|Location Map ( geo)|
|Via:||Port Laoise, Carlow|
|Distance:||114.7 km (71.3 miles)|
|Meets:||N52, R443, R422, R423, R445, N77, R426, R425, R427, R428, N78, R429, R924, R417, R448, R888, R726, R725, M9, N81, R724, R745, N11|
|Route outline (key)|
The N80 is an important cross-country road connecting the south-east of Ireland with the midlands. It connects several of the major routes radiating outwards from Dublin, and for traffic arriving in the country at the port of Rosslare, it can offer a pleasingly alternative route into the heart of Ireland by avoiding the capital.
The route starts in County Wexford on the N30 (the original incarnation of which was numbered N79) at Ballynahallin, just north of Enniscorthy town centre. It runs north-west for more than 100 kilometres, passing through Carlow and Port Laoise before terminating in County Offaly at the Clonminch Roundabout on the N52, just south of Tullamore. During its course, it connects the M11 (via the new N30 Enniscorthy bypass) with the M9, the M7 (albeit without connecting directly with the motorway), and - almost - the M6 (via the N52).
Section 1: Enniscorthy - Carlow
The N80 begins at a kind of 'double roundabout' on the N30 Enniscorthy bypass. The alignment of the N30 new dual-carriageway (opened in 2019) connecting this junction with the M11 suggests that it is intended to serve traffic from Rosslare and Wexford to the N80 as it is vehicles from the Dublin and the north to heading for the N30 towards New Ross. Consequently, our road is now very well connected at its southern end.
The Scarawalsh Roundabout, where our road begins, lies on the former N11 (now renumbered R772), as well as the newly-extended N30. The new dual-carriageway effectively forms a straight line with the N80 through the roundabout, and from a second roundabout just south of here, the R772 provides access to Enniscorthy town centre. The route begins as a standard S2, without the hard shoulders commonly found on such roads in Ireland. Almost immediately after the roundabout, a small side road to the right offer fans of Ireland's historic stone bridges the chance to stop to see the single-track Scarawalsh Bridge over the River Slaney, the bridge which allowed the old road from Enniscorthy to Dublin to cross the river.
For the first 20 kilometres or so, the N80 shadows the course of the Slaney, as far as the turning for the N81, which thereafter takes the route of the river. It is a standard S2, without the hard shoulders that are quite often found on major roads in Ireland. It is fairly straight and, on account of its proximity to the river, relatively flat, subject to a 100km/h speed limit accordingly. It passes through lush green countryside, past the occasional house, several farms, and the occasional small business. Near Ballycarney, it is crossed by the R745, which reaches Ferns to the east and Ballindaggan to the west; the crossroads in home to the appropriately named Ballycarney Inn, which is a popular stopover for truckers and has a car park large enough to accommodate HGVs. The road passes close to Clohamon as well, home to Slaney Foods International - which exports Irish beef to Britain and the Continent - and another ancient stone bridge. The N80, however, never actually enters a built-up area until it reaches the small town of Bunclody.
The N80 passes right next to the River Slaney before entering Bunclody. There is an Aldi supermarket and a filling station on the left-hand side, and views across the river to right on the route's approach to the town centre. It kinks to the left before reaching the crossroads, now a mini-roundabout, that forms the historic centre of the town. From this point, the R746 heads north-east to Carnew, and south-west to the villages which line the western frontier of County Wexford. The N80 continues along Main Street, past one of the town's churches, as a kind of dual-carriageway with parking along its tree-lined central reservation. The dualled section ends in front of the second church, slimming down to cross an inconspicuous bridge which takes us into County Carlow before we have left the urban area. Indeed, the town continues for some time, and the road is straight and wide (with a narrow hatched area down the middle) as we pass a Supervalu supermarket on the right and the Garda station to the left before leaving Bunclody behind.
The land to the west of Bunclody is rather more hilly than before, although the road remains relatively straight and flat. Along this stretch it is also wider than before, featuring hard shoulders for quite a few kilometres. At Kildavin, which is neatly bypassed to the west by a long curve which cuts the corner on the old alignment of the road, we cross the R724. This road begins at what is effectively a long but very simple GSJ, with the former course of the N80 providing southbound access from the R724 and Kildavin onto the N80, while a much newer sliproad 300 metres later allows traffic to exit the N80 for the regional road and the village; the R724 itself heads westwards, zigzagging across the landscape to Muine Bheag.
The N80 takes on a long climbing lane as it ascends from Kildavin, although the road returns to being a wide S2 with hard shoulders as it levels it. It slims again to lose both hard shoulders before reaching its junction with the N81. From this large but otherwise conventional T-junction with a filter lane for right-turning traffic, the N81 reaches north ultimately to Dublin, although most of its traffic from this point is more likely to be bound for Tullow, Blessington and the Wicklow Mountains. Sticking with the N80, we soon arrive in Ballon.
We enter Ballon via a curve to the right which has a mini-roundabout in the middle of it. This connects to a local road on the left and the forecourt of a large filling station on the right, before heading in a straight line through the village. The road is wide with central hatching as it passes the church and houses, before passing another filling station and narrowing back down on its way back into the countryside. We head northwards and then westwards before crossing the River Burren. We pass the hamlet of Levitstown and Barritstown, heading north again, and the road regains its hard shoulders by the time it passes through Castletown Cross Roads. It becomes clear that we are approaching Carlow when houses begin to line the side of the road, although set well back from the carriageway, and we pass the Tinryland GAA ground before reaching the N80's junction with the M9. From this modern dumbbell interchange, it is possible to travel swiftly north to Naas and Dublin, or south to Kilkenny and Waterford. There is a service area on the northern side of the junction.
Section 2: Carlow - Port Laoise
The N80 into Carlow is a wide S2 with continuous hard shoulders, and a 100km/h speed limit until it reaches the urban area. It slims down before arriving at the Ballinacarrig Roundabout. Here there is a large car dealership and an industrial estate hosting a number of other businesses. The N80 continues, mostly without its hard shoulders and with its limit now reduced to 80km/h, past a bew-build housing estate towards the Wallsforge Roundabout. This allows the R725 to head eastwards, back towards Tullow and the N81. The N80 heads on into Carlow, with a wide hatched area down its centre line, and with houses now lining the route. We pass a Lidl and a few other businesses before reaching the Tullow Road Roundabout, from which the R725 continues straight ahead into the town.
The N80 turns right here, heading north and then west on a rather improvised suburban bypass of the town. It continues to have central hatching, and for a while even a central reservation, before meeting the R726 at the Hacketstown Road Roundabout; that route heads eastwards, towards Rathvilly and Hacketstown itself. The N80 then heads north through another industrial estate, before meeting the former N9 (now the R448) at the Deerpark Roundabout. At this point the road follows the line of the old N9 through a very brief section of urban dual-carriageway, to the Dr Cullen Road Roundabout, where it turns right to skirt around the northern side of the town; the R448 continues straight ahead to the town centre. Running in straight line through the northern reaches of the town, the N80 is flanked by cycle lanes, and has some more central hatching and another short section of central reservation, before it arrives at the Athy Road Roundabout on its way from Carlow northwards to Athy. We now cross the River Barrow, which forms the boundary between Counties Carlow and Laois. As we continue westwards, the urban area has receded but the cycle lanes are still present, along a tree-lined avenue to the Sleaty Road Roundabout, which provides local access; there is a second apparently unnamed roundabout soon afterwards on the edge of a trading estate. The speed limit then raises to 100km/h as the N80 arcs its way southwards, to resume the route it took before being rerouted around the northern edge of Carlow, at the Portlaoise Road Roundabout.
Heading away from Carlow, the N80 resumes its more traditional character as a standard S2. As it heads for Portlaoise, the road is fairly straight, and passes through the countryside with only the occasional building near the roadside. At the village of Ballickmoyler, the R429 departs for Killeen via a triangular junction to the right of our road, while the S80 continues north along a narrower stretch of road sided by high hedges. Now undulating more than before, the road passes through Arles with its tiny Garda station, before reaching the N78 at the staggered Simmon's Mill Cross Roads. It is perhaps surprising that the N78 takes priority here, on its way from Athy and the M9 towards Castlecomer and Kilkenny; this does, however, make rather more sense when considering that the route now followed by the N78 was once the principal route from Dublin to Kilkenny. The has evidently been reconfigured to divert the N80 from its original alignment so that its two halves do not meet the N78 directly opposite one another; on the northern side of the N78's carriageway in the middle of the staggered junction, we can glimpse what remains of the abandoned course of the N80, while on the southern side the original course of the road has become a filter lane.
From Simmon's Mill Cross Roads and its encounter with the N78, the N80 continues initially to be as narrow and winding as before. It does widen and straighten, however, before passing through Oughaval Wood. We pass the Windy Gap recreation area before leaving the wood and arriving in Stradbally. Before we pass through the centre of the town, a right turn onto the R428 heads back towards Athy. In the town's main street is a picturesque covered marketplace dedicated in 1899 to William Perceval, a local medical doctor. After climbing gently up the main street, past all of the local businesses and the Supervalu supermarket, the R427 departs unassumingly to the right, bound for Knocknambraher Hill and Vicarstown. Shortly afterwards, the R427 departs in equally unassuming fashion to the left, on its way towards Ballyroan. A long straight then takes the N80 back into the countryside. The landscape is unspoiled apart from the odd farm building and a large set of power cables that pass over the route, which widens out to regain its hard shoulders, before passing over the M7 and arriving in Port Laoise.
Section 3: Port Laoise - Tullamore
Before entering the town, the N80 shares a roundabout with the R425, which to the north connects with the motorway towards Naas and Dublin; to the south it merges with the N77 at Abbeyleix. The road narrows again on its approach to the town centre, passing the cemetery and two minor roundabouts which connect it to the suburbs of mostly low houses with large gardens. It also passes St Fintan's Hospital and a large modern church before coming to a halt at a double mini-roundabout. This is where the former N7 (now the R445) arrives from Dublin, and the N80 itself now takes over the old route of the N7 by swinging to the south of the town centre as an S4, the two sides of which are separated by a wide hatched area and frequent traffic islands. We cross the River Triogue before the Timahoe Road Roundabout brings us to the R426, which heads south to Castlecomer. Our road now gains a proper hard shoulder, and continues as an urban dual-carriageway through James Fintan Lalor Roundabout - which facilitates a retail park straddling the N80 - before ending at the Abbeyleix Road Roundabout; this is where the N77 begins its itinerary to Abbeyleix and Kilkenny.
At this point, the N80 executes an abrupt right turn, and commences its final stretch towards Tullamore. At the Market Square Roundabout, which is surrounded by a colourful collection of buildings, the R445 resumes its course along the former course of the N7, connecting with the motorway to Limerick and Cork. On our way out of the town, we pass the imposing façade of the Midlands Park Hotel and its affiliated bars and restaurants, before a fairly low bridge takes us under the Dublin-Cork railway. Another long stretch through suburbia brings us to a pair of roundabouts to residential areas which mark the edge of the town.
The N80 sets off very directly for its final destination, being completely straight for several kilometres until a big curve to the right brings it into Mountmellik. From the apex of the curve, the R423 heads south-west for Mountrath. Heading into Mountmellick, which is the last settlement of any size through which the N80 passes, we notice a large garden centre and what appears to be a disused factory on the left-hand side of the road. A mini-roundabout dispatches a local road to the right, and we head through the Irishtown district and across the Owenass River before arriving in the tight centre of Mountmellick. The road kinks awkwardly between the grounds of the church on the right and an inconveniently placed row of houses on the left, before we reach a STOP sign. To the right, the R422 heads out of town and past the Limetree Airfield towards the M7. Ahead lies another garden centre, so we must turn left along Market Street and through O'Connell Square to the end of the town. A mini-roundabout releases the R422 again to the left, which makes for the Kinnitty Forest, before another long run through residential housing takes us back into the country.
The route now flows gently alongside the River Barrow, which it crosses at Arthur's Bridge. We are now well into the Irish midlands, and the land here is very flat, so it is hardly surprising that an extremely long straight carries us all the way to the edge of County Laoise, whereupon we pass into County Offaly. We narrowly avoid an outlying section of Killeigh before entering the village itself, where our progress is interrupted only by a set of traffic lights at the crossroads right in the village centre. Beyond Killeigh, the N80 regains its hard shoulders for the final run towards Tullamore. A few sweeping curves break up an otherwise very straight road, although the shoulders narrow again and have all but disappeared by the time we reach the terminus of the N80 at the Clonminch Roundabout. From here, the road used to continue onwards into the centre of Tullamore, but it now ends on the modern ring road that carries the N52 around the town. Turning left will take us down towards the might River Shannon, while turning right will take us towards the M6, Mullingar and Athlone.