The A801 is an interesting route, a road that came to be built with the inauguration of motorway building in Scotland. Originally nothing more than a road from the A706 to Laurieston, it hijacked that road's title when the need for a M8-M9 link in central Scotland grew, and has moved almost completely off its original alignment, mostly on to completely new-build tarmac.
East Whitburn - Polmont
The road's southern terminus is in East Whitburn on the A705, and within a couple of hundred yards of out-of-zone travel it meets M8Junction 4. The signposts for the M8 slips tell their own story right away, the signposts for Falkirk telling of this road's perceived and intended importance. There is a second roundabout immediately afterwards where the A706 comes in, and the A801 usurps it; to the right is the A7066 - both of these were the A8 at one time. Ruler straight northwest, the first target of the A801 is a corridor between Armadale and the bigger town of Bathgate. Traffic for each uses the Heatherfield Roundabout with the A89 here, the poorer cousin of the M8, but a crucial link for Central Belt towns. The A801 immediately shows some intent, with a dualled section, although it peters out with alarming haste, only to reappear just as quickly. This sporadic pattern continues - the road was clearly destined for bigger things had the money been spent.
The second section of dual carriageway passes through Couston Crossroads, where the A800 and B8028 head off east and west. Being a new build road, the A801 doesn't serve much in terms of civilisation in this middle section, just a few villages lying off to either side. Still, it effortlessly crosses the terrain, to reach Westfield Roundabout for the B8047, ostensibly for nothing more than the small village of Torphichen. However, this was the point where the A706 should restart, with the A801 sailing high above the Avon Gorge, but instead the A801 changes dramatically from a well engineered modern road to an old narrow country lane as it plunges down the hill. Halfway down comes the difficult fork junction where the A801 TOTSOs with the A706, easy enough northbound, but try turning out southbound when the road is busy! This junction is the original start of the route. At the bottom, the A801 crosses the Torphichen Bridge, and then climbs back up, just as steeply at first, before levelling off somewhat.
A801 near Brightons
The next roundabout is with the B805 and the B825, the beginning of a brand new bypass. Here, the B805 used to be the A801 – the new road sticks out like a sore thumb with its quality cutting and ruler-straight route once more highlighting the missing gap across the gorge. Maddiston and Rumford are bypassed, allowing the A801 link to reach its M9 destination with haste, starting as it finished at Junction 4, here just outside Polmont. The other road through the junction, the A803 is the original route of the A9.
If only the Avon Gorge section lived up to the billing of its termini, the A801 would be an excellent link – instead it falls at the hurdle of the Avon. For now, the Scottish Government won't do much about it either, as it's not a trunk road so ultimately not their responsibility.
Earthworks constructed for the unbuilt A801 in the Avon Gorge
The southernmost section between the A705 and A706, built along with the motorway in the 1960s, was originally the A7002, changing its number when the next section north was completed in the 1980s. The large roundabout with the B8047 is obviously intended to be the future junction with the A706, if and when the missing section of A801 across the Avon gorge is built and the A706 reclaims the road from the roundabout to its present junction. There are some north-facing stubs at this roundabout leading on to some enticing-looking earthworks: this is all that exists of the missing section.
The northernmost section of the route, running south from M9 J4 Lathallan to Bowhouse was the first stage of a Grangemouth to Whitburn (M9 - M8) link road. The 1.9 mile 24 foot S2 road was in progress in 1970 per the 1970 Scottish Development Department Report but not shown in the 1972 report indicating a 1971 completion.
The 1922 MOT Road List defines this route as: Junction with A706 near Wallace's Cave - Laurieston