Posted by: wesleyjohnston | August 27, 2012

Paradise Walk – Northern Ireland’s forgotten motorway

Northern Ireland has plenty of unfinished motorways. But did you know that there is one abandoned road in County Antrim that was once able to boast to being part of the M2 motorway?

Northern Ireland’s first motorway was the M1 which was built between 1962 and 1968 – not bad for six years’ work. The M2 came a bit later, being built between 1966 and 1975.

Unlike the M1, which was mostly* built in stages out from Belfast, the M2 was built in order of need, due to a less favourable economic climate. First the bypass stretches were built:

The plan then was to “plug the gaps”. So then the gaps were filled in:

  • Foreshore in Belfast in 1973 (j1B Whitla Street to j2 Greencastle)
  • Glengormley to Templepatrick in 1975 (j4 to j5)
  • … and then the money ran out, thanks to The Troubles and Direct Rule.

This explains why the Ballymena Bypass sits in glorious isolation, but that is not the point of this story. Look back up to 1971 – when the stretch from j5 Templepatrick to Dunsilly. Actually, this isn’t strictly true. The stretch in question actually started 2km west of what is now junction 5, close to the village of Parkgate.

But how did this work I hear you ask? There is no junction there!

That is true, so instead the developers upgraded a local road to serve as a temporary access. This was Paradise Walk, hitherto a small rural road that crossed the valley between Templepatrick and Parkgate. People travelling towards Belfast from Antrim around 1972 would have travelled along the M2 as far as Paradise Walk, and when they reached this temporary terminus would then have travelled south along Paradise Walk into Templepatrick village.

All right – this temporary terminus probably wasn’t a “motorway” in the strict legal sense, but in functional terms it was every bit as important as the adjacent M2!

In 1975, Roads Service (which came into existence in 1973) completed the missing stretch to Sandyknowes, and the Paradise Walk terminus was sealed off. The local road network was restructured, and Paradise Walk reverted to being a rural road, but the short stretch that had been used to access the M2 was abandoned.

Amazingly, this road can still be seen today. Until recently, you could even see cats eyes down the middle! In 2004 I visited the site and took a couple of photographs. The tarmac was in a surprisingly good state for a road that had been abandoned for 30 years. The first image shows the view south-east towards Templepatrick, and the second the view north-west towards the M2. You can get some idea of the quality of workmanship from the kerbing on both sides, and what appears to be a moss-covered hard shoulder. Although not obvious in the pictures, even some of the cats-eyes were still there. Imagine the sound of 1970s traffic roaring along this long-forgotten road.

Unfortunately it’s not quite so accessible today. Within the past few years, the road has been fenced off and modified to serve as the access for a pumping station of some sort (visible in Google Street View).

Nevertheless, this is a piece of history. For four years from 1971 until 1975, this little stretch of road was more or less part of the M2. The next time you’re in the area, pull in and say hello, and let it know that it is not forgotten!

You can read more about the development of the M2 / M2 Ballymena Bypass and our motorway network on the Northern Ireland Roads Site.

*The stretch between The Birches and Dungannon was built in an apparently random order.



  1. If drove past this ‘lay-by’ circa 1981 and saw a four year old steering his father’s beige Ford Cortina up and down that road, that was me. We called the place “Ballydump”, but I never knew what it was… until now!

    • It’s amazing what we see every day that turns out to have an interesting story!

  2. […] have saved the most fascinating two until last. I have previously blogged about how the M2 briefly terminated on Paradise Walk near Templepatrick from 1972 – when the section from there to Antrim was built – and […]

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