Traversing hills and cuttings to get to Banbridge

Banbridge in 2022

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On a key route through Northern Ireland from Belfast to Newry, lies the small town of Banbridge, County Down.

Following an earlier project in Armagh, we’ve now been appointed to come up with a strategy for improving the wayfinding through Banbridge.

It’s an interesting place with unusual topography. Built on a hill, the town has a unique underpass, the Cut. It was completed in 1834 to help horse drawn vehicles get into the heart of the town. Before the underpass, Royal Mail coaches were threatening to bypass the town because their horses struggled to traverse the steep hill into the town.

Banbridge in the 19th and 20th centuries Source: Banbridge Baptist Church

The answer was to split the main road into three sections; the middle section cutting right through the hill to reduce the gradient. Downshire Bridge crosses the cutting, fondly referred to by locals as Europe’s first fly-over.

It’s a clever solution that helped visitors navigate the town. And we’re hoping that the same clever thinking will inspire us to come up with a wayfinding strategy today.

Banbridge is also the nearest town to the tv studio where Game of Thrones is filmed, and which will be opening to visitor tours imminently. With this new influx of visitors, the local council is keen to encourage these visitors to make the journey from the tour bus into the town.

So, we’re busy devising a wayfinding strategy that will attract visitors into the town, and encourage them to battle against their intuition by taking the route uphill.

Sue Manley, Placemarque’s Strategy Director, said:

“Our brief is to help visitors get a sense of where the main town centre attractions and services are, and to help them navigate over the town’s somewhat imposing topography.

If we can encourage them to battle against their intuition and take the high road over the hill, we’ll have succeeded.”

But if they can’t manage the gradient, they can always hitch a ride through the Cut.

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