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A6 (Northern Ireland)

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Location Map ( geo)
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From:  Belfast (J336747)
To:  Derry (C441167)
Via:  Antrim
Distance:  69.8 miles (112.3 km)
Meets:  A2, A11, A12, A52, A55, M2, A8(M), A57, A26, A522, A57, M22, A54, A31, A29, A514, A2
Former Number(s):  B74, B18, B183
Old route now:  B74
Primary Destinations
Belfast • Antrim • Derry
Highway Authorities

DfI Roads

Traditional Counties

Antrim • Londonderry

Route outline (key)
A6 Belfast - Derry
A6 Dungiven - Feeny - Claudy

The A6 is the main road from Belfast, Northern Ireland's capital, to Derry, its second city. The first section to Randalstown is shadowed by the M2 and M22, which ends just before the boundary with County Londonderry. From here, the road is predominantly rural single-carriageway as far as Derry.


Belfast - Randalstown

The view of Ulster University's Belfast Campus, as seen from the crossroads with Donegall Street. The bridge between the buildings was demolished in 2016.

The A6 begins on the north side of Donegall Square, right in front of the City Hall in the centre of Belfast. It runs north along Donegall Place - albeit with the traffic limited to southbound flow only - before proceeding along Royal Avenue. At the crossroads between the offices of the Belfast Telegraph newspaper and Ulster University's Belfast Campus, it bears left onto Donegall Street leading to Clifton Street, and leaves the city centre. It crosses the A12 Westlink ring road, but is not signed until it reaches Carlisle Circus, a roundabout with the A52 on Crumlin Road. From here, the signed route heads, appropriately enough, along Antrim Road, named after the town to which its first section runs.

Here the road is a broad carriageway with two lanes in each direction, although one in the direction of the city centre is partly a bus lane. The road take a while to escape from the city, passing through suburbs that roughly reflect the chronology of urban expansion, being initially Victorian, then Edwardian, then inter-war, and then post-war. There are no landmarks of any particular note, before the A6 climbs the steep hill towards Glengormley and crosses over the M2, the modern route that has superceded it. The road is a conventional single carriageway with one lane in each direction, by the time it arrives in Glengormley. It curves back to meet the motorway at junction 4, which is also where the A8(M), leading almost immediately to the A8 (Northern Ireland), heads off for Larne.

There is a brief section of dual carriageway after the A6 has cleared the motorway junction, and it passes the City of Belfast Golf Course before heading out into the countryside. Heading for Antrim, the A6 is straight as it runs across the flat, open farmland. At Templepatrick it encounters the A57, which links Belfast International Airport to the west with the port of Larne to the east. The A6 then passes the Templepatrick Golf and Country Club, in a brief multiplex with the A57 before running alongside Six Mile Water towards Lough Neagh. The A26 arrives at a T-junction from the left, and shares another multiplex with the A6 around the southern and western sides of Antrim town centre. The original road through the town is now the A522. The A6 splits briefly into an urban dual carriageway before separating from the A26, which continues north towards Ballymena and Coleraine.

Milepost between Antrim and Randalstown

The A6 heads out of Antrim along Randalstown Road, running close to the shore of Lough Neagh, although trees prevent the water from being visible. As the shore curves away, the A6 runs straight along Castle Road to meet the M22 at junction 2, before crossing over into Randalstown. It enters the town along a wide single carriageway, before passing under an elaborate pedestrian bridge which is the modern-day function of a former railway bridge, and over the River Maine. The road twists through the characterful town centre before turning left at a mini-roundabout. It then passes out through a semi-industrial area of the town, returning to the countryside to meet the M22 from Belfast. This is the point at which the A6 takes over the trunk road from Belfast to Derry.

Randalstown - Derry

Signage marking the A6's encounter with the M22 prior to the 2019 improvement works

The A6 runs out of Randalstown to meet the M22 (Northern Ireland) at a rather awkward TOTSO junction, where the motorway runs straight onto the carriageway that the A6 now adopts. For the next few miles, the A6 is now a high-quality dual-carriageway, with partial hard shoulders and a long parking area, that affords an impressive view of Lough Neagh on its approach to the Drumderg Roundabout. This brand new section was opened in 2019, and has dramatically improved the quality of the road. It ties into its former route at the beginning of the older bypass for the village of Toomebridge, which was already dual-carriageway. The bypass crosses the River Bann, which flows out of the mighty Lough Neagh at this point. The bridge, which is a very modern structure, looks impressive when illuminated at night. The original road through the village is now the B18, which also runs onwards in a roughly parallel course to the A6 towards Magherafelt.

Here the dual-carriageway ended until 2019, and there was a brief straight section of single carriageway with a leftward kink at half distance, but this has now also been upgraded to an expressway which leads the A6 on to meet the new A31 Magherafelt Bypass at a large roundabout. A left turn here sees the A31 depart southwards towards Mid Ulster, meeting the A29 just north of Cookstown. There is also a link to the B40, which was the old road through Magherafelt and now serves the town; a right turn here will take you onto the A54 through Castledawson, running alongside the Bann up to Coleraine, which is a fantastic drive.

Staying on the A6, we now turn onto the Glenshane Road, which leaves the roundabout with a long overtaking lane heading in our direction. Gradually, the vegetation at the sides of the road reduces to the occasional clumps of pine trees and gorse bushes with their bright yellow flowers, in an otherwise increasingly sparse landscape. After a turning for which a filter lane is necessary, the overtaking lane reverts to the other side, providing a long opportunity for Belfast-bound traffic to make progress. After passing to the north of the Ballynahone Bog, the A6 encounters the A29, a long and mostly important route running the whole length of the province from north to south. The meeting point of these two strategic routes is negotiated via a short link road, which means that neither road need cede priority. There is then a lengthy stretch of hatched areas and filter lanes serving unclassified side roads and local businesses, before we begin to climb.

The descent from the Glenshane Pass, towards Belfast

The Glenshane Pass is a magnificent stretch of road. It is wide. It is mostly straight, although there are some long, sweeping curves. There are overtaking lanes serving the uphill traffic on both sides, which also permit downhill overtaking if the middle lane is free. There are some expansive views of the open, largely unspoiled countryside, and several parking areas from which to pull over and enjoy them. On a clear day, it is possible to see right across Lough Neagh in the direction from which we have come. Near the summit, there is also the Ponderosa bar and restaurant, which claims to be the highest pub in Ireland. The Glenshane Pass is also renowned as a haven for that not-entirely-rare species: the PSNI camera van.

The A6 Main Street, Dungiven

The A6 descends from the Glenshane Pass by entering the valley through which the River Roe passes, the river running to the left of the road. We then reach the edge of the small town of Dungiven. As of 2023, a left exit lane links us on to the new 19-mile expressway which bypasses the town to the south and takes us over the River Roe and all the way to Drumahoe just outside Derry. This is the third "A6" on this route; the original was aligned as per much of the B74, and the second existing as the A6 until 2023 was slightly to the north as a wide single carriageway with occasional overtaking opportunities and frequent dips. Just as the old A6 did, the new expressway runs high along the eastern bank of the River Faughan before descending again to the Lismacarol roundabout, a theoretically temporary terminus outside Drumahoe. As it stands, the A6 then crosses over the Faughan while passing to the south-west of the town centre, on a stretch where there is a 40mph speed limit in force. It then climbs up a long straight hill, with yet another overtaking lane, into Derry.

We reach the city limits next to the sprawling hospital. A set of traffic lights provides access to the hospital, and the road then reaches its large roundabout with the Crescent Link Road. A left turn will take you into the suburbs of the Waterside, historically the Protestant side of the city. A right turn will take you around the periphery of the city along the A514 ring road, connecting the to the A2 (Northern Ireland) coast road leading to Limavady and Coleraine, and onto the A515 Foyle Bridge; this will take you right around the other side of the city, and eventually over the border into County Donegal in the Republic of Ireland.

The A6 meets the A2 on Derry's Waterside

Traffic bound for the city centre will stick with the A6 as it begins its long descent, on the single carriageway Dungiven Road, which has two lanes in each direction. There is a traffic signal camera at the firs set of lights, and quite frequently a PSNI camera van as the hill disinclines many motorists from observing the 30mph speed limit. After the second set of traffic lights, the original route of the A6 departs on the left, running down into the Waterside's central business district, while the current route of the road takes a more northerly course, meeting the A2 arriving from Coleraine near the Ebrington Barracks, an eighteenth-century military facilty recently converted into an arts and entertainment complex to celebrate Derry's 2013 nomination as the UK's first City of Culture.[1] From here, the A2 continues down to and across the Foyle, to the predominantly Catholic heart of Derry, on the Cityside.


Although the A6 technically still reaches Donegall Square in the heart of Belfast, it is now signposted only from Carlisle Circus. The route is relatively unchanged from its original alignment between Belfast and Antrim, where the bypass to the south and west of the town have caused it to deviate from its original course through the town centre (now the A522). It is also unchanged through Randalstown.

The recent opening of the dualled section between Randalstown and Toomebridge has diverted the A6 completely from its original carriageway, which until 2019 was the poorest-quality stretch of the route between Belfast and Derry. It was not as wide as any of the other sections of the road, did not have the hard-shoulders common to many of those sections, and provided scant opportunity for overtaking on account of its twisty nature; it was also highly congested during peak periods. Much of it was tree-lined, and there were many turnings into unclassified side roads. At one point, the route even passed close to a primary school. This section was therefore prioritised for imminent improvement in the 2010s, and the replacement dual-carriageway was constructed off-line to the south, the original line being renumbered as B183.

The A6 retains its original course across the Glenshane Pass, although it was significantly widened in the 1960s. A long section between Dungiven and Killaloo (just west of Claudy) had already been straightened in the 1960s, when the A6 route swapped numbers with the shorter B74; this has now been replaced in its entirety by a 19-mile expressway to the south of the old A6, which is in fact the longest section of continuously numbered expressway in Northern Ireland other than the Belfast-Dungannon [M1. There are also some existing realignments at Drumahoe, and on the descent into Derry's Waterside.


BBC News

A6 (Northern Ireland)
Related Pictures
View gallery (39)
Sandyknowes roundabout near Belfast (4) - Geograph - 596316.jpgA6 NI Glenshane Pass.jpgEnd of A6 on the Waterside.jpgMain Street, Dungiven - Geograph - 3908929.jpgIMG 3478.jpg
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