The M60 is at peace. It is zen. It achieves the highest plane of spirituality, adopting the lotus position and humming serenely. Why? Because it is the UK's only circular motorway, with no real start and no particular end. Tarmac in eternity. Not even the mighty M25 manages that.

It forms the Manchester Outer Ring Road, a trundling loop of more than thirty miles that forms the hub of the dense motorway network serving Lancashire. In parts it is incredibly well-used and the section through the Irwell Valley between junctions 15 and 16, known as Death Valley by the locals, is sometimes claimed (depending on how you define "busiest") as the busiest section of motorway in the country.

The M60's problem is that it is ideally placed for everything. It is the terminating point for most of Greater Manchester's many radial motorways, so it forms a bypass for long-distance traffic. It is handy for almost all the conurbation's wealthy, car-owning outer suburbs. It is far enough out to serve as an arterial road between the city's satellite towns. As a result, every single car journey that it is possible to make in Greater Manchester is now made on the M60. (Yes, that's an exaggeration - but not by much.)

The wholesome, circular, eternal spirituality of the M60 was forged in chaos. It was brought into existence in 1998, mostly by re-numbering existing motorways around the fringes of Manchester. It consumed the whole of what used to be M63, devoured the southern sections of M66, and - most confusingly - took a bite out of the M62, which now lies in two separate parts.

The change to M60 was brought about in preparation for the final section of the motorway, which opened in 2000. The last part of Manchester's Outer Ring Road linked Oldham with Denton to the east of the city, and the opportunity was taken to create a unified circuit with one number. The legal orders for the final section refer to it as M66, so even its newest component is a stolen section of another motorway.

Its mongrel heritage means that the M60 took longer to be built than any other road: forty-six years from start to finish, or an average of 0.78 miles per year. Work started in the mid-1950s when Lancashire County Council was offered a vast amount of industrial spoil for free, and set to work piling it up by the Manchester Ship Canal, forming the approaches to a bridge on the proposed Stretford-Eccles Bypass. The Barton High Level Bridge now uses those embankments.

When the last section opened in 2000, there were no more motorways under construction elsewhere in the UK, bringing to an end a continuous chain of construction work that had been in progress since the material was laid down for the bridge approaches more than forty years previously.

The result of this bizarre heritage is that no two parts of the M60 actually feel like the same road. The former M62 across the north of Manchester feels more like a long-distance road that's really going somewhere, while the part down the western side that used to be M63 is very hemmed-in and claustrophobic. The southern side passes through Stockport town centre and is very much an urban route, while the brand new section in the east is wide, spacious and relatively quiet. The only shared attributes are the extremely frequent opportunities to join and leave. The recommended junction spacing on a motorway is about every ten to twelve miles, but the M60 has twenty-seven along the way, with the four-mile section between junctions 22 and 23 being the longest gap.

Start
Stockport
End
Stockport
Passes
Manchester, Manchester Airport, Trafford Park, Bolton, Oldham, Ashton-under-Lyne
Connects to
Length
36 miles
Open Junctions Section
Oct 1960 J7-13 Stretford and Eccles Bypass Formerly M62.
Sep 1974 J4-7 Sale Eastern & Northenden Bypass Opened as M63
May 1975 J2-4 Sharston Bypass Opened as M63
Jul 1982 J27-2 Stockport Bypass Opened as M63
Apr 1989 J24-27 Portwood → Denton Opened as M66
Oct 2000 J19-24 Denton → Middleton

Exit list

The M60 is circular, and on this exit list junction 1 appears at both the top and bottom.

Junction   Anticlockwise               Clockwise  
1
0.0 km
Stockport (Cen)
A5145


A5145

A5145
ANTICLOCK
M60


(A560)
Stockport (W)
A5145
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
1 mile, 3 lanes  
2
2.5 km
Cheadle
A560
(A560)
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
1 mile, 3 lanes 2 miles, 3 lanes
3/4
3.6 km
Cheadle
Wilmslow
A34
A34



A34


M56
Wilmslow
Cheadle
A34
Chester
Warrington
Manchester Airport
M56 Link
Birmingham (M6 Link)
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
2 miles, 3 lanes 2 miles, 3 lanes
5
7 km
Wythenshawe
A5103
Manchester Airport
(M56 Link)
Chester
Birmingham
(M6 Link)
A5103 A5103
(M6)
(M56)
Manchester (Cen)
Didsbury
A5103
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
2 miles, 4 lanes 2 miles, 4 lanes
6
9.5 km
Sale
A6144


A6144
Sale
A6144
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
1 mile, 2+3 lanes 1 mile, 3+2 lanes
7
11.5 km
Altrincham
A56
A56 A56 Altrincham
Stretford
A56
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
1 mile, 2+3 lanes 1 mile, 3+2 lanes
8
13 km
Carrington
A6144
A6144


Carrington
A6144
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
1 mile, 3 lanes 1 mile, 3 lanes
9
15 km
Trafford Park
Trafford Centre
A5081
A5081 B5158 Trafford Park
A5081
Urmston
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
1 mile, 3 lanes 1 mile, 3 lanes
10
16.5 km
Trafford Park
B5214
B5214 B5214 Trafford Park
B5214
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
1 mile, 3 lanes  
River or canal Manchester Ship Canal
(Barton Bridge)
River or canal Manchester Ship Canal
(Barton Bridge)
  1 mile, 3 lanes
11
18.3 km
Irlam
Eccles
A57

A57

A57
Irlam
Eccles
A57
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
1 mile, 2+2 lanes 1 mile, 3 lanes
12
19.5 km
Warrington
Liverpool
M62 Link
Birmingham (M6 Link)
Manchester (Cen)
Salford
M602 Link
M602



M62



Warrington
Liverpool
M62 Link
Manchester (Cen)
Salford
M602 Link
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
1 mile, 4 lanes 1 mile, 4 lanes
13
21.5 km
Worsley
Leigh
A575
Swinton
A572
B5211

A572
A572

A575
Worsley
Leigh
A575
Swinton
A572
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
2 miles, 4 lanes  
14
24.5 km
St Helens
A580
A580 A580
  2 miles, 4 lanes
15
24.5 km
Bolton
Preston
M61 Link
M61 Bolton
Preston
M61 Link
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
1 mile, 4 lanes  
16
26.5 km
Swinton
A666
A666 A666
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
2 miles, 4 lanes 3 miles, 4 lanes
17
29.5 km
Whitefield
Prestwich
A56
A56 A56 Whitefield
Prestwich
A56
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
2 miles, 4 lanes 2 miles, 4 lanes
18
32 km
Leeds
Rochdale
M62 Link
Bury
Burnley
M66 Link
M66


M62
Leeds
Rochdale
M62 Link
Bury
Burnley
M66 Link
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes Signs
1 mile, 4 lanes 1 mile, 4 lanes
19
34 km
Middleton
Manchester (Cen)
A576
A576 A576 Middleton
Manchester (Cen)
A576
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
3.5 miles, 3 lanes 1.5 miles, 3 lanes
20
36 km
A664 A664 Blackley
Moston
A664
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
  2 miles, 3 lanes
21
39.5 km
Chadderton
Rochdale (A627(M) Link)
A663
A663

(A6104)
A663
(A627(M))
Chadderton
A663
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
1 mile, 3 lanes 1 mile, 3 lanes
22
41 km
Oldham
Failsworth
A62
A62 A62 Oldham
Failsworth
A62
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
4 miles, 4 lanes 4 miles, 4 lanes
23
46 km
Ashton-under-Lyne
A635
A635 A635
(A6017)
Ashton-under-Lyne
A635
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
3 miles, 4 lanes 3 miles, 4 lanes
24
49.5 km
Manchester
A57
Sheffield
M67 Link
A57

M67

A57
Manchester
A57
Sheffield
M67 Link
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
1 mile, 3 lanes  
52 km
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
1 mile, 4 lanes 2 miles, 3 lanes
25
53 km
Bredbury
A560
A6107

A560

A560
Bredbury
A560
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes Signs
2 miles, 3 lanes 1 mile, 3 lanes
26
54 km
(A560) Stockport
A560
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes Signs
   
27
55 km
Stockport (E)
A560
A626
A626 A560
B6104

A626
A560
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
1 mile, 3 lanes 2 miles, 3 lanes
1
56.6 km
Stockport (Cen)
A5145
A5145

A5145


M60
CLOCK
(A560)

Stockport (W)
A5145
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
Routes

Picture credits

With thanks to Ian Henderson, John Carter, Chris McKenna, NJ, Matt Janke, Simon Hollett and Peter Edwardson for information on this page.