|Distance:||33.3 miles (53.6 km)|
|Meets:||A8, M8, A804, A807, A806, A891, M80, A872, A883, A9, A904, M9, A801, A706, M9, A904|
|Former Number(s):||A80, A9, B903|
|Old route now:||A8|
|Route outline (key)|
A Central Belt trek, the A803 connects west to east, running from the M8 in Glasgow through to the M9 in Linlithgow. It clocks up a fair few miles in the process, but is largely superseded in terms of being an important connection, both by the M80 and its sister motorways, and by the Glasgow Queen Street – Edinburgh rail line.
Section 1: Glasgow - Kirkintilloch
We start under the ridiculously overbuilt Junction 15 of the M8… well, notionally, a hundred yards south of it, outside Glasgow Royal Infirmary at the A8. The tangle of sliproads (there is no other description: right hand exits, makeshift slips, lack of eastern flank of Glasgow Inner Ring, et al) offers all relevant connections in the most difficult manner possible, but it's worth noting that we're travelling on a good dual carriageway. Into Sighthill we roam and meet some traffic-light-controlled junctions. The St. Rollox Retail Park is one of the more important ones, and a jam-causer for northbound right-turning traffic. There are a few too many local connections to make the dual carriageway flow well, but at least we manage a grade-separated junction with the B808, a busy urban route for northern and western suburbs. Alas, the second carriageway is lost as we emerge from the cutting for the underpass, and the road has to take on Springburn at-grade.
Where Glasgow stops and Bishopbriggs starts is not easy to spot on the ground, but the crossroads at the terminus of the B812 seems a good bet - indeed, this is the administrative boundary between the City of Glasgow and East Dunbartonshire. Nonetheless, the views are little changed as the road snakes through tight against the railway. Here the road connects with just about anything going, and is akin to a typical busy city main street. Finally, at our first roundabout on the route, at Cadder, we lose the urban sprawl and can see some fields on the road out to Kirkintilloch. Bear right at the next roundabout, but beware: the signposts here are incorrectly B803 instead of A803. Don't be fooled!
Next stop Kirkintilloch, another commuter town, although admittedly of a fair size itself. Most of the urban content is conveniently bypassed as the road only skirts the northwest. The A806 is the radial for the town centre. A couple of roundabouts do break up the flow, but the road moves well nonetheless. The Antonine Wall is a companion here – well, what remains of it – and the River Kelvin too, giving the road nice flat land over the upcoming stretch.
Section 2: Kirkintilloch - Falkirk
The road waves goodbye to Kirkintilloch, and begins to curve gently right to a more marked west-east alignment. At-grade T-junctions serve Twechar and Milton of Campsie, but soon the road makes another plunge into industrialization at Kilsyth. Houses line the streets once more and the traffic slows – there's no bypass-like route that was favourable back at Kirkintilloch. At this point, it is interesting to note that in this stretch (from Kirkintilloch to Haggs, one assumes avoiding urban centres) the A803 is the once-favoured Kelvin Valley route for the M80, to completely supersede the A80 through Cumbernauld.
The Kelvin is still followed closely as we cross into Falkirk council area to duel with M80 Junction 7 at Haggs. Two spurs carry sliproad traffic to and from the A803 through route. The A803 goes forth parallel to the motorway, something of a poor cousin or emergency diversion. Like back in Glasgow, civilisation never quite gets out of the way as Parkfoot, Denny and Bonnybridge line the streets with residences. Now, the M80 pans north and the road needs something new to follow, as if it were incapable of determining its own path. It chooses the Forth and Clyde Canal, arcing into view along with a splattering of green.
Enter the A9 Falkirk Bypass, and things get altogether more confusing. The road gets swallowed up as the poor partner in a multiplex with its big brother, before that road turns off to bypass the town and the A803 makes a mad dash for central Falkirk. Looping around the old central streets, briefly split in a one-way system, the road offers countless important junctions for services, the A904 to Grangemouth's mammoth BP site, and B-road connections for southern radials. Like a man clinging on to a cliff by his fingernails, again the concept of urban sprawl holds on to the side of the A803, through an amalgamated mini-metropolis of Westquarter, Redding and Polmont. The A9 again swings close to look in on its sibling, and indeed the two once occupied each other's lines here.
Section 3: Falkirk - Champany
The next task for the A803 will be M9 Junction 4. At the motorway, west-east traffic is forced the long way around the elongated roundabout, having to go over the M9 twice. Once back on track, it is bound for Linlithgow, another busy settlement. There is a pair of staggered connections here for the A706 serving places as distant as Bo'ness and Livingston. Linlithgow Loch gives a fairly unique sight, hemmed in between the town and the motorway, on the road's approach to Junction 3. The A803 meets this one alone, a half-diamond facing Edinburgh. But laments, the brave A803, having at last worked its way out of zone after endless efforts in Falkirk and Polmont, having fought through thick and thin in the valleys, finally gives up on the A904 after another hundred yards or so.
Originally, the A803 ran from the old A8 (now A89) in Glasgow to end on the A9 in Camelon on the edge of Falkirk (including a multiplex with the A80 through Parkfoot). When the A9 was downgraded, it took over its entire route through Falkirk to Linlithgow and was then extended via the "new" M9 to end on the A904. This eastern section was originally the western half of the B903, as the former A9 continues along the present B9080.