Direction signs are types of road signage used to give route directions to the driver. They generally follow a consistent colour scheme and design system, and often presented on large poles for better viewing. Direction signs are divided into several different types, as mentioned below.
Advance Direction Sign
|An example of an advance direction sign for a roundabout|
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An Advance Direction Sign (ADS) is a type of sign informing drivers of directions available at an upcoming junction. A typical sign is placed immediately before the junction, and includes a symbolic map of the layout. For motorways and high quality dual carriageways, this may be in the form of a roundabout or some other complex junction; for other roads it may simply be a set of arrows pointing in the relevant directions.
Local Direction Sign
As part of the original specification, Advance Direction Signs were given blue borders if they signed local destinations. This was phased out as part of the 1994 regulations.
|A typical example of a fork sign, on the A1 at Scotch Corner|
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Fork signs are found mostly at GSJs, usually a mile (on motorways only) and half a mile in advance to the junction, then again at the junction itself.
It consists of a line going 'straight on', indicating which destinations and roads are reached by staying on the current road, whilst another line branches off to the left (or, in a few cases, the right), indicating which destinations and roads the GSJ connects with or leads to.
|A flag sign in Cobham|
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A flag sign, or "flag type sign", is the technical name for what is the commonest type of directional signage to be seen on the roads of Great Britain and Ireland.
Consisting of an appropriately coloured board stating the name of one or more destinations (together with route number and/or distance as appropriate) reachable along the route to which it refers, it is placed at the actual point of divergence from another route. The latter factor, together with its shape, is what chiefly distinguishes a flag sign from an advance direction sign (see above).
In overall shape, flag signs are rectangular but they have one 135° pointed end indicating the direction to which they refer, and bear a broad chevron-style arrowhead at this pointed end.
Modern flag signs are analogous to the traditional "fingerpost" signs – mostly wooden signs with arms/hands/fingers pointing out the various directions – which had been in use for centuries before the advent of motorized traffic. Fingerpost signs remain a feature of very many, if not most, minor roads in rural areas, and many such signs were erected privately (chiefly by the AA and RAC) on roads of all classes from the 1920s onwards.
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Gantries are used on high traffic volume roads where a more conventional fork sign would risk being obscured by passing HGVs. They also appear in areas where complex layouts require clarity in signing and comprehensive lane allocation.
Gantries may be used on any route which warrants their installation, but costs are high for the structures, particularly on motorways where VMS must be installed. The gantry structure itself may be fabricated from steel or concrete. Some gantries are designed to accommodate backlit signs, as on the M8 through Glasgow.
Older structures had easy access ladders for repair crews, but owing to increased trespassing leading to vandalism of sign faces and possible throwing of objects from the gantry, access ladders now have designs which should deter trespassers although Fathers 4 Justice managed to scale a modern gantry and bring the M25 to a standstill in the mid-2000s.
More information on types of gantry is available in this forum thread: 
A damaged sign on a lightweight gantry on the Westlink A12 (NI)).
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Gore signs are direction signs at the motorway gore, i.e. at a diverge point. In the UK, these are typically a rectangular sign with road numbers and arrow, while in Ireland these have the junction number with the text Exit in English and Gaelic.
|A butterfly sign at the Riversway Interchange, Preston (A583)|
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Butterfly signs are an older type of direction sign used at the diverge point of two major roads. They have fallen out of favour in recent times due to the difficulty of maintaining the structures and accessing the signs.
Rubery Flyover (A38).
M8 junction 25 backlit Glasgow style, with motorway warning lights.