|Distance:||38.1 miles (61.3 km)|
|Meets:||A702, A72, A70, A743, A706, A721, A71, A722, A775, A8, M8, A89, A8010, M80|
|Former Number(s):||A720, A72|
|Old route now:||A702|
|Route outline (key)|
The A73 is one of those roads that is tough to sum up in one sentence. In its voyage across almost almost 40 miles of west central Scotland, it struggles to maintain a coherent purpose. Many journeys will use part of the A73 but very few will use most of it. This is not to say that it is useless; it serves the well-populated Clyde valley, the Monklands, and the largest of Scotland’s New Towns. It however ultimately fails to entice the motorist to use it for the purpose it was intended – to bypass Glasgow and take traffic between central Scotland and the English border. This is despite its well-engineered dual carriageway sections and the emergence of motorways with which it shares connections.
Abington - Lanark
On almost the very banks of the formative River Clyde in South Lanarkshire, the A73 begins life near the junction on the M74. The A73 doesn't make it to the M74, it instead falls short by a mile or so and starts on the A702 at Duneatonfoot, roughly equidistant from Abington and Roberton. The latter is about a mile and a half hence and is the first interruption of farmland and riverfront views on the road. It's also the only interruption, save for the odd farmhouse, as far as the A72 junction in Symington by which point the Clyde has meandered to the east and the West Coast Main Line becomes the A73's new shadow. That was seven very quick, very quiet miles.
The A73 becomes the senior partner in a multiplex with the A72 for a lengthy section between here and Lanark; this is something the A72 is prone to letting other roads do. A flat, fertile landscape greets the traveller here and patchwork farmsteads are very evenly divided by the almost-straight road over the next five miles or so. There is the odd remnant of this area's industrial heritage, some private quarrying still going ahead to the east, but scarcely a diversion until the Clyde, having taken a meandering arc, obstructs the path ahead. Rather than cross immediately, the A73 chooses to follow the banks of the river and cross at an older bridge upstream, Hyndford Bridge. The 18th century single-track crossing seems at first glance vastly inappropriate for the job; the truth is actually worse as the A70, Edinburgh-bound from Ayrshire, is also required to make the crossing and can only use the same bridge. Result? A70, A72, A73, one lane of road between both directions of all three. Thankfully, these routes are in no way as busy as their numerical prowess would suggest. Interestingly, it is the A73, numerically the least important of these three roads, which has priority.
Lanark - Carluke
Having finally made it to the “west bank”, the A73 sets about shaking off its passengers. The A70 splits off almost instantly to the east, followed soon by the tell-tale roundabouts which link new-build suburbia. Lanark is the first town of any size encountered on the journey. Lanark is a historic market town, and it's only very recently that the old markets have been demolished to be replaced by, erm, a new shopping park. The A73 will stay out of its way, taking a left towards the town centre on a road hemmed in tightly by residential development, giving it an old and claustrophobic feel. It eventually has to give way to the western High Street (A743) which it hits at a perpendicular angle, forcing the A73 route to take an abrupt left turn. There is just about space for two lanes of traffic to squeeze past the recently restored municipal halls and out of town, but not before the A72 separates from its long-term partner and carves its own path to Larkhall.
Glasgow's influence can just about be felt at this point; the A73 is Glasgow Road and there are stations on the Glasgow suburban rail network out this far. In contrast to the earlier quick and straighter sections, all of a sudden the road takes on a narrow and meandering character as it dives in and out of a series of wooded enclaves before the next urban interruption, the outskirts of Braidwood. Just enough time for the road to straighten up and plough into Carluke, which is one of these towns that just keeps developing new housing as it grows as a commuter settlement. These houses are spread out over the two main routes in the city, the north-south A73 and the east-facing A721.
Carluke - Airdrie
There's a roundabout just out of town at Bogside over which the A73 is dualled, and by all appearances (namely the flared carriageways), might have been due to be grade separated. Strangely so, perhaps, given that the road never really makes it into many of these Glaswegian outskirts and mostly bypasses them, sharing roundabouts with arterial roads like the A722 (Wishaw/Cambusnethan) and A775 (Motherwell/Holytown). There is sporadic dual carriageway all the way up to the M8 junction at Newhouse. If completed, it would make a compelling alternative as an M8-M74 link avoiding Glasgow. The M73 and to some extent the A725, further into the conurbation, have taken that crown and it leaves the A73 linking not a lot, sadly unfulfilled on the south side of the Glasgow-Edinburgh motorway.
All the A73's promise therefore leaves an ironic taste in the mouth when we reach the first grade separated junction on its length – grade separated for another road that is, the aforementioned M8. It marks a watershed moment in the road's existence. It no longer wants to avoid these satellite settlements and is instead intent on linking them in a more traditional matter. Firstly Chapelhall, which is part commuter town, part industrial/technology village, and then more strikingly Airdrie. Still another sign here that this should have been a much more important route; this part is Carlisle Road, and has a series of long, straight sections on the run into town and its link to the A89 (ex-A8) which is today a rather small roundabout.
Airdrie - Cumbernauld
Carlisle Road becomes Stirling Road – more illusions of grandeur, outside the abandoned Raywards industrial plant. Much of this area, the Monklands, was part of Glasgow's industrial heart and, come the sixties and seventies, had the heart firmly ripped out of it by cuts and political change – perhaps part of the reason this road has never reached fruition. There is a vaguely modern feel, with good sightlines and occasional roundabouts as it runs north out of the Monklands and makes a bee-line for the biggest New Town of them all, Cumbernauld. So whatever purpose the mid-20th century A73 was to have has been usurped in order to provide a southern link for this new, sprawling settlement.
The dual carriageway begins way out of town, and the A73 begins to get grade separated junctions of its own. The first of these is a road of apparently little consequence, the B8039; what's actually happening here is the A73 is splitting from its historic route, which of course predated Cumbernauld by a good thirty years. There's another flared roundabout with the road at Greenfaulds railway station, with a further one replacing a northbound only minor junction serving equally minor routes. As the road ploughs through the western part of town in a valley all of its own, a southbound only access to a high school appears. The junction it is missing (and quite confusingly so) is that with the Cumbernauld through road, the A8011. The net result is that the Cumbernauld south access road isn't all that good for accessing Cumbernauld. Just one more confusing chapter in the life of the A73 – and the last, with the final junction literally just around the corner.
Just enough time for a footnote then, Auchenkilns Junction on the M80. This junction has been through a few iterations; most infamously it was a simple roundabout with the M80's predecessor, the A80. This caused nightmarish queues on the Glasgow-Stirling road and forced a lengthy grade-separation project with caused misery for almost three years to A80 traffic. Later still, the entire A80 was upgraded and grade separated through here, giving the A73 another motorway connection, albeit via two small roundabouts suspended above the unstoppable M80. You can just about find a way back into Cumbernauld here, by going straight on and turning back on yourself on the B8048; but that is another road, for another time. The A73 has come as far as it's going to go – literally and figuratively.
The A73 originally started in Lanark on the A72. It was extended back to the A74 at Abington in the 1935 Road numbering revision by taking over part of the A72, all of the original A720 and then a useless multiplex with the A702. However, it was then truncated back to its current starting point at Duneatonfoot in 1991 when the M74 was constructed in this area.
At the other end, the original A73 into Cumbernauld from the south is now the B8039, which gets as far as the B8054 where it gets lost. The ex-A73 north of here has been largely destroyed and cannot even be followed by comparing historical and modern maps. However, the bridge over the railway line immediately to the west of Cumbernauld station is that taken by the A73 although it is now closed to traffic. Just to the northeast of the Braehead Roundabout on the A8011 is a strange grassed area which looks like reserved land for a future link road; this is actually the pre-Cumbernauld line of the A73. From there it ran along the line of the A8011 north to end on the original line of the A80, now the unclassified Old Glasgow Road.