Roads in Ireland

From Academic Kids

Missing image
A typical Irish road sign in Mullingar, County Westmeath

Ireland, both north and south of the border, has an extensive network of roads. Historically, Northern Ireland has had better quality roads, though the difference is less marked nowadays. It is true to say that many rural roads, even in Northern Ireland, remain an 'exciting' ride. For an unforgettable example, drive from Charleville to Macroom in County Cork; all the stereotypical components are present, from road 'surface' and potholes, to junctions and vicious bends (often combined for added thrills). With the advent of European Union funding, most National routes in the Republic continue to be upgraded. In the years from 1990s to the following decade the Republic went from having one motorway in the country, to expanding the motorways to most major routes. This was part of a National Development Plan. Road construction in Northern Ireland has proceeded at a slower pace in recent years, although a number of important bypasses and upgrades to dual carriageway have recently been completed or are about to begin.

Signposts in Northern Ireland denote distances in miles, while all signposts placed in the Republic since the 1970s use kilometres (a remnant of old signposts in the Republic still using miles will also be replaced with signs using kilometre distances before the end of 2005). Currently miles per hour speed limits are used north of the border. Those in the Republic use kilometres per hour.

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A 60 km/h speed limit sign on an Irish road

Roads in the Republic of Ireland

The Republic's motorway network is focussed on Dublin, and is being extended to other major cities as part of the National Development Plan. Dublin has also been the focus of other major projects, such as the East-Link and West-Link bridges, as well as the Dublin port tunnel. Other cities and towns have however had bypass projects, some of which are still underway or in planning as of 2004. The Jack Lynch Tunnel under the River Lee (Ireland) in Cork was another major project outside Dublin, and a fourth crossing at Limerick of the River Shannon is in planning.


In the Republic of Ireland, the most important roads are a small number of motorways, indicated by the prefix "M" followed by one or two digits. The motorway network is focused on Dublin. In all the intercity instances below, the Motorway is only part of the full route, the original route number is listed after. City names in brackets are the destinations served and signposted, but not directly connected to that route. In the Republic of Ireland, motorways inherit the route number of the "N" route they have replaced. In most cases, the bypassed section of road is reclassified as a regional route. New routes, such as the M50, are an exception. The M50 was chosen as a recognisable unique number. All motorways are simply classifications used on a national (N) route - so even the M50 was legislated as the "N50" route (despite having no non-motorway sections).

M1 Dublin - (Belfast) N1 road
M4 Dublin - Sligo/(Galway) N4 road
M7 Dublin - Limerick/(Cork)/(Waterford) N7 road
M9 (Dublin) - Waterford N9 road
M11 Dublin - Wexford N11 road
M50 Dublin ring road

National Primary Routes

This category of road has the prefix "N" followed by one or two digits. The most important routes are numbered N1-N11 ( radiate anti-clockwise from Dublin), with those in the range N12-N33 being cross-country roads. National Secondary Routes (see next section) are numbered under the same scheme with higher numbers. On road signage, destinations served but not on the route in question are listed in brackets, with the connecting route also listed.

Northern Ireland route sections (which are classified separately according to NI schemes) are in some cases included in a theoretical complete cross-border route – for example the N3 route, which re-enters the Republic. These are listed here in brackets for completeness (and are present on southern road signage).

This list ignores the sections of route reclassified as motorway (see previous section).

N1 Dublin - Dundalk - (A1 to Belfast)
N2 Dublin - Monaghan - (A5 to Derry)
N3 Dublin - Cavan - (A509 - Enniskillen - A46) - Ballyshannon
N4 Dublin - Sligo
N5 (N4 from Dublin) - Longford - Westport
N6 (N4 from Dublin) - Kinnegad - Galway
N7 Dublin - Limerick
N8 (N7 from Dublin) - Portlaoise - Cork
N9 (N7 from Dublin) - Kilcullen - Waterford
N10 (N9 from Dublin) - Paulstown - Kilkenny - Ballyhale - (N9 to Waterford)
N11 Dublin - Wexford
N12 Monaghan - (A3 to Belfast)
N13 (N15 from Sligo) - Stranorlar - Letterkenny - (A2 to Derry, A6, M22, M2 to Belfast)
N14 Letterkenny - Lifford - (B72 to Strabane)
N15 Sligo - Donegal - Lifford - (B72, A5 to Derry)
N16 Sligo - (A4 to Enniskillen, A4, M1 to Belfast)
N17 Galway - Claremorris - Collooney - (N4 to Sligo)
N18 (N4, N17 from Sligo) - Claregalway - (N6 from Galway) Oranmore - Ennis - Limerick
N19 (N18 from Limerick/Ennis) - Shannon Town - Shannon International Airport
N20 Limerick - Castleisland - Tralee
N21 Limerick - Cork
N22 Cork - Killarney - Farranfore - Tralee
N23 (N21 from Limerick) - Castleisland - Farranfore - (N22 to Killarney)
N24 Limerick - Waterford
N25 Cork - Waterford - Rosslare Europort
N26 (N4, N5 from Dublin) - Swinford - Ballina
N27 Cork city centre - Cork Airport
N28 Cork - Ringaskiddy
N29 (Spur off N25 east of Waterford)
N30 (N25 from Cork, Waterford near New Ross) - Enniscorthy - (N11 to Dublin)
N31 (Spur off N11 to Dun Laoghaire)
N32 (Spur off M50 to Malahide Road)
N33 (Spur off M1 to Ardee)
(N50) Dublin ring-road. Only exists as the M50, but route set out in legislation as a primary (N) route. [1] (

Other Routes

National Secondary Routes are also indicated with a "N" prefix, though the number is higher. Examples are:

N69 Limerick - Tralee (Coast road via Foynes)
N71 Cork - Killarney via West Cork
N72 Killorglin - Killarney - Waterford
N81 Dublin - Tullow
N85 Ennis - Ennistimon

Regional routes are indicated with an "R" prefix and a three-digit number, ranging from R1xx in the north-east to R7xx in the south-east of the country. One of the more important regional roads is the R113 (Belgard) road, which forms a dual carrigeway between the N7 and N81 roads. Most regional roads are however regular highways, and a few are rather narrow.

Other roads are not generally referred to by number, but are registered with a four-digit "L" number, taking the form Lxxxx. Some old road signs will still carry the previous classifications, "T" for trunk road, or "L" for link road.

Roads in Northern Ireland

The main roads in the north, which connect well with those in the south, are classified "M"/"A"/"B" as in Great Britain, though their numbering is separate from the British system.


The most important roads are motorways, designated as in the Republic and Great Britain by the letter "M". The motorway network is focused on Belfast.

M1 Belfast - Dungannon
M2 Belfast - Antrim, plus unconnected Ballymena bypass further to the north
M3 The Lagan Bridge in Belfast
M5 A short spur from Greenisland to Whitehouse in the northern suburbs of Belfast
M12 A short spur from the M1 to the centre of Portadown
M22 Antrim - Randalstown

"A" roads

The next most important roads are designated with the prefix "A" and a one-, two- or three-digit number. Some of the most important are:

A1 Belfast - Lisburn - Banbridge - Newry - becoming the N1 at the border and continuing to Dundalk and Dublin
A2 Derry - Newry coastal road
A3 Lisburn - Portadown - Armagh - Middletown joining the N12 at the border which extends to Monaghan
A4 Portadown - Dungannon - Clogher Valley - Enniskillen - Belcoo joining the N16 at the border which extends to Sligo
A5 Derry - Strabane - Omagh - Ballygawley joining the N2 at the border which extends to Monaghan and Dublin
A6 Belfast - Derry
A7 Carryduff - Downpatrick
A8 Belfast - Larne
A11 Belfast Inner Ring Road
A12 Westlink urban motorway in Belfast
A20 Belfast - Newtownards - Portaferry
A21 Bangor - Newtownards - Comber - Ballygowan - Saintfield - A24 north of Ballynahinch
A22 Dundonald - Comber - Killyleagh - Downpatrick
A23 Belfast - Ballygowan
A24 Belfast - Carryduff - Ballynahinch - Dundrum where it meets the A2 for Newcastle and Kilkeel
A25 Downpatrick - Castlewellan - Newry - South Armagh - becoming the R182 for Castleblayney at the border
A26 Banbridge - Lurgan - Crumlin - Antrim - Ballymena - Ballymoney - Coleraine
A27 Newry - Tandragee - Portadown
A28 Newry - Markethill - Armagh - Aughnacloy - Augher
A29 Portrush - Coleraine - Maghera - Cookstown - Dungannon - Armagh - Keady - South Armagh where it becomes the R177 for Dundalk
A30 Lisburn - Glenavy
A31 Moneymore - Castledawson
A32 Omagh - Irvinestown - Enniskillen - becoming the N87 towards Ballinamore at the border
A34 Maguiresbridge - Lisnaskea - Newtownbutler to the border at Clones
A35 Irvinestown - Kesh - Pettigo - becoming the R234 towards Donegal town at the border
A36 Ballymena - Larne
A37 (North) Coleraine - Limavady
A37 (South) A short stretch of road around Cullaville - that part of the N53 Castleblayney to Dundalk road which is within Northern Ireland
A40 From Derry City Centre southwest along the River Foyle to the border, where it becomes the R236 towards Raphoe
A42 Maghera - Portglenone - Ballymena - Carnlough
A43 Ballymena - Glenarriff
A44 Ballycastle - Armoy - A26 north of Clough Mills
A46 Enniskillen - Belleek - becoming the N3 towards Ballyshannon at the border
A47 Kesh - Belleek
A48 Newtownards - Donghadee
A49 Lisburn - Ballynahinch
A50 Portadown - Banbridge - Castlewellan - Newcastle
A51 Gilford - Tandragee - Armagh
A52 Belfast - Crumlin
A54 Castledawson - Portglenone - Kilrea - Coleraine
A55 Belfast Outer Ring Road
A57 Belfast International Airport - Templepatrick - Ballyclare - Ballynure
A501 Belfast - A30 just east of Glenavy
A505 Omagh - Cookstown
A509 Enniskillen - Derrylin becoming the N3 to Cavan and Dublin at the border
A514 Derry Ring Road (South)
A515 Derry Ring Road (North)

"B" roads

Less important roads are indicated with the prefix "B" and a one-, two- or three- digit number.

See also

External Links


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