The Improbable A39

The A39 is one of the south-west's most important roads, running from Bath to Falmouth via rural Somerset and the Atlantic coast. Large parts of it are primary, often providing the only fast road between towns and villages. That's certainly true of the top end and the bottom end; but look again on a map. Where does it go between Bridgwater and Barnstaple? Not down the straight roads, no. Oh — there it is. What's that wiggly, non-primary section on the north Devon coast all about?

The road from Barnstaple to Minehead could never be described as an important cross-country route. It doesn't look much like one on a map and it looks even less like one if you try and drive it. It is, however, an extremely beautiful and rewarding journey to make.

These pictures were taken on my first journey on the road, and at several points I found it hard to believe I was still on a road with such an important number. I found it even harder to believe that someone hadn't decided to give it a less important-sounding number or demote it to B-road status. But then, an awful lot about this road is rather improbable. So here it is: the improbable A39.

Routes
A39

What's new

South London's lost motorways

Completing the story of London's epic Ringways, we've just published the Southern Radials, five more motorways that never saw the light of day.

To the north east!

Two new additions to our collection of Opening Booklets take us to Darlington and Middlesbrough.

The ghost junction

The only UK motorway that didn’t connect to ordinary roads finally got its own interchange in 2019. But it's not open, because it still doesn’t touch any ordinary roads.

Share this page

Have you seen...

Daniel "Swampy" Hooper

Britain's most famous anti-road protester, who shot to fame in the mid-1990s and came to represent the whole environmental movement.

About this page

Published5 November 2011

Last updated24 February 2017