London to North Wales historic road.

The famous A5 Road – London to Holyhead

The A5 is a major road in England and Wales. It runs for about 260 miles (420 km) () from London, England to Holyhead, Wales, following in part a section of the Roman Iter II route which later took the Anglo-Saxon name Watling Street.

The history of the A5 begins with the Act of Union 1800, which unified Great Britain and Ireland. The government of the new United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland saw a need to improve communication links between London and Dublin. A Parliamentary committee led to an Act of Parliament of 1815 that authorised the purchase of existing turnpike road interests and, where necessary, the construction of new road, to complete the route between the two capitals. This made it the first major civilian state-funded road building project in Britain since Roman times. Responsibility for establishing the new route was awarded to the famous engineer, Thomas Telford.

Notable features for the original design

The road was designed to allow stagecoaches and the Mail coach to carry post between London and Holyhead, and thence by mailboat to Ireland. Therefore throughout its length the gradient never exceeds 5%.

The route through Wales retains many of the original features of Telford’s road and has, since 1995, been recognised as an historic route worthy of preservation. These features include the following:

  • many surviving and distinctive toll houses
  • ‘depots’ along the route, being roadside alcoves to store grit and materials
  • distinctive milestones at each mile – many originals having survived and been restored, others now replaced by replicas
  • distinctive gates in a ‘sunburst’ design, a few of which have survived
  • a weighbridge at Lon Isaf, between Bangor and Bethesda