National Primary Route 20

Opened : 2001 - 2026

Status : Incomplete

M20 Motorway Logo


Motorway : 9.5 km (105.5 km by 2026)
Dual Carriageway (some undivided) : 6.7 km (0 km by 2026)

The N20 connects Ireland's second largest city with its third largest - Cork to Limerick. In the 2000s, when major upgrades of all trunk roads in Ireland were planned, this road suffered the unfortunate distinction of being, along with the N18 and the N9, the national primary route serving a city that was in most need of urgent attention. However, the M9 and M18 have replaced those other roads, but still the N20 has not been improved.

The road starts on the quaysides of the River Lee in Cork City, following city streets out of the city. An urban bypass of the suburb of Blackpool opened in April 2001, linking to the dual carriageway that runs as far as Blarney with its much-kissed stone. From here, some parts of the road are in a 2+1 lane configuration, a rare sight in Ireland. This takes the motorist as far as Mallow, which is not, incidentally, located in a marsh. The upgrade of this section of the route will mainly consist of widening the existing road, since it is already up to a high standard.

Sadly the existing route goes steeply downhill in quality after this. Mile after mile follows of poor quality, winding road which could only be described as a country lane. This goes on for nearly 40 kilometres, passing through a bona fide chicane at Buttevant, the scattered town of Charleville, and countless small villages with bizarre names like Lackanalooha, Garrycummer, Imphrick, Shinanagh, Knockaunavoddig and Newtwopothouse. The motorway replacement will be like stepping directly from the 19th to the 21st centuries.

Finally, the Croom bypass is reached. In 2001 a grade-separated single carriageway road (rare in Ireland) opened which will form the basis of an upgrade in the future. From here, it's a short hop to the N21/M20 junction and the motorway up to Limerick. This section opened as dual carriageway in July 2001 and was redesignated motorway in August 2009. It is Y-shaped with the M20 coming south from Limerick, then splitting with the N21 continuing southwest and the N20 veering south. At the point where the M20 reaches the M7 Limerick Southern Ring Road, there is a large freeflow junction.

The entire route from the M20/N21 junction south to Cork will be replaced with a proposed M20 motorway. This has been cancelled and reactivated many times but as of 2018 it is back on and included in the new National Development Plan. It is anticipated to start construction in 2023 and open to traffic in 2026. At the Cork end, a related project is the Cork Northern Ring Road, which will connect the new motorway from somewhere south of Blarney to north of Glanmire. It is likely that the remainder of the road into Cork city centre will be renumbered at that stage, so the M20 will finish at the M20/Cork Northern Ring Road junction.

Update 12/07/2019: The M20 from Limerick to Cork is at Feasibility Study. It is cautiously pencilled in for completion by 2027.

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Origin St. Patrick's Hill and Merchants Quay, Cork
Terminates N24 Ballysimon Rd, Limerick
Places Served Cork, Blarney, Mallow, Croom, Limerick
Routes Spawned N21, N22, N72
Intersects N18, N7


Section km Opening Date Standard
Blackpool By-Pass 2.5 2001-04-20 D2AP
Patrickswell to Limerick 9.5 2001-07-12 M (from 2009-08-28)
Limerick to Cork 83 2027 M

MAP OF M20 :