least the signs showing a useless A59/A582 multiplex now existing between the Booths roundabout and Strand Road with A582 being the dominant number. A slip road onto the east bound A59 just before the river bridge has been closed with permanent bollards, this was the original A59 from Penwortham centre.

The A59 continues over Strand Road (A5072)) via a flyover then on a partially dualled Marsh Lane onto Ringway, the original Preston inner-ring road (1960s I guess).

Preston Ringway

Originally the A59 ran up Fishergate Hill, Fishergate and Church Street; the main thoroughfares in Preston Centre which had become badly congested long before they were bypassed by Ringway. However Ringway, which was built in its current form in the 1970s now enables us to avoid the worst of Preston centre, before continuing down Stanley Street. In between 1990 and 2010, many street maps incorrectly labelled Guild Way, the dualled part of Marsh Lane and the western 2/3s of Ringway as parts of A582 instead of A59 whilst the A59 was still incorrectly shown on its old course up Fishergate Hill. Stanley Street is one of Britain's first multiplexes which carries the route of both A6 and A59 and still does to this day. After Stanley Street we turn left onto New Hall Lane and Brockholes Brow, and pick up the A59 numbering again. As of 2017, Brockholes Brow, New Hall Lane and Stanley Street remain the only roads in the City Of Preston where the A59 remains on its original course in both directions. Brockholes Brow takes us down to the M6 at Samlesbury, J31 (site of that film clip I remember with the wonky signs). The original junction had 'trumpet-style' slip roads, all south of the A59 - at the other side of the A59 is the Ribble, so a conventional set up would have needed 3 bridges over the river (J34 with the A683 was built on a similar principle, albeit an even more dangerous version). When the M6 was rebuilt in the early 1990s, a more conventional junction resulted, so the two slip roads (plus an access road to a gravel pit on the other side of the river) have their own bridges.

Preston - York

After the M6, the A59 heads for Blackburn and Clitheroe on a dualled section (eastbound along the original carriageway, and up a fairly steep hill, westbound running on a new road alongside, on an embankment, and therefore more gradual than the westbound bit) - this section was completed after the Preston Bypass was completed, around 1963. At the top of the hill, the A59 veers left, and runs around the perimeter of Samlesbury Aerodrome (British Aerospace). This section was built at the same time as the aerodrome during World War II (the old route now lost under the runways), although the location of the A59/A677 junction has not changed. This would explain why the A59 heads away from the A677 at Samlesbury, but almost rejoins it at Mellor Brook (less than half a mile from the A677). This used to be a notorious three lane stretch of road which was reduced to two lanes in 1983. The local MP, Robert Atkins, had requested a 50 limit at the time and was rebuffed by the Department of Transport; this reduction eventually happened in 2009 under control of Lancashire County Council.

After Mellor, the A59 is pretty much unimproved and is a bit of a drag as far as Langho where it meets the A666 and the Whalley bypass starts. This must have been intended as a dual carriageway - the roundabout with the A666 is massive, and on a whopping embankment, so the A59 was obviously intended to pass underneath as a dual carriageway. The entire bypass has wide cuttings and embankments, and the bridges are wide enough to accommodate. It has "two-way traffic" signs all along it, such is the appearance of this being a dualled stretch. The section between the two bits of the A671 has just been dualled (not really sure why), but the next bypass section (Clitheroe) is single, and has some dangerous crossroads, one of which has been replaced with a roundabout. After Chatburn, we revert to the original route, and prior to 1974, would now be in Yorkshire (on the ancient boundaries, the Tykes took a huge bite out of Lancs here, even though we are clearly well to the west of the Pennine chain). A short blast up Sawley Hill was improved a number of years ago with a new three lane section. We pass through Gisburn village (for hundreds of years it was spelt 'Gisburne' until the railway came along and some dim employee missed the "e" off on the station sign), and a short improved section near Horton where a narrow twisty stretch was 'ironed out'. Officially now in Yorkshire, we pass the double-arched bridge over the canal at East Marton (they built a new road bridge on top of the existing hump-backed bridge - looks a bit odd) A nice new roundabout was built a couple of years ago to improve the A56 junction at Broughton, and then it's only a couple of miles to the god-send that is the Skipton bypass (see my A65 posting). The A59 and A65 multiplex round the town, partly on the original A59 (although the A65 is dominant).

Near Blubberhouses

The A59 lost trunk road status in Skipton and, until the end of the 20th century, was a secondary route - and it shows. Although this is one of the best bits of road in England, it is a bit 'up and down', twisty, and narrow in several sections. A short bypass was built at Bolton Bridge in the 1990s, and the long, long drag up Beamsley Hill was straightened out and widened to three lanes many years ago (before my time I think). This is now an excellent, and fun, bit of road - you can easily do 80 up the middle lane overtaking Sunday drivers without thinking about it. At the summit, the road deteriorates, and it's then a long, narrow descent, on the edge of a huge ravine, down to the wonderfully named village of Blubberhouses. This section of road is regularly closed due to landslips, the most recent in Winter 2016 when it was closed for weeks. There are plans to relocate the road to the other side of the valley.

We then 'rollercoast' along, past the 'golf balls' at the "RAF base" at Menwith Hill (this is a misnomer - it is nothing to do with the RAF, but is actually a US listening station, manned entirely by Yanks, and you often see American cars whizzing round there carrying military types in dark sunglasses. Mark Thomas, late night Channel 4 lefty, did a very amusing stunt there in the early 2000s, when he "accidentally" flew an hot air balloon over the base to spy on them). We then drop down to Harrogate and meet the A61. The A59 continues through the suburbs of the town, avoiding the centre, on what is a very busy section of the route - then heads east to Knaresborough, even though traffic heading towards York is signposted as A661 (A59). Knaresborough is a picturesque little tourist town, and scene of many bank holiday daytrips when I was a lad. This is unofficially bypassed by the A658 Harrogate bypass (it's quicker to leave the A59 in Harrogate, join the A661, then use the A658 to pick up the A59 again east of Knaresborough). Plans to bypass Harrogate and Knaresborough via the north of the two towns were discussed, but never materialised.

The A59 speeds quickly along to the A1(M) at J47, then on to Green Hammerton, now bypassed. Originally it ended here, with the old A66, now B6265 (and A167 and then A1167 at some point in between), coming down from Boroughbridge and doing the last stretch into York. Now the A59 finishes the job. It becomes non-primary for the first time on crossing the A1237 outer ring road before running to the south of the city centre along Holgate Road and Scarcroft Road. It ends at a gyratory just to the south of the city walls on the A1036 inner ring road, the old A66.


The A59 originally ended at Green Hammerton

In 1934, a 2.5 miles long deviation around Maghull was constructed 30 feet wide in cement concrete.1 It was officially opened by Mr. L. Hore-Belisha on December 4th, 1934.

The route of the A59 near Samlesbury is rather complicated. The original A59/A677 junction is in the same place as the current one. However, when the old A59 was demolished to allow the construction of an aerodrome during World War II the A59 was rerouted round the south of the aerodrome along a short section of A677, then north to Mellor Brook along the former A6063 (now unclassified). The new road to the north of the aerodrome then took on the A6063 number. The current situation dates to the 1960s but predates the Mellor Brook bypass.

A59 historic route from 1922/3 numbering

The original eastern end of the A59 was on the A66 at Green Hammerton. That road was truncated in 1924 and the section east of Boroughbridge renumbered A1079, thus giving rise to the unusual situation of a 2-digit road ending on a 4-digit road. In 1935 the status quo was restored when the A59 was extended into York, where it ended on the A64.

Opening dates

Month Year Section Notes
Mar 1923 Ormskirk Bypass Opened on 15 March 1923 (although also reported on 2 March 1923 that it had been completed). A 1.25 mile concrete road with a 30 foot carriageway. Constructed in 10 months and cost £70,000. Known initially as New Road, then Bye Pass Road but later named County Road.
Oct 1957 Longton and Walmer Bridge Bypass 2.5 mile road, opened on 3 October 1957. It had dual 26 foot concrete carriageways with central reservation between 10 and 30 feet, a footway for two-thirds the length and two footways on the remainder. There were 3 lay-bys on each carriageway.
1970 Clitheroe and Whalley Bypass Bypass Also bypassed Chatburn and Billington. 8 mile single carriageway road. Opened in 1970 per BFI film archive. Shown on the July 1971 OS Route Planner Map, but as under construction on the December 1970 OS Quarter inch map. Cost £3.4 million.
Dec 1981 Skipton Northern Bypass Opened in December 1981 per the Policy for Roads in England: 1981 Report, along with A65 section.
Mar 1992 Mellor Brook Bypass Completed in March 1992 per Hansard.
Dec 2019 Penwortham Bypass Stage 2: John Horrocks Way, from Liverpool Road to A582 Broad Oak Roundabout, was opened on 2 December 2019 to complete the bypass. The 0.9 mile dual carriageway cost £17.5 million. John Horrocks, born 1768, was one of the leading figures in Lancashire's textiles revolution and owned several mills.


1 New South Wales Department of Main Roads, 'European Road Practice, Great Britain. Extracts from a report by Mr. D. Craig, Chief Engineer (Country), following his visit to Great Britain and Europe, 1934' in Main Roads, Vol. 7 No. 3, May, 1936, p.105


Birkenhead • Clitheroe • Harrogate • Liverpool • Maghull • Ormskirk • Preston • Skipton • York
Related Pictures
View gallery (77)
Wallasey Tunnel westbound approach 1.jpgWallasey Tunnel westbound approach 2.jpgA59 - Coppermine - 7261.jpgBrockholes Bridge - Geograph - 605582.jpgPHSIH0103-North-Road-with-Saul-Street-Baths-and-Pentecostal-Church-Preston-1971-630x421.jpg
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A20 • A21 • A22 • A23 • A24 • A25 • A26 • A27 • A28 • A29 • A30 • A31 • A32 • A33 • A34 • A35 • A36 • A37 • A38 • A39
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