Star.pngStar.pngStar.pngStar.pngStar grey.png


From Roader's Digest: The SABRE Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Location Map ( geo)
Cameraicon.png View gallery (17)
From:  Maryville (NS677622)
To:  Kirkdean (NT122444)
Via:  Motherwell, Wishaw, Carluke, Carnwath
Distance:  34 miles (54.7 km)
Meets:  M74, A74, B7001, B758, B7071, A752, B756, A725, A775, B7070, A723, B754, B7033, A722, B7032, A71, A73, B7056, A706, A70, A702, A72
Former Number(s):  B716, A754, B714, A753
Old route now:  A74
Highway Authorities

Glasgow • North Lanarkshire • Scottish Borders • South Lanarkshire

Traditional Counties

Lanarkshire • Peeblesshire

Route outline (key)
A721 Parkhead – Maryville
A721 Maryville – Bogside
(A73) Bogside – Carluke
A721 Carluke – Carstairs
(A70) Carstairs – Carnwath
A721 Carnwath – Kirkdean

The A721 is a cross-country A-road heading east from Glasgow to the Borders in southern Scotland. Although now all non-primary, the section east of Carluke and the A73 was previously a primary road, giving it (with A73 and A8) preference over the western half of A72 as a main route between the Borders and Glasgow.


Maryville – Motherwell

The route commences at the Black Bear Roundabout, part of the Daldowie Interchange on the A74 and close to the Maryville Interchange (where the M73 and M74 meet). This is a relatively recent extension, dating from roughly when the M74 extension opened, with the route formerly meeting the A74 end on at the B7071 junction further east. At the time of the extension, it was thought that the A721 was going to usurp all of the remaining A74 route into the city centre, but in the event this hasn't happened. From the roundabout, the A721 heads east on the dualled Hamilton Road, becoming Glasgow Road as it crosses Calder Bridge over the North Calder Water. It then curves around to pass under the four sliproads that soon merge to form the M73, with an uncontrolled at-grade right turn then leading onto the southbound M74. This movement is not possible at the Daldowie Interchange due to the close proximity of the various sliproads.

A short distance later, the B7001 is met at a small roundabout, where signage hasn't been updated, and so the route is still signed as the A74. At the next junction with the B758, however, Glasgow Road is once more signed as the A721. This is a simple T junction, as is the next junction, Powburn Toll, where the A721 has to TOTSO left, with the B7071 continuing ahead. This junction used to be the main fork between the Hamilton and Edinburgh roads from Glasgow, and as such would have been very busy in the past, particularly in the years before the motorway opened and provided some relief. The route now heads east as New Edinburgh Road, passing below some large detached stone houses and then on into Tannochside, where the A752 is met at a signalised crossroads. There is little development to the south, with a thick band of trees screening the motorway, while to the north the ends of cul-de-sacs and garden fences come and go between the trees.

B756 junction at Fallside

After another signalised crossroads, the route passes between parkland and a concrete plant, before crossing the B756 at more signals. Now passing through the Fallside district, there are housing estates on both sides of the road, and more properties facing onto the road, making it feel a lot more urban again. A small roundabout gives access to a service area, and then a short section of dual carriageway leads to the much larger roundabout at Belziehill Junction with the A725 and B7001 above the mainline of the A725 Bellshill Bypass. After navigating nearly half of this large oval roundabout, the A721 continues east past Strathclyde Industrial Estate as Gartcosh Walk. A roundabout gives access to the large industrial estate to the north and then Gartcosh Walk curves to form a by-pass of Bellshill Town Centre. The A721 is not so lucky, however, and at the next roundabout, with the A775 and B7070, it doubles back on North Road, soon passing between shops.

North Road is a short multiplex with the B7070, but as the A721 turns left onto Main Street, Bellshill's main shopping street, it becomes one way in the opposite direction, so southbound traffic has to continue along the B7070 Hamilton Road, and then the unclassified Crossgates to rejoin the A721. This route is two-way throughout, begging the question of why it hasn't been renumbered. The A721, meanwhile, has used Main Street for a single block and then Motherwell Road, with both directions having to pass under the railway. The two routes meet at a sort of roundabout junction, with Motherwell Road now being dualled as far as the next roundabout, on the edge of Bellshill. The route now enters woodland, with glimpses of the parks beyond, as it dips slightly to cross the South Calder Water at Holm Forge Bridge and then climbs up through the trees to enter Motherwell.

Motherwell - Carluke

Now following Bellshill Road through the Forgewood district of Motherwell, the older properties on the right face directly onto the roadside, while the newer flats to the left are mostly set back behind a tree lined service road. The route then comes alongside the railway, kinks over a railway bridge and runs into the Town Centre as Muir Street. The A721 then forms a ring road around the town centre, which is mostly two-way. Passing around clockwise from the first roundabout, it heads east on Hope Street, then continues ahead onto Menteith Road at the next, before curving to the south. The A723 turns off to the right at the next roundabout, but the A721 continues ahead across the railway to another roundabout, where the mainline continues south east on Brandon Street. The ring road however, turns right, curving round to the north, across another roundabout and onto West Hamilton Street. The other part of the A723 is then met at the next roundabout, where the A721 turns right onto Hamilton Road. Almost immediately, however, it curves left onto the one-way Muir Street, which winds past the station back to the first roundabout.

B754 roundabout near Flemington

Back across town, Brandon Street winds south west between shops and across a mini roundabout onto Windmillhill Street. The B754 is then met at a roundabout, with the A721 continuing east in a short multiplex to the next roundabout. Now following Craigneuk Street under the railway and past the site of the erstwhile Ravenscraig steel works, which is slowly being redeveloped, although most of the site is screened from the route by an industrial area and trees. The new spine road is connected by a large roundabout just after the railway, however. At the next roundabout, the A721 forks right, becoming Shieldmuir Street, and then Glasgow Road as it passes into Wishaw. A retail park and then the hospital lie off to the right, each accessed by roundabouts, and the route passes under two railway bridges. The spacious twentieth century suburbia soon becomes more urban as the town centre is approached. The route passes through several sets of signals as it winds past shops and onto Main Street.

Now in Wishaw town centre, the short, one-way B7033 turns left just before Wishaw East Cross, where the A722 comes in from the left, opposite the B7032. Beyond the junction, the route follows Stewarton Street as it heads south east out of Wishaw, soon becoming wide enough for parking on both sides and a hatched central lane for turning traffic. Greenhead Park provides a pleasant green space, with the route then becoming Wishaw Road as it passes through the linear development of Waterloo, where it meets the A71 at a roundabout. A few more houses are passed, and then the route kinks left onto a long straight across fields, ending at the Bogside Roundabout on the A73. From here the two routes multiplex south for over two miles into Carluke, crossing into South Lanarkshire on the way.

Carluke - Kirkdean

East of Carluke

The A721 resumes at a signalised T junction near the town centre and turns left onto Glamis Avenue. It then turns right at a roundabout onto Chapel Street, and then east again at the next roundabout onto Carnwath Road. A series of straights then lead the route out of town, although after passing the High School, most of the houses are backing onto the main road, and fields soon appear to the left. The B7056 is then crossed at a staggered crossroads at Roadmeetings, and then the route leads Carluke behind on Kilncadzow Road. A series of undulating straights then climb up through the tiny village of Kilncadzow across a series of summits each just below 290m. It then meets the A706 at a roundabout, before winding down to cross the Mouse Water at Cowford Bridge. A slight climb through a notch in a low ridge then leads to the Carstairs Junction with the A70, the village lying a short distance to the south. The two routes then multiplex eastwards, past a turning for the State Hospital.


A little beyond, the B7016 comes in from the left and joins the multiplex as the road crosses the railway and runs into Carnwath. The long main street is lined with a fine array of old stone houses, and is often crowded with parked cars. The B7016 turns off first, at a signalised T junction, and then at the top of a short hill, the A70 forks left at a mini roundabout by the park. Although the A70 number is dominant, the A721's route generally has priority at either end. The route resumes as Caldwell Terrace and then Carnwath Road, heading east past a row of houses and small industrial estate and out into the fields once more. An undulating section leads through the tiny settlement of Kaimend and down to cross the North Medwin Water at Besses Well Bridge, before passing through the slightly larger Newbigging, A sinuous section then leads onto a straight, which is the route of an old Roman Road. This crosses the South Medwin Water at Oggscastle Bridge , before turning away from the Roman Road again at the end of the next straight.

For the next few miles, the route winds across the hills, with some stunning views ahead. Some of the fields have been planted with fir trees, perhaps Christmas Tree Farms, while most of the others are grazed. A couple of sharper bends sit amongst the short straights, but for the most part the road is wide and flowing. The road then climbs through the small village of Elsrickle, finally crossing the 290m contour at the far end, before dipping back down onto the Roman Road line once more. It then crosses the A702 at a staggered crossroads, the Trunk route having priority. With just a couple of miles left, the route stays close to the Roman Road as it climbs up to a gap in the hills, reaching a summit of 294m as, it crosses into Peeblesshire. The descent is through fields and patches of forestry, to end at a junction with the A72 (multiplexed with the A701) at Kirkdean.


the A721 on Tollcross Street on the MOT map

When originally classified in 1922, the A721 had very different start and end points. It originally extended much further west into Glasgow, where it started on the A8 (now the A89) at Parkhead. It then headed east along the now-unclassified Tollcross Road and Hamilton Road to meet the present A74 at Mount Vernon. The section of Hamilton Road now numbered as the A74 was therefore originally the A721, with the A74 running to the south of the Clyde. The A74 swapped numbers with the A724 in 1936, but Tollcross Road remained part of the A721 into the 1970s, if not the 1980s, with a lengthy multiplex in between. After being curtailed at Powburn Toll, the A721 was extended west again to Daldowie Interchange in c2008, although there is no definitive record identified so far and it may have taken several years for the signs and mapping to be updated.

At the opposite end of the route, it originally terminated on the A73 at Bogside. To the east, the B716 ran from Carluke to Carstairs, and then the B714 ran from Carnwarth through to the A72 at Kirkdean. These two routes had been upgraded to A roads before 1927, and were renumbered as the A754 and A753 respectively. This probably happened in 1926. They were not much longer lived than their predecessors, however, and the A721 was extended through to Kirkdean in 1934.

Aside from the numbering changes, there have been several notable changes to the route over the years. Many are small scale, but there are a couple of more substantial upgrades. The most westerly change to note is at Belziehill Junction, as described above, where the construction of the roundabout briefly pushed the eastern arm of the A721 onto the former B7001 alignment. The original route then followed Main Street directly into the town centre, rather than the modern Gartcosh Walk. In the 1980s, the OS showed the whole one-way system around Bellshill town centre as being the A721, but whether this was ever actually the case, or just the OS reflecting the de-facto situation is not clear. The roundabout at the Crossgates / Motherwell Road junction appears to have been built for the one-way system, but the dual carriageway beyond is a lot older. The first definite depiction of a dual carriageway is on the 1964 1:2500 sheet, but earlier post war maps simply show a wide carriageway without central reservation, suggesting the road was widened in the early 1950s.

The current Holm Forge Bridge was built in 1932, the loop of the old road over the old bridge surviving in the park on the downstream side. Motherwell town centre has been thoroughly rebuilt since 1970, but the line of the old A721 through the town survives. It continued down Muir Street to meet the A723 at a crossroads, continuing onto Brandon Street, now the pedestrianised Brandon Parade. The old street line then remains as a paved walkway across the car park to the roundabout at the head of what remains of Brandon Street. Other than Muir Street and West Hamilton Street, none of the current ring road pre-dates 1970, with much of it being built on land released when the old railway sidings were lifted. Further east, a number of roundabouts have been built, causing the route to be realigned, most notably on the approach to the second roundabout with the B754, where a short section of the original line survives inside the curved approach to the junction. The onward route through Wishaw to Bogside has hardly changed.

The original line through Carluke followed the High Street, the current relief road dating from the 1980s. The next notable change is at Cowford Bridge, where the old bridge stood a little further downstream, between the current bridge and the golf course bridge, part of the old road surviving as the access to the nearby house. There have then been substantial changes to Carstairs Junction with the A70.

The final section is perhaps the most interesting in terms of changes to the road alignment. There are a small number of laybys indicating minor adjustments to bends, but much of this section has a wide verge on one side or the other, coupled with over-wide pavements on the bridges which date from the 1940s or 1950s. This seems to indicate that the road was planned to be widened to three lanes, with a central 'suicide lane'. However, there is no evidence that this work was ever carried out. Besses Well Bridge over the North Medwyn bypasses a long loop to the south over the old bridge, which actually begins just after Kaimend with a loop of old tarmac in the field to the north of the current line, and a realigned junction with the Carnwarth Mill road. Another thin strip of old tarmac also survives to the north east of the bridge. Online widening and minor realignments then resume, with a stagger added to the A702 junction, but this is the last improvement of note.

Roman Road

The Romans built a fort to the south of Carstairs, and a number of Roman Roads have been identified in the area. One of these has become the A721 in places, although this may not indicate continuous use for nearly two millennia. As far as can be ascertained, the A721 first picks up the Roman line to the west of Oggscastle Bridge and follows it across the bridge and to the end of the next straight. The Roman Road then takes a straighter line over the hills to the north of Elsrickle to be met again near Howburn Farm. The A721 then follows it as far as the A702, which is itself on a Roman alignment at the junction. The final section over the hill to Kirkdean may also be Roman.

1960s Proposals

Recommended Highway Network proposal from 1965

The image to the right is taken from proposals for new roads across the Greater Glasgow area dating from 1965. It clearly shows the proposed line of the 'Motherwell - Wishaw Expressway', which would almost certainly have become the A721 had it been built. In the event, while hints of its proposed alignment survive here and there amongst the housing estates, nothing was really ever built. The route starts from the B7070 junction on the A725 and curves east roughly alongside Community Road to meet the A721 somewhere near Holm Forge Bridge. It then ploughs straight through the middle of Motherwell (the dotted line is probably more indicative than a final alignment), and seems to stay closer to the railway, roughly through the Orbiston Street industrial area. After crossing the railway into Wishaw, it seems to run around the back of Meadowhead Road, perhaps aiming for the town centre on Main Street, although this is off the edge of the page.

The 1922 MOT Road List defines this route as: Bogside - Wishaw - Motherwell - Bellshill - Glasgow (W. of Tollcross)
An official document from 16/05/1934 details the following changes:
To be extended to Blyth Bridge (Peebles-shire) commencing at a junction with Route A73 (Abington-Cumbernauld) at Carluke, Lanarkshire, and proceeding in a general south easterly direction over the line of Route A754 to a junction with Route A70 (Edinburgh-Ayr) at Carstairs and from a junction with Route A70 at Carnwarth over the line of Route A753 via Newbigging and Elsrickle to a junction with Route A72 (Galashiels-Hamilton) at Harestanes about one mile south west of Blyth Bridge.
An official document from 16/05/1936 details the following changes: Section from Junction A724 N. Of Uddingston via Broomhouse to Mount Vernon Station re-numbered A74 (A721 merged with A74 on this section).

Opening Dates

Year Section Notes
1974 Motherwell Ring Road Phase 1: The 0.5 mile section from Hope Street to West Hamilton Street was opened on 30 October 1974 by Bailie David Monteith, covenor of the Town Council's Streets Committee. Contractor was to be R.J. McCleod (Contractors) Ltd., tender price £1.3 million. It was part of the Town Centre Development Scheme. It was then known as Brandon Street Bypass. Phase 2 was to be a road parallel with the railway northwards to Bellshill Road.

Related Pictures
View gallery (17)
Roundabout at Flemington, Motherwell - Geograph - 939987.jpgGlasgow Highway Plans circa 1965 - Coppermine - 4819.JPGLooking back on the A721 road (C) Liz 'n' Jim - Geograph - 3764445.jpgA70-a721-carnwarth.jpgA70-carnwarth.jpg
Other nearby roads
NCN75 • A8 • A8(M) (Baillieston) • A8/Old Greenock Road • A74 • A77 • A80 • A81 • A82 • A89 • A726 • A727 • A727 (Glasgow - Clarkston) • A728 • A729 • A730 • A731 • A732 • A736 • A737 • A739 • A749 • A754 (Renfrewshire) • A761 • A763 • A802 • A803 • A804 • A804 (Kelvingrove - Townhead) • A805 • A806 • A806 (Canniesburn - Scotstoun) • A808 • A809 • A814 • A876 (Glasgow) • A879 • B744 (Muirkirk - Glasgow) • B759 • B760 (Silverbank) • B760 (Tollcross) • B761 (Glasgow) • B762 • B762 (Braidfauld-Shettleston) • B763 • B763 (Dalmarnock - Parkhead) • B765 • B765 (Rutherglen) • B766 • B767 • B768 • B769 • B773 • B805 (Barlanark) • B807 • B808 • B808 (Millerston - St Rollox) • B809 • B810 (Great Western Road) • B811 • B812 (Glasgow - Bardowie) • B813 • B860 (Glasgow) • B7053 • B7058 • B8030 • B8049 • B8050 • E05 • E16 • E31 (via Carlisle) • E31 (via Newcastle) • E33 (London - Glasgow) • E100 • E111 (Old System) • East Kilbride Motorway • Edinburgh - Glasgow New Road • EuroVelo 1 • Glasgow Inner Ring Road • Hamilton - Cumbernauld Motorway • M6 • M8 • M73 • M74 • M77 • M80 • M81 • M82 • M83 • Military Way • NCN7 • NCN754 • Paisley - Hamilton Motorway • T12 (Britain) • T27 (Britain) • T28 (Britain) • T91 (Britain)
A700 • A701 • A702 • A703 • A704 • A705 • A706 • A707 • A708 • A709 • A710 • A711 • A712 • A713 • A714 • A715 • A716 • A717 • A718 • A719
A720 • A721 • A722 • A723 • A724 • A725 • A726 • A727 • A728 • A729 • A730 • A731 • A732 • A733 • A734 • A735 • A736 • A737 • A738 • A739
A740 • A741 • A742 • A743 • A744 • A745 • A746 • A747 • A748 • A749 • A750 • A751 • A752 • A753 • A754 • A755 • A756 • A757 • A758 • A759
A760 • A761 • A762 • A763 • A764 • A765 • A766 • A767 • A768 • A769 • A770 • A771 • A772 • A773 • A774 • A775 • A776 • A777 • A778 • A779
A780 • A781 • A782 • A783 • A784 • A785 • A786 • A787 • A788 • A789 • A790 • A791 • A792 • A793 • A794 • A795 • A796 • A797 • A798 • A799
Defunct Itineraries: A720 • A727 • A739 • A740 • A752 • A754

SABRE - The Society for All British and Irish Road Enthusiasts
Discuss - Digest - Discover - Help