|To:||Shotley Bridge (NZ091527)|
|Distance:||13.9 miles (22.4 km)|
|Meets:||A690, B6532, A167, B6312, B6296, A6076, A692, B6309, B6308, B6322, A694, B6278|
|Old route now:||B6309, B6278|
|Route outline (key)|
The A691, a primary route for most of its length, runs from Durham city into the former mining towns in the north of the county.
Section 1: Durham – Lanchester
The road begins under a 40 mph speed limit at Millburngate Roundabout on the A690 in Durham. Until the late 2000s this starting point was an ordinary roundabout, although it has been replaced by a complicated signal-controlled junction. The road heads uphill past some newly-built posh houses before dualling as it curves left to pass under the East Coast Mainline - the maximum vehicle height here is 16'3" in the nearside lane. A right turn then appears for the DLI Museum and Art Gallery, followed by traffic lights as North Road joins from the left just before the County Hall roundabout.
The A691 then bears left somewhat, reaching another roundabout which accesses University (formerly Dryburn) Hospital on the right, and HM Land Registry on the left. The A167 (former A1) is crossed at the next roundabout. After passing the A167 the road becomes NSL as it leaves the built-up area of Durham. The road passes Earl's House Hospital on the right before descending onto the Witton Gilbert bypass - eastbound traffic has a crawler lane here, while heading west there are good views in roughly the 11 o'clock direction along the Browney valley.
The B6312 from Sacriston is now diverted to a roundabout at the western end of the bypass. About half a mile further on is another roundabout outside a BP petrol station which provides access to Langley Park and Quebec, along with the Diggerland adventure park. Heading west, an unclassified (but straightish) road heads up to the right towards Burnhope and Maiden Law. The A691 curves right about a mile later, and heads between trees on each side for roughly 2 more miles before passing under the major line of electricity pylons heading southeast from Blaydon to Thinford (A688/A167 intersection).
The left turning for the Malton picnic area is immediately before the pylons, while about half a mile further on a 30 mph limit appears as the A691 enters the village of Lanchester. The left turning for the B6296 (Wolsingham) and B6301 (Tow Law) is an important junction, and shortly after passing it the speed limit increases to 40 mph. At the west end of the village, the A6076 heads off to the right towards Annfield Plain and Stanley while the last major building on leaving the village is Lanchester Roman Catholic Comprehensive School.
Section 2: Lanchester – Shotley Bridge
The A691 carries on for about 2 1/2 more miles, with some bends in the vicinity of Iveston, before reaching the A692 Leadgate Bypass. The A691 temporarily multiplexes with the A692 heading southwest, before being restored at the Villa Real roundabout – in Villa Real the A691 is non-primary on most maps although it is still primary on the ground. There's a roundabout junction with the B6308 which connects to Consett proper and to Medomsley.
The green signs finally end in Blackhill as the road descends along the shopping street into Bridgehill, where one can see some lovely forest views dead ahead. On reaching Shotley Bridge, the A691 finally ends invisibly at the A694/B6278 junction, with some maps showing that the two A-roads do not actually meet.
Originally the A691 started on the A177, more or less where the County Hall roundabout is now. It headed west along North End and Whitesmocks to multiplex with the A1 (now the A167) for a short distance before heading off to Consett.
In the 1970s, the A177 was rerouted so it no longer reached the north of Durham and so the A691 was extended along North Road to meet the A690 just before the railway viaduct. North Road was downgraded and Framwellgate Peth upgraded with the building of the A690 relief road a few years later.
The A691 used to run straight into Leadgate, meeting the A692 at the crossroads in the centre of town and turning left for Consett (with the A691 being dominant in the multiplex). It was taken out of town when the bypass was built.
After reaching Shotley Bridge, the A691 continued along the current B6278 to end on the A68 at Carterway Heads, but this section of road is far below the standard normally expected for A-roads and so it was downgraded in the 1970s.