M1 (Northern Ireland)
|Location Map ( geo)|
|Distance:||38 miles (61.2 km)|
|Meets:||A12, A1, A3, A26, A4, A29|
|Route outline (key)|
The M1 is the Belfast - Dungannon motorway in Northern Ireland. It forms the major link westwards and southwards from Belfast. The missing junction numbers are due to unbuilt motorways, with junctions 3 and 8 for the M11, junction 4 for the current junction 3 and junction 5 for the M8.
Belfast - Lisburn
The M1 begins in West Belfast, near the the Park Centre shopping complex and not far from the Victoria Hospital. The A12 Westlink, the modern but overstretched ring road that circumnavigates the city centre flows directly onto the motorway through a grade-separated junction consisting of an oval-shaped roundabout providing access to Donegall Road and Glenmachen Street, which leads to the Nation Football Stadium at Windsor Park and the Boucher Road industrial estate. A road named Broadway also leads off this roundabout, heading into the Falls Road area of the city. In the middle of the roundabout, the RISE Sculpture a giant spherical structure of metal construction that is Belfast's largest piece of public artwork; it looks particularly impressive when illuminated by red lights at night.
As the A12 is a high-standard urban dual carriageway with three lanes heading in each direction, there is little change to character of the road as it assumes motorway status. We enter a patch of countryside very soon after the junction, with open greenery and hills visible to the right while some of the Boucher road industrial estate is visible to the left. The 50mph limit imposed throughout the length of the Westlink ring road ends here, as the M1 achieves the National Speed Limit.
As we approach junction 2, the area is still very green, even though this exit provides access to the Balmoral and Colin Forest suburbs of the city. We pass close to the Musgrove Park Hospital, and the motorway is now mostly tree-lined, even though the south-western urban sprawl of Belfast is never far away. At junction 3, we have the first opportunity to turn off the motorway onto the A1, the Belfast-to-Newry road that this first half of the motorway has effectively replaced. The old road passes through the suburb of Dunmurray at this point. There is a lane-drop at this junction, which reduces the M1 from three lanes to two in each direction for the remainder of its route. We pass by Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park and cross over Belfast's river, the Lagan, before approaching Lisburn. As junctions 4 and 5 are both missing, it is junction 6 that provides access to the city centre via the A49, which links the motorway to the A1.
Just after junction 6, Dublin is indicated on the signage as being 94 miles away, although there is no indication (whether through brackets or an alternative route number) that you will need to turn off our route in order to get there. Indeed, this is potentially confusing for drivers who enjoy the outside lane, as the manoeuvre required to get to the A1 for Dublin is rather convoluted. The A1 connects with the M1 for the second and final time at junction 7, and the most direct route to the Dublin road can be found by exiting here, driving straight over the first roundabout, and join the A1 dual carriageway to the south. However, Dublin traffic is instructed to remain on the motorway at junction 7, and to take the exit at junction 8, double back on yourself along the A101 link road, and then join the A1 at the second roundabout south of the motorway. This is all such a strange fiddle that a conspiracy theorist might suggest that the person in charge of the signage doesn't really want you to go there.
Lisburn - Dungannon
The traffic that didn't wish to leave the motorway here, and quite possibly some of the traffic that did, now follows the M1 as it changes course from its initially southern direction towards the west. The motorway swings to the south of Balmoral Park, a major complex that hosts sporting events, exhibitions and festivals, and arrives at junction 9. Here, the A3 crosses over the motorway, providing access to the nearby town of Moira, as well as to Lurgan. However, traffic aiming for Lurgan will find it quicker to remain on the M1 and wait for junction 10, from which the A76 leads directly into the town centre.
At junction 11, which consists of free-flowing sliproads to and from the M1 in both directions all meeting abruptly at a roundabout, the M12 begins. This short motorway leads into the 1960s new town of Craigavon, where it meets the A3 and facilitates onwards travel to Portadown and the cathedral city of Armagh.
The M1 now runs westward along the southern shoreline of Lough Neagh, the largest lake in either Britain or Ireland. At junction 12, the A4 joins from its source in Portadown, and multiplexes with the M1 to the end of its route. Here the landscape is very flat and characterised by various shades of pale green throughout the year. At junction 13 the B131 departs for Loughgall. This junction has a trumpet configuration, which is quite impressive for a B-road connection to a motorway. A brown tourism sign well in advance of the exit advises that from here you can also reach the nature reserves of Peatlands Park, as well as the National Trust properties of the Argory and Ardress House.
The carriageway now curves briefly to the north before resuming its westward course, and crosses over the River Blackwater, which feeds into Lough Neagh to the north. At Tamnamore, junction 14 provides access not only to the village, but also to the A45, which heads north-west to the curiously-named town of Coalisland, and to Newmills. This is also the best way to travel in order to reach the A29, which traverses the length of Northern Ireland from north to south, and is the main road to Cookstown. The A45 enables traffic to head in that direction without having to pass through Dungannon.
The M1 finally completes its pleasant run at junction 15, where the aforementioned A29 crosses over from Dungannon and Cookstown en route for Armagh and the Irish border to the south. As at its start, the carriageway flows continually between its change in status with little change in quality, as it continues onto the A4, bound for Northern Ireland's Lake District, Enniskillen, and County Sligo in the Republic of Ireland.
A bus lane using the hard shoulder of the motorway is present from Sprucefield to Belfast. The first section opened in 1999 from J2 to J1, with a further length between J6 and J3 opening in 2006. Sprucefield (J7) to J6 was opened in 2019, and the section from J8 to J7 opened on 10th August 2020.
The bus lane is open during the morning peak, with bus speed limited to 40mph.
Northern Ireland Roads Site
- The Motorways Traffic (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 - This Order amends The Motorways Traffic Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2008 (“the Regulations”) by the substitution for Schedule 1 of the Schedule specified in the Schedule to these Regulations adding lengths of bus lane on the hard shoulder of the M1 Motorway at Sprucefield.