|Distance:||31.2 miles (50.2 km)|
|Meets:||A71, A723, A725, B764, B761, A727, B767, M77, A77, B773, A736, B771, A761, A741, B775, M8, A737, A8, M898, A898|
|Former Number(s):||A744, A749, A740, B815|
|Old route now:||B7086, A725, B783, A727, A898|
|Route outline (key)|
The meandering A726 between Strathaven and Erskin forms a sort of southwestern bypass of Glasgow.
The route begins in the quaint surroundings of Strathaven town centre, where it leaves the main A71 Edinburgh to Irvine road. A 180-metre stretch of the first part of the A726, Waterside Street, is actually one-way southbound. Leaving the town, the road heads (meanders?) towards East Kilbride, affectionately known as Polo Mint City by the locals, owing to its numerous roundabouts: a feature it shares with all new towns. Here the A726 develops into a dual carriageway and traffic volumes increase hugely. The road also acquires primary status, being the main southern route around Glasgow. We travel past numerous roundabouts, all named so that people can have some idea of where they are in the otherwise rather indistinguishable surroundings of a new town. At the Burniehall roundabout we meet the A725 and our route also gains trunk status.
At the Peel Park roundabout we branch off from the newly built fly-over and joins the Glasgow Southern Orbital (GSO), which is not trunk. This road is completely new and was not opened until May 2005. It is a fast two-lane road with signs prohibiting vehicles under 50cc, animals, pedestrians, and invalid carriages: basically it is a motorway without hard shoulders. It carries on in a southwesterly direction, bypassing the residential areas of Busby, Clarkston and Eastwood (see the A727 listing) but also serving as a bypass to the conservation village of Eaglesham and the hamlet of Jackton. The road was mainly built to bypass Eaglesham but also manages to serve as a bypass for the Clarkston, Busby area, hence the road taking the old primary status. Busby also has a notorious low bridge which has seen many bridge strikes, so it also serves as a diversionary route for high vehicles. First Glasgow specifies single-deck buses for use on its the 66 route, which passes under the bridge, but low-height double deckers do fit – just!
The A726 meets the B767 at a roundabout, where users can go south to Eaglesham and North to Clarkston, having skipped the low bridge. The GSO then turns more westerly, and heads up a very steep hill before passing a junction for Newton Mearns, and then finishes up at a large roundabout which couples as junction 5 of the M77, where the M77, A77, and A726 all meet. The A726 appears to end here, but it actually uses a part of the M77 to head back North, to Junction 3 where it meets the 'old road' again near Darnley. Mainly of the signs, mainly around Darnley and Pollok, have yet to be updated; the signage around East Kilbride has been updated! Signage for the new road seems to have only progressed as far as Eastwood Toll! If you were heading south on the M77 you'd follow a completely different route to East Kilbride following signs than if you were coming from East Kilbride to the M77! Anyway, no sooner has this new junction passed than traffic is again squeezed into single lanes to negotiate a railway bridge. Hereafter it returns to dual carriageway. Nonetheless, despite its essentially non-primary appearance here (it is exceptionally twisty for a dual carriageway) it is easily the most-used route in this area, with as many accident blackspots as there are bends.
Another massively-used controlled junction at the Hurlet (with the A736 Crookston road) is to be negotiated before the road heads towards Paisley town centre. The section between Dykebar and the Hurlet is very twisty but ironically has one of the highest speed limits over the whole road at NSL (70mph). Past Dykebar the road becomes a 40mph, and the road narrows to a wide single carriageway for around 500 m, as it heads past Hunterhill. Passing the site of the new Morrisons store in Paisley it drops to 30mph and becomes dualled, as it heads to Paisley. Here it takes a sharp right becoming Paisley's inner ring road and briefly multiplexes with the A761 (bound for Glasgow). It then passes the Paisley Courthouses becoming single carriageway and takes a right at traffic lights. It is sporadically dualled as it heads near St. Mirrens FC ground, before becoming fully dualled again at the St James Playing fields. Here, if SPT (Strathclyde Passenger Transport) get their wish, the road will be crossed here by a new railway line to Glasgow Airport. As it reaches the St James Interchange (J29) with the M8, which is a massive signalised junction with fly-overs, it takes an immense swerve from its original route to travel the perimeter of Glasgow Airport's main runway. Its relative quietness here (back to single lanes) recalls its origins in Strathaven (Greater Glasgow at last is behind us). It rejoins its pre-airport line at a small industrial estate south of Inchinnan, before crossing the A8 at the busy Red Smiddy roundabout. Thence it heads into Erskine, ending with a little flourish, dualled again (albeit unnecessarily) to meet the M898 Erskine Bridge route at an extravagant butterfly-style junction, and the rather less impressive B815 Bishopton back-road. Before the Erskine Bridge was built, the A726 continued across the Clyde via the Erskine Ferry.
The history of the A726 is rather complicated. In 1922, it started on the A74 (now A724) on the edge of Hamilton, before heading west to East Kilbride along the alignment of the current A725. It then followed the A727 (which was part of the A726 until 2005) and then its current route as far as Paisley where it ended on the A737.
In 1935, the west end of the A726 was extended along what was the A740 from Paisley via the Erskine Ferry to end on the A82 in Old Kilpatrick. At the same time, the east end of the road, from Hamilton to East Kilbride, was renumbered A776 and the A726 extended southeastwards along part of the A749 and A744 via Strathaven to end on the A74 at Kirkmuirhill.
In 1971, the Erskine Bridge was opened, making the ferry redundant and so the A726 was rerouted to the south side of the bridge where it now ends, taking over the original easternmost section of the B815. Later in the 1970s, the A74 was downgraded parallel to the M74, so the A726 ended end-on with the A744 in Kirkmuirhill. Strangely, it was not until the 1990s that the section of the A726 between Strathaven and Kirkmuirhill was downgraded to the B7086.