The N8 (formerly T6) runs from the large midlands town of Portlaoise down to Cork, Ireland's second largest city. It used to originate in the centre of the town, but from 1997-2010 it started at junction 17 of the M7 south of the town. The old route ran directly south, first stopping off in the cute town of Abbeyleix, followed by Durrow, which has a famous eponymous book - an illustrated monastic manuscript dating from the middle ages. A little further is the tiny village of Cullahill.
In May 2010, the N8's starting point was moved once again when a new Y-shaped motorway opened. This motorway extended the M7 further south as far as Borris-in-Ossory and also marked the completion of the M8 Dublin-Cork motorway. The M8 splits off from the M7 where it crosses the rural road R430. The nearest town to this is the tiny village of Aghaboe. From here the M8 winds south until it reaches the old N8 south of Cullahill. After this, the old and new routes parallel each other closely.
Passing Urlingford, the route reaches a triangle formed by the southwesterly old N8, the northwesterly N62 and the westerly N75, allowing access to the large town of Thurles from north and southbound traffic. From here the route continues south past the oddly named Horse and Jockey. This whole section was bypassed by the M8 motorway in December 2008, which closely followed the original alignment.
The next stop on the journey is Cashel, famous for the huge rock with a windswept church perched precariously on the summit. The old route passed through the town but the new bypasses to the east in a wide arc and was opened in October 2004 as dual carriageway. The bypass is hilly and windy, however, and its conversion to motorway in September 2008 was not accompanied by an increase in the 100 km/h limit.
South of here, the route runs down to Cahir (bypassed in October 2007) before passing in a straight line between mountains. The full scheme to replace this section opened in July 2008, and very closely parallels the original route. This section went blue along with the rest of the 2008 redesignations.
The old route next passes through the famous-for-its-cheese Mitchelstown, where the N73 route is spawned and heads west to Mallow. The main route veers south for the final run to Cork. In July 2006 a temporary single carriageway bypass was opened running around the town to the west. Until May 2009, this served as both an N73 and N8 bypass, but since then the whole area has been bypassed again by a new section of M8. The single carriageway is now exclusively for the use of N73 traffic.
Entering Cork's commuter road network, a tolled motorway bypass of Fermoy opened in October 2006. In a straight line south of here, the road passes the wet-sounding Watergrasshill, bypassed in September 2003, before taking a very windy easterly route around the suburb of Glanmire. Glanmire's bypass opened in 1992 and moved the entry point of the N8 from the area of Lota south of Glanmire east to a new large (but poor-standard) roundabout junction of the N8 and N25, known as Dunkettle. The dual carriageway took an incredible 7 years to build due to the country's dire financial situation at the time. The old N8 was renamed R639. In addition the bypass was so windy that the motorway redesignations of August 2009 required a reduced 100 km/h limit in order to safeguard traffic.
A tunnel, the Jack Lee Tunnel, extended the route (originally as N25 but N40 as of 2012) under the River Lee and around the south of Cork in 1999, and the west-to-east movement across the Dunkettle N8/N25 junction was grade-separated with a flyover. This still is woefully inadequate, however, as there are many major traffic flows through this junction - not just east-west. A major upgrade of Dunkettle junction to full or mainly freeflow is therefore planned for the future. A dedicated site exists.
The Dunkettle Interchange has enabling works underway, but the projected cost of the project has ballooned, and may now have to be re-examined by the Government.
There have been some other cost overruns on capital projects recently and they are anxious that this one does not share the same fate.
The full Dunkettle Interchange was retendered and is due to start by the end of the year. It will take several years to build.
Dunkettle Interchange construction got fully underway in December. It is expected to open in stages until autumn 2023.
The most recent drone video of the Dunkettle Interchange project shows the progress made so far in a timelapse. Here is the running commentary: