|Distance:||7.7 miles (12.4 km)|
|Meets:||A78, B749, B739, B743, A719, B747, A70, B7024, A77|
|Route outline (key)|
The A79 is, coldly speaking, a short urban route via Prestwick Airport, Ayr and their encompassing conurbation. At not even eight miles long, and entirely bypassed by the A77, it seems to have not much purpose and even less claim to its lofty designation.
But to dismiss the A79 out of turn is to ignore the climate of growth and optimism that gave birth to it. Instead wind your mind back to 1961 when the first motorways are chock full of cars and the jet-set is well and truly getting off the ground. In this climate, the A79 wasn't a luxury; it was a necessity. To serve the recently demilitarised and rapidly expanding airport, primed to take all of Glasgow's international air traffic, a proper connection from the road north to the terminal was needed.
There are essentially two flavours of A79. There is plain-vanilla single carriageway for most of the distance, representing the stretches of repurposed A77 that just needed a new number tacked on, and there is some smart if slightly roundabout-laden dual carriageway, where the old road wasn't considered up to it (or had been demolished by a runway extension) and completely new tarmac was needed.
The fact the A79 number was available at all reflects the density of roads in this part of the country. Whilst certain parts of England had to use three-digit numbers for major roads, the 7 zone always seemed to have more numbers than it needed and so the A79 number was not allocated on classification in 1922. Presumably, this section of road was still deemed important enough to merit a two-digit number even after the A77 was moved away.
Monkton – Ayr
While the road remains spiritually the A77's older and forgotten brother, the actual northern terminus is shared with the A78 at Monktonhead Roundabout; that road will itself terminate at the next roundabout up. One could argue that the A78 could simply have continued along the now-A79 with a spur to Dutch House Roundabout, but turning the Clyde Firth coastal trunk route into an urban orphan doesn't seem fitting.
Not many options at this stage, while a smart dual carriageway works its way toward and around the airfield perimeter. There are junctions for roads for Troon (B749) and Monkton again (B739), but neither is the primary way to those locations. All this road is gunning for is the airport, and it'll get shockingly close to the taxiway, penned in between the railway and a tens of thousands of pounds of jet thrust. Sprawling car parks finally lever their way between these obstructions, and at Shawfarm we'll get to a roundabout where we lurch to the right and pick up the old pre-bypass route as a single carriageway.
Although Prestwick Airport takes most of the weight, Prestwick proper is still a sizeable settlement for this part of the country – population 15,000 or so – so the main street through is taking plenty traffic. The route through the centre and back out of town is ruler-straight save for one left kink and one right, mirrored again by the railway although out of view behind a short block of bungalows. At the B743 Heathfield Road junction, or thereabouts, Prestwick becomes Newton without warning. Newton usually goes by Newton-on-Ayr for disambiguation purposes.
Not much else has changed though. The A79 remains a straight-through central route with plentiful side roads and plentiful sight lines. We might be continuing in a straight line, but the railway's had enough of this conformity and dives beneath the road at the wonderfully titled Tam's Brig. Only the heady heights over the tracks seem to shake the A79 out of its lull, making it wake up and plough off on its own, new path leaving orthodoxy behind. At this point it separates from the old A77 route (which was the bizarrely-named New Road), becomes a dual carriageway again as if to make the point it's not copying its predecessor any more, and junctions the A719 at a tidy roundabout before butting up close to the River Ayr. Again, the location at which Newton became Ayr properly is best left as an exercise for the cartographer than the road-user.
Ayr – Doonholm
What purpose this jazzed-up section of road intends to achieve is unclear. There must have been bigger plans, as the dualling of it and its flared friend the A719 seem to suggest. There's a textbook sixties bridge across the river, a close encounter with Ayr railway station proper, and then the untidiest of work-arounds when the A70 tries to make its way in perpendicularly. It's forced onto a pair of mini-roundabouts, shuffling past large car parks, waste ground, and a none-too-tidy trading estate, under the guise of the seemingly more important Edinburgh-based route. Possibly the only multiplex by a multiplex, as the two roads finally part only after shadowing a cinema complex.
This is not only where we get an A79 back, this is where the old A77 route emerged from Ayr's pre-gentrified centre. (It would have traversed the Sandgate and High Street from where it parted; however the High Street is now one way northwards only.) Still a main urban route though, it weaves its way somewhat more gracefully out through the houses, this being an older and certainly richer part of the town. Its old friend, the railway, shares with it a farewell before traffic is emptied onto the aforementioned bypass - the road without which there would be no need for an A79 of its own.
Here at Doonholm, with Ayr having come and gone, both roads are light on traffic compared to their Prestwick ends and a T-junction between single carriageways suffices (although it's a pretty sharp turn if you want to head left), even though turned on its head this is the best way into Ayr from the south. But for those of us having made the way through and out of the conurbation, it's A77 from here on down, next stop Stranraer.