Leicester Central Ring Road

Near to its junction with the A6

A6 at Shap Summit

The hightest point on the A6

A busy day at Matlock Bath

An inland tourist resort on the A6

A6 Chapel en le Firth Bypass

One of the few dual carriageway sections of the A6


Many of what today are 'A' roads where at one time Trunk Road, this is particularly true of roads with one digit such as the A6 or two digits like the A66. A Trunk Road differs from other A roads in the way there maintainance is paid for, most road maintainance is paid for by the local authority, but Trunk Roads are considered the more important roads these being paid for by the government. Meaning they are maintained to a higher standard and usually the first to be rerouted for example along a bypass or dualled. Up until the 1960's the A6 was a Trunk Road along its entire length. However as new motorways where built the roads they replaced where detrunked in other words handed back to the local authority. As the A6 is directly replaced by Motorways from Stockport to Carlisle this was detrunked in the 1960's, however since the year 2000 quite a number of other Trunk Roads where detrunked, just leaving the most important Trunk Roads, one of these was the A6 souith of Stockport, The only parts of the A6 that today are a Trunk Road is the short part about 5 miles south of Derby where the A6 joins the dual carrageway that comes from the A50 Trunk Road before meeting the M1. In Cumbria the A6 runs along a short stretch of the A590 Trunk Road, Similar in Northamptonshire it runs along the A14 Trunk Road Near Kettering

The A6 North of Manchester is mostly a Non Primary Route, the 2 exceptions are from junction 39 of theM6 at Shap to Kendal and through Preston. South of Manchester it is mostly a primary route except in the cities of Derby & Leicester where the primary route follows the ring roads.


Route of the A6


What route does the A6 take? This is one road which has over the years had a number of changes forced upon it by modernisation and motorways however it has always linked the following Cities and Towns:-

There have been a number of bypasses and route changes forced on the A6 other the years we will look at these in more detail as we follow the route of the A6 in detail from Carlisle

In Cumbria:- Carlisle, Penrith, Kendal, the A6 leaves the historical city of Carlisle going south east, taking a line parallel to the River Eden along an old Roman Road, it enters the market town of Penrith before climbing onto the fells to reach Shap summit the highest point on the A6, it then descends picking up the Kent Valley at the market town of Kendal. From Kendal it now follows the A591 and A590 before coming back onto the original A6 at Levens Bridge before crossing the county boundary about 3 miles south of Milnthorpe.

In Lancashire:- Carnforth, Lancaster, Garstang, Preston, Chorley, from the county boundary the A6 continues south to the former railway town of Carnforth, it then follows through two large villages before entering the historic city of Lancaster. It continues almost direct southward eventually skirting the market town of Garstang, before resuming its southward course though several villages into the industrial city of Preston. It then turns south east through the industrial town of Chorley before crossing the county boundary near Adlington.

In Greater Manchester:- Walkden, Swinton, Salford, Manchester, Stockport, the A6 continues south east skirting the industrial town of Westhoughton before passing through two industrial towns of Walkden and Swinton. It then enters the industrial city of Salford before entering the large industrial and commercial city of Manchester the regional capital, it continues south eastward, passing trough the industrial town of Stockport before crossing the county boundary just after Hazel Grove.

In Cheshire the A6 enters Cheshire for about 3 miles, climbing all the time through the small town of Disley before crossing the county boundary.

In Derbyshire:- Buxton, Matlock, Belper, Derby, the A6 continues climbing the pennine's on a south easterly course passing through several villages and a summit at Dove Holes before descending into the spa town of Buxton. It then turns eastward following the River Goyt then climbing to a summit before entering the market town of Bakewell. it then turns south easterly along the wye and derwent valleys passing trough the tourist centre's of Maltlock and Matlock Bath before turning southward through the market town of Belper then on to the industrial city of Derby. It again heads south eastward to cross to county boundary near Shardwell.

In Leicestershire:- Loughborough, Leicester, Market Harborough, the A6 continues south easterly through the market towns of Kegworth and Loughborough before turning southward into the industrial and commercial city of Leicester. It again turns south eastward through the town of Market Harborough before crossing the county boundary.

In Northamptonshire, Kettering, the A6 continues south eastward through several villages before entering the market town of Kettering. it continues southward before crossing the county boundary just after Bozeat.

In Bedfordshire:- Bedford, Luton. The road continues southward through the historic town of Bedford before passing the several villages before entering the large industrial town of Luton where in modern times the A6 finishes.

Prior to renumbering in the 1970's it ran from Luton to Harpenden, St Albans & South Mimms.

Another renumbering happened in the 1940's shortly after World War 2. In the 1920's a new Barnet Bypass had been built, in the 1940's this had became the A1 as a result the last section of the A6 from South Mimms to Barnet was now in zone 1 so the A6 was cut back out of London to South Mimms.

Why though was this road numbered A6? This is explained below:-


British Road Numbering System

Motor traffic in Britain increased slowly in the years preceding world war 1, that war however further mechanized the workings of Britain, it was becoming increasingly obvious that mechanization was the way ahead for transport and to coupe with this the roads network would need to be reorganized.


In 1919, William Rees-Jeffries, the head of the Roads Board, set about classifying and numbering the roads, so that state funding could be assigned according to traffic counts, and also as an aid to navigation. By 1926 the classification was complete.

The numbering system was made up of 9 cardinal routes 6 radiating out from London and 3 radiating out from Edinburgh.

The 9 cardinal routes (2018):
The 9 cardinal routes (1926):
  • A1 London to Edinburgh
  • A2 London to Dover
  • A3 London to Portsmouth
  • A4 London to Bath
  • A5 London to Holyhead
  • A6 London to Carlisle
  • A7 Edinburgh to Carlisle
  • A8 Edinburgh to Greenock
  • A9 Edinburgh to Inverness
  • A1 London to Edinburgh
  • A2 London to Dover
  • A3 London to Portsmouth
  • A4 London to Avonmouth
  • A5 London to Holyhead
  • A6 Luton to Carlisle
  • A7 Edinburgh to Carlisle
  • A8 Edinburgh to Greenock
  • A9 Polmont to Scrabster

Each road divided a number zone in that in England all roads starting between the A1 and A2 would start with the number 1 thus A10, A100, A1000 etc and roads starting between the A2 and A3 would start with a 2, round to roads between the A6 and the A1 starting with A6. In Scotland roads between the A7 and A8 would start with a 7, between the A8 and A9 an 8.

However things where not that simple for on thing the A1 went into Scotland, whilst the Thames estuary cut through zone 1. In the event zone 1 was from the A1 to the north sea coast. Zone 2 went from the Thames estuary to the A3 with the A2 going through the zone rather than being the zone boundary. Zone 6 was bounded on its west side by both the A6 and A7 which both met at Carlisle and on its east side by the A1, whilst zone 9 went from the A9 to the North Sea coast.

The 'A' roads in Britain are now divided into 3 type, the most important is a Trunk Road, the number of these have been reduced considerably being replaced by motorways, the next is primary routes, both of these types of road have the same type of direction sign, green background and white text. The least important is the non primary route which has signs with a white background and black text.

primary route sign
non primary route sign
primary route sign
non primary route sign