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The A78 runs primary for its entire length, though its quality varies drastically.

Greenock - Largs

It starts at a roundabout at the western end of the A8 in Greenock. The A770 heads west from here towards Gourock. Some of that road (from Gourock onwards) used to be the A78 until the current route (the former A742) was upgraded. It then heads towards the West Station area of Greenock. Until the mid-2000s, a long standing dispute between the site landlords, the rail authorities, the Scottish Executive and the local authority has meant that a railway bridge which carries the A78 over the Glasgow-Gourock line had gone unrepaired and was therefore closed, and for several years southbound traffic was diverted via a wholly unsuitable route through a small housing estate, and northbound through Tesco's car park (no, I am not making this up!). When the bridge was rebuilt it was only made available to southbound traffic, which therefore runs easily past the town. Northbound traffic is still directed off the A78 proper onto Nelson Street before following yellow diversion signs on a tour around the town centre before rejoining the other carriageway at a roundabout. It doesn't go through a car park any more, though.

The road then heads south, partly dual carriageway (though heavily filtered). At the IBM complex south of Greenock the route becomes a full dual carriageway, funded partly by the American multinational. The extent (or should that be limit) of the funding is evident, for less than two miles beyond, at the junction with the west end of the A770, the route narrows once more into two lanes. This notorious junction has now been made a roundabout, with the filtering more intelligently done beyond the junction itself. Whether fewer accidents will occur remains to be seen. The omens are not good: a serious accident took place months after the new roundabout opened.

From here the route becomes considerably slower and more onerous; it has in fact changed very little. A new flyover was built over a steep dip in the road at Inverkip Power Station (now defunct), but this aside the A78 is exactly as it has been for decades. The road follows the Firth of Clyde coast, past some notorious accident spots, through Largs and beyond.


This coastal route means that the A78 gives access to the ferries for the Firth of Clyde Islands. First up the picturesque village of Wemyss Bay, which has always been an important pierhead in the Firth of Clyde tourist market, is the home of the Rothesay Ferry, crossing to The Isle of Bute. Next, at Largs, we have the Cumbrae Ferry sailing from the little pier just off the A78 across to Great Cumbrae. Further to the south, actually running from the pier on the A738 in Ardrossan, the Brodick Ferry crosses to Arran.

Largs - Monkton

At Fairlie the former British Steel plant and Power Station at Hunterston introduced two new roundabouts, landscaping and a slight straightening of the road, but the route which heads through Seamill is virtually unchanged. Here the road is nearly wide enough to support a dual carriageway, thanks to rather enlightened Victorian town planning.

Irvine bypass

The original road passed through the ‘Three Towns’: Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenson, bypassing their small centres more by luck than design. This has however been replaced by a bypass, completed five months ahead of schedule. The new bypass heads inland immediately before Ardrossan. The speed limit remains at 40 mph here, however, as pedestrian access is needed across the road (by means of a controlled crossing) just beyond a new roundabout with the B780. From here to its conclusion the road becomes dual carriageway. Another roundabout follows about a mile later with the B714 Dalry/Saltcoats road. The bypass then connects with the original dual carriageway stretch of the A78, crossing the old A78 Stevenson - Kilwinning road (now fully designated as the A738). This stretch was the first part of the A78 to be dualled in the 1970s when Irvine New Town was constructed. However it is only now, some 30 years later, that the volume of traffic actually merits such a road. Irvine itself is completely bypassed, and it is almost invisible behind the interchanges and below the flyovers (which includes the A71 Edinburgh-Irvine route) suggesting a much larger, almost city-sized development. Despite its modest length (42 miles) the A78 is nothing if not a road of extremes: from the agonizingly slow plod through towns like Largs, to the three-lane bypass it eventually becomes here. Unfortunately the boom anticipated for Irvine never came, and the traffic rarely justifies the road's scale. If anything, the road is busier where it has not been upgraded. The route, still dual carriageway, bypasses the small town of Loans before bearing left at a roundabout at Monkton. Now technically part of the Prestwick bypass, the road ends at the next roundabout, where it joins the A77.

Original Author(s): Steven Kelly

NCN73 • NCN75 • NCN753 • NCN757 • A78 • T91 (Britain)
Ardrossan • Ayr • Greenock • Inverkip • Irvine • Largs • Wemyss Bay
Related Pictures
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Three Towns By-Pass 11 - Coppermine - 2846.jpgA78 Three Towns By-Pass 5 - Coppermine - 2699.jpgLargs Flood Gate.JPGNCN753 sign by the A78 at Inverkip.jpgThe Oak Mall - Greenock.jpg

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