|Distance:||3.5 miles (5.6 km)|
|Meets:||M876, A9, B902, A905|
|Route outline (key)|
Britain's shortest two-digit road must surely be the A88, which runs for less than three miles near Stenhousemuir, north of Falkirk. To add to the infamy, it's in the wrong zone, since it connects the A9 with the A905.
How did this come about? Was the A88 originally a longer road of which only this section remains?
In 1965, the new A876 dual carriageway ended at North Broomage. The A876 dual carriageway was upgraded to M876 motorway in 1974, and extended eastwards, on a completely new line, in 1980. The present M876 spur at Junction 2 connects the older, western part of the motorway with the stub end of its original route.
Eastbound, junction 2 is a perfectly normal exit, with a long right hand bend over the 1980 motorway, and a slightly sharper left hand bend back onto the original line. The hard shoulder on the slip road ends abruptly where the road regains its original path. This would suggest that when the western part of the A876 was upgraded to motorway, hard shoulders were not included as part of the package. (The sections of both the M876 and the M80 which were upgraded in 1974 still don't have continuous hard shoulders.)
Westbound traffic from the roundabout follows the original A876 carriageway until it joins the motorway. Again, there's no hard shoulder along the original dual carriageway; it only starts after the merge with the 1980 motorway. Although the former eastbound carriageway was directly alongside what's now the westbound slip, it was grassed over and is now covered by dense undergrowth. The OS Landranger map shows an unusually wide cutting on the westbound slip road, but this can't be seen from the road itself.
One curious anomaly with the start of the motorway spur is that it's crossed by a pedestrian footpath—well past the 'Start of motorway' sign, but just before the 70 signs. There's even a paved section across the central reservation! Obviously the footpath was built with the original dual-carriageway, and never changed when the road became motorway.
The North Broomage Roundabout was built at the same time as the dual carriageway. The roundabout takes its name from the hamlet immediately to the northwest, and a short stretch of former A9 remains as a cul-de-sac to the west of the roundabout. The roundabout has five arms: the fifth, to the northeast, may actually be slightly later than the rest of the roundabout, and can be used for parking. The roundabout island and all the surrounding verges are neatly planted out—including some distance down the motorway spur.
East of the A9, the A88 Bellsdyke Road is a normal wide single carriageway. The first 350 metres was built with the dual carriageway, and has a broad landscaped verge on the north side. The original line of the A876 is now Old Bellsdyke Road, a residential road with access off the A9. The 'new' stretch of road ends at a roundabout for business parks on the north side and an access to Larbert on the south.
The A88 continues eastwards as a broad single carriageway, crossing the railway and passing through another modern roundabout - access to Stenhousemuir to the south and a recent housing estate to the north. For the next mile or so, the A88 has little to distinguish it from any other 1930s suburban road. There's housing fronting onto the road on both sides, some of it with service roads, and open spaces for hospital grounds, a golf course, and open parkland. The speed limit along this stretch is 40 mph. It's one of the broadest single-carriageway roads I've seen, with five lanes in places, one lane each way for through traffic, a turn lane in the centre, and either auxiliary lanes or parking lanes along either edge.
After the roundabout for the B902, the character of the road changes: it moves from town to countryside, and the speed limit changes to NSL. To the south there are open fields, with just a wire fence alongside the road allowing views over the crops.
In contrast, the north side of the road is bordered by a high stone wall with mature parkland beyond. The slightly irregular line of the wall obviously follows the edge of the narrow lane which was upgraded to form the present road in the 1930s. The wall marks the landscaped grounds of Kinnaird House, with the upgraded road kept just outside the historic gardens. (Just 40 years later, the new M9 and M876 would slice right through the gardens, passing just 20 metres from the house itself.)
The next feature on the A88 is the rise over the M9 motorway. Between 1968 and 1980, this marked the western terminus of the M9, with the motorway ending at a roundabout on what was then the A876 (numbered as Junction 7). The A88 now crosses the M9 on an embankment and bridge, with the motorway in a shallow cutting underneath. There's no obvious trace of the roundabout. Cresting the bridge, the massive Longannet Power Station can be seen on the far side of the Forth, and to the east, the flares of the Grangemouth refinery complex light up the sky.
Three-quarters of a mile after the bridge over the M9, the A88 ends at a roundabout on the A905. To the north, the A905 is dual carriageway as far as the A876/M876 roundabout — a 'traditional-style' dual carriageway with NSL and no barriers in the central reservation. To the south, it's a narrow single carriageway, passing through the small village of Skinflats and leading to the town of Grangemouth. From the A88, the A905 is signposted northbound only, with all traffic for Grangemouth being diverted north and onto the motorways. Southbound is only signposted for local traffic to Skinflats, with the road unnumbered. There's a 7.5 tonne weight restriction on the A905 between the A88 roundabout and the eastbound exit from the M9 at J6, and extensive traffic calming in the village of Skinflats would seriously hinder large vehicles tring to take a short cut to the refineries at Grangemouth.
The road which is now the A88 is shown on the 1865 Ordnance Survey map, as an insignificant little lane.
However, in 1936, it suddenly became a full A-class road, leading to the new Forth Bridge at Kincardine. On maps through to about 1946, it's numbered as A977, leading through to Kinross. The continuation west of the A9 is the B817 from Larbert (now the B905) leading to the A803 and A80. Interestingly, the route from the bridge to the A80 is already shown as a Trunk Road on the 1946 OS 10-mile map, although still with the B-class number. In fact, the Trunk Roads Act 1946 created the Dennyloanhead - Kincardine - Kircaldy - St Andrews Trunk Road, and includes a detailed description of its route; it changed road number about 15 times en route.
By 1956 this trunk road had been rationalised, with the section between Dennyloanhead and Kincardine (therefore including the current A88) renumbered A876. As alluded to above, the section of A876 west of the A9 was moved further north and then upgraded to motorway, becoming the M876. To the east of the A9, however, the road was not deemed appropriate for an online upgrade, so the new motorway was built to the north. With the "876" number transferred to the motorway, the old road then needed a number of its own - and for some reason it was called the A88 as the number was no longer in use. As such, this incarnation of the A88 has never stretched further than its current couple of miles; there is no obvious reason why a 3- or even 4-digit number would not have been more appropriate.