|Location Map ( geo)|
|To:||Butler's Bridge (H407107)|
|Distance:||34.6 km (21.5 miles)|
|Meets:||N2, N12, R937, R867, R162, R186, R189, R187, R183, R212, A3, B533, R197, N3|
| 1st border crossing: H490249|
2nd border crossing: H466233
3rd border crossing: H436213
4th border crossing: H425191
|Route outline (key)|
The N54 is a national secondary route that links Monaghan and Cavan. It is notorious for crossing the boundaries of Counties Monaghan, Cavan, and Fermanagh – and consequently also the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland – several times.
One strange thing about the N54 is that whilst it is the A3 – seen originally as part of an all-Ireland Belfast to Galway route – that fills in the Northern Irish sections of the road west of Monaghan, the connection eastwards from that town to the A3 in County Armagh is by the differently numbered N12. This can be explained by the fact that in the Republic different series of numbers are used for national primary and national secondary roads – and Armagh to Monaghan is seen as being of primary importance, while Monaghan to Cavan is secondary. It seems odd, all the same, that an exception wasn't made in this case.
For simplicity's sake, the Northern Irish A3 sections of the road between Monaghan and Butler's Bridge are included in the route description below.
We start at a roundabout on the N2 Monaghan bypass. While maps (and even some signs) disagree as to which one exactly, officially it is Coolshannagh Roundabout, about 1.5 km northeast of the town centre – the N54 thus following the old route of the N2 (together with its one-way sections) through Monaghan town as far as the crossroads at the south end of Dawson Street.
From here we head westwards out of town, the R186 forking off to the right after 750 m and eventually leading north to the border at Drumfurrer, where it becomes the B83 to Clogher in County Tyrone. Some five kilometres after leaving Monaghan town we come, at Annaghervy, to another junction with a regional road turning off right to eventually cross the border: this time it is the R187, which crosses into the North at Innishammon, where it becomes the B36 to Donagh in County Fermanagh.
Our road meanwhile turns a little towards the southwest and heads for Clones – and its own encounter(s) with the border.
Entering Clones, we cross the R183 running from Newbliss (on our left) towards the A34 in Northern Ireland on our right – the advance direction sign on the N54 labels this turn as "(A34 · A4) Inis Ceathlainn / Enniskillen".
The R212 from Scotshouse comes in on the left in Clones town centre, and we pass along the narrow Cara Street and after a little over a kilometre before we cross into Northern Ireland for the first time, and the road becomes the A3. Two miles (and several junctions) later we cross back into the Republic, for two and a quarter kilometres. Then we are in the North again, for a further – somewhat winding – two miles, during the course of which the B533 turns off to the right, connecting to the A34 at Newtown Butler.
The landscape around here, at the head of Upper Lough Erne, is one of meandering waterways, dotted with islands and linking pools. Parallels could probably be drawn to the Norfolk Broads, but perhaps not that accurately! However, as with the Broads it is almost impossible to see the water from the road, except on the odd occasion when a bridge crosses one of the wider, straighter sections.
Crossing back into the Republic one last time, we now have just 10 km to go before the route ends at Butler's Bridge. Along the way, the R197 heads west to Belturbet, and the N54 turns southwards. Curiously, the N54 gets a roundabout where it joins the former N3 route through the village, but 100 m or so further on there is just a T-junction on the new road.
Throughout the route, the N54/A3 is a typical twisty country A-road. I don't remember the Irish 'slow lanes' at any point, and we endured a fruitless search for a layby where we could stop and eat our lunch!
The N54 was originally part of the T15 through County Monaghan, then the T10 through County Cavan. The reason for this is that the T10 was projected to be part of a Mullingar - Enniskillen - Derry route, while the T15 was part of a Belfast - Galway cross-country route.