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Location Map ( geo)
Bridge linking Belcoo to Blacklion - Geograph - 2687602.jpg
Cameraicon.png View gallery (4)
From:  Sligo (G691367)
To:  Belcoo Bridge (border) (H083384)
Distance:  47.6 km (29.6 miles)
Meets:  N4, N15, R286, R280, R282, R283, R281, R207, R206, A4
Highway Authorities

Transport Infrastructure Ireland

Traditional Counties

Cavan • Leitrim • Sligo

Route outline (key)
N16 Sligo – Belcoo Bridge
The N16 approaching Upper Lough Macnean in County Cavan.

The N16 is a road in the north-west of the Irish Republic. In combination with the A4, it provides the route from Sligo to Enniskillen and the rest of Northern Ireland. Although less than 50 kilometres in length, it manages to pass though three counties: Sligo, Leitrim, and Cavan. It passes through a natural gap between the mountains that border Counties Sligo and Leitrim, and runs alongside the beautiful Glencar Lough. Because of the mountainous terrain, it is the only major east-west route in this part of Ireland.

The N16 is part of the NRA's 'East/West Corridor', making it a key priority for upgrades.


Sligo - Manorhamilton

The N16 starts on the Sligo bypass at a triple point junction with the N4 and N15, right next to the Garavogue Estuary. There is little indication of the spectacles to come as it makes its way along Duck Lane and Ash Road, with a roundabout in between offering access to residential areas, before heading through Sligo's northern suburbs. It is an S2 road with a cycle path on the carriageway in the direction of the town centre, and a segregated pedestrian and cycle path on the outbound side. It passes Sligo General Hospital, accessed via a T-junction to the right, before turning northwards at a cannon junction with the R286. It is only here that we gain an impression of how much there is to do in the area, a brown sign listing various attractions including Sligo Abbey, Parke's Castle, the Lough Gill viewpoint, Hazelwood, and the Glencar Waterfall, although only the latter lies along our route.

We must turn left at the cannon junction to stay with the N16, which takes us past the Sligo Institute of Technology before turning right at a roundabout providing access to a business park. From here, the road becomes progressively rural in character, and rather more narrow than is typical of an Irish National Primary Road. The surroundings combine farmland with occasional wooded areas, and at several points a small stream flows close to the roadside. We are heading north because we need to negotiate our way around Copes Mountain to enter the pass which allows the road to follow the course of least resistance into County Leitrim. We are gaining altitude as well, and there is a view westwards towards Drumcliff Bay before the route bears eastwards into the pass between the mountains.

As the N16 enters the pass, the huge relief of the King's Mountain - visible from many points to the north of Sligo - provides the scenery to the left, while Copes Mountain obscures the view of anything else to the right. We share the pass between the mountains with the Drumcliff River, which flows to the north of the road. Pleasingly, the hedges and trees in immediate proximity to the roadside thin out as we head through the pass, and the road now allows us to enjoy some of the most beautiful scenery in the whole of Ireland. Appropriately enough, a long layby on the left-hand side of the road constitutes the Glencar Lough Viewing Area, and is signposted as such. The lough lies in the valley between the N16 and the the peaks of Slievemore and Truskmore on the other side, and as we admire the views we might fail to notice that we are passing from County Sligo into County Leitrim. To reach the lough itself, and the Glencar Waterfall, we must continue right past it to Gortnagregory, where a sharp fork on the left provides the opportunity to double back on ourselves and follow the Diffreen River which flows into the lough. The Glencar Waterfall is located close to where the river enters the lough, on a tributary that drains the peaks of Truskmore and Gortnagara. There is a café and a picnic area near the waterfall, and the area is well worth a visit.

After leaving the lough behind, the scenery becomes less spectacular, but is still extremely rural. There is a sense of being quite remote, as the land becomes hilly rather than mountainous and the surroundings feature some wide open spaces of scrub land. The road itself opens out too, to become much more straight, and acquiring hard shoulders. For several kilometres, it is completely changed in character as we head cross-country towards Manorhamilton.

Manorhamilton - Blacklion (border)

By the time the N16 reaches the town, the road has narrowed down again, and resumed its earlier twisty character. Manorhamilton itself lies on a plain, which is the first really flat land the route encounters after leaving Sligo. It is not big, so there is only a brief stretch of residential housing through which to pass before arriving in the town centre. Here the buildings are close to the roadside, with only narrow pavements allowing pedestriansa safe means of passage. At a tight crossroads right in the heart of the town, the R280 crosses the N16, having wound its way up from Carrick-on-Shannon and Lough Allen to the south, continuing northwards towards Bundoran on the Atlantic Coast. Being the only town of any size for quite some distance in any direction, Manorhamilton is a bustling place, and something of a bottleneck for traffic. As we leave the town, the N16 arcs to the right to pass between two churches - one Catholic and one Protestant - before meeting a spur of the R280 at a roundabout; this spur heads back into the town. After than, we pass through a spacious residential area that is quite a contrast to the town centre, before returning to the countryside.

Once back out in the lush green scenery, signage informs us of the distances to Enniskillen (40km) in Northern Ireland, and Blacklion on the border (20km). A turning to the right, which has evidently been widened to accommodate turning traffic, is signposted for the Glenboy viewpoint. The road twists its way through several woods and across more open farmland on its way towards the border. It widens out again before we reach the T-junction from which the R283 snakes off towards Kiltyclogher, another border town, shortly before we cross the Scardan River. The road passes to the north of Munakill More Lough, although the trees lining the route ensure that we see nothing of the water. For some five kilometres, the N16 keeps close company with the Glenfarne River, although it crosses it only once before passing over the border into County Cavan. Shortly before the border, a T-junction the left takes the R281 north to Kiltyclogher.

The end of the N16 - ahead over the Belcoo River is the A4

As soon as we have entered Cavan, the N16 draws close to the southern shore of the Upper Lough MacNean. Here we a treated to some views of this gentle expanse of water, before the road twists away from the water's edge to pursue a more direct course for Blacklion. The land is very flat as the N16 enters its final urban area, and two regional roads depart from the right before we reach the centre; the R207 heads south towards Lough Allen and Drumshambo, while the R206 parallels the N16 on what might well have been the original route of the route of the road, in the process filtering off to the village of Glangevlin. Blacklion itself is quite a characterful town, and it in the centre that the N16 turns quite abruptly to the left, the local road ahead passing over the border into Northern Ireland. This turn enables the N16 to head north in a direct line between Upper and Lower Lough MacNean, which are linked by the Belcoo River. This little stretch of river between the two mighty Loughs MacNean marks the boundary between County Cavan and County Fermanagh, and therefore the border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland. Consequently, the N16 ends here, becoming the A4 and entering the town of Belcoo before continuing onwards to Enniskillen.

Related Pictures
View gallery (4)
The Border - Geograph - 167708.jpgRoad at Kiltomulty - Geograph - 1089803.jpgIrish-UK border at Belcoo, Co Fermanagh and Black Lion, Co. Cavan. 55 mph Speed limit sign, Feb 1988 - Flickr - 4206304923.jpgBridge linking Belcoo to Blacklion - Geograph - 2687602.jpg
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