Tourist signs

What are Tourist signs?

Tourist signs are direc­tional traf­fic signs which dif­fer from nor­mal direc­tion signs as they are shown as white let­ters on a brown back­ground and may include sym­bols relat­ing to the type of des­ti­na­tion being signed.  The colour and style of tourist signs is syn­ony­mous with the tourism indus­try and makes them eas­ily recog­nis­able to road users.

The role of Tourist signing

Tourist signs are pro­vided to help vis­i­tors on the last stage of their jour­ney to a tourist des­ti­na­tion and to help dri­vers nav­i­gate via the most appro­pri­ate route.  They are not to be used as adver­tis­ing and should only be pro­vided to attrac­tions and facil­i­ties that vis­i­tors would oth­er­wise have dif­fi­culty finding.

What can be signed?

Tourist des­ti­na­tions in Eng­land are split into ‘facil­i­ties’ and ‘attrac­tions’. Tourist facil­i­ties may be signed only from sin­gle and dual-carriageway ‘A’ roads.  Tourist attrac­tions may also be signed from motorways.

The list below is an exam­ple of the types of tourist des­ti­na­tions which may be eli­gi­ble for sign­ing from the strate­gic road network:

  • Hotels
  • Vis­i­tor centres
  • Guest­houses
  • Theme parks
  • Hol­i­day parks
  • His­toric build­ings and ruins
  • Tour­ing and camp­ing parks
  • Muse­ums
  • Pic­nic sites
  • Zoos
  • Coun­try tours and tourist routes

What can’t be signed?

Retail out­lets, shops or shop­ping cen­tres, gar­den cen­tres (includ­ing those with food out­lets, play areas and addi­tional retail out­lets), exhi­bi­tion cen­tres or con­fer­enc­ing facil­i­ties can­not be signed with tourist signing.

Will I be eligible?

It’s not pos­si­ble for every tourist des­ti­na­tion to be signed, as there is such a num­ber and vari­ety of tourist des­ti­na­tions.  Whilst pro­mot­ing tourism and eco­nomic growth, it’s in no-one’s inter­est to have a large num­ber of signs with so much infor­ma­tion that the vis­i­tor becomes con­fused and uncer­tain. New tourist sign­ing has to be added as part of an over­ar­ch­ing plan for deliv­er­ing sign­ing and min­imis­ing the impact on the streetscape.

We use cri­te­ria, which have been devel­oped with exten­sive con­sul­ta­tion and involve­ment with the tourism indus­try, to deter­mine which des­ti­na­tions may be eli­gi­ble to ensure that the most appro­pri­ate des­ti­na­tions are signed.

We con­sider a num­ber of fac­tors to deter­mine whether a des­ti­na­tion may be eli­gi­ble for tourist signs.  These include loca­tion, dis­tance from the net­work, vis­i­tor num­bers and park­ing facil­i­ties.  In con­sid­er­ing whether signs can be installed on the net­work, we also take into account fac­tors such as road safety, the num­ber and type of exist­ing signs, envi­ron­men­tal impact and sign­ing con­ti­nu­ity.  Occa­sion­ally, excess sign­ing demand, high envi­ron­men­tal intru­sion or a sig­nif­i­cant impact on road safety means that we can­not always agree to tourist signs being pro­vided, even where the des­ti­na­tion itself may be eligible.

Who decides whether I can have a tourist sign?

The High­ways Agency looks after most of England’s motor­ways and major trunk roads.  Other roads are man­aged by High­way Author­i­ties, gen­er­ally a depart­ment of the Local Author­ity.  Each High­way Author­ity has its own cri­te­ria regard­ing tourist signs.  There may be more than one High­way Author­ity with respon­si­bil­ity for the route to a tourist des­ti­na­tion and where this is the case, each Author­ity needs to be involved in the deci­sion mak­ing process.   This ensures that where signs are pro­vided the route to the des­ti­na­tion is signed con­sis­tently.  The cri­te­ria used to deter­mine the eli­gi­bil­ity of tourist des­ti­na­tions in rela­tion to the strate­gic road net­work is avail­able from our process and pol­icy guid­ance page.

When mak­ing an appli­ca­tion for tourist signs, the Local High­way Author­ity respon­si­ble for the road from which the des­ti­na­tion is accessed (the Home Traf­fic Author­ity) should always be the first point of con­tact.  The Home Traf­fic Author­ity should liaise with other neigh­bour­ing Author­i­ties affected by the appli­ca­tion to deliver a seam­less ser­vice.  Where the tourist des­ti­na­tion is accessed directly from the strate­gic road net­work, the High­ways Agency becomes the Home Traf­fic Author­ity and will liaise with any neigh­bour­ing High­way Author­i­ties as necessary.

How much will it cost?

Appli­cants must pay the cost of any tourist signs pro­vided on the strate­gic road net­work.  Costs include design, instal­la­tion, tem­po­rary traf­fic man­age­ment and future main­te­nance.  Once installed, tourist signs become the prop­erty of the rel­e­vant High­way Author­ity to ensure that they can be main­tained as required dur­ing their life.

The cost of pro­vid­ing tourist signs is influ­enced by many fac­tors that vary accord­ing to loca­tion includ­ing the word­ing , size and num­ber of signs required; the posi­tion­ing and pro­tec­tion by safety bar­rier where needed; and the costs relat­ing to tem­po­rary traf­fic man­age­ment needed to erect signs, essen­tial to safe­guard our work­ers and road users dur­ing instal­la­tion.  We may also have to per­form geot­ech­ni­cal and envi­ron­men­tal impact inves­ti­ga­tions as part of the design process.  The costs involved should be taken into con­sid­er­a­tion when you are bud­get­ing for your tourist signs.

Below are three exam­ples of sign faces and their cost ranges – many other options for sign­ing exist and may be more applic­a­ble to your des­ti­na­tion.  Where signs are to be pro­vided, we will advise you on the appro­pri­ate require­ments (type, word­ing, size, num­ber, etc) for your par­tic­u­lar des­ti­na­tion and the route to be signed.  The costs ranges are purely to give you an indi­ca­tion of your pos­si­ble outlay.

Exam­ples of tourist signs and indica­tive costs
Small Brown SignMedium Brown SignLarge Brown Sign
Sin­gle or dual carriagewaySin­gle or dual carriagewayDual car­riage­way or Motorway

How long will it take?

We aim to review appli­ca­tions for tourist signs as soon as pos­si­ble.  The design and instal­la­tion process does take time as this includes agree­ment on word­ing and num­ber of signs, detailed design, man­u­fac­ture and instal­la­tion.  You should there­fore allow around 9 months from start to fin­ish, though unfore­seen fac­tors such as the need to repo­si­tion exist­ing signs, or pres­ence of under­ground ser­vices which may need to be diverted, may cause delays.

Instal­la­tion can only begin after com­ple­tion of detailed design and sub­ject to a fund­ing agree­ment, known as a sec­tion 278 agreement.

We have sum­marised the appli­ca­tion process for you. Full details can be found in our stan­dard TD 52/04.

Where can I get more information?

Here we have just given you an overview of tourist sign­ing. If you want to explore the pos­si­bil­ity of tourist sign­ing fur­ther for your des­ti­na­tion it’s strongly rec­om­mended that you read the “TD 52/04” which can be down­loaded with other guid­ance from our process and pol­icy guid­ance page.

Remem­ber, when mak­ing an appli­ca­tion for tourist signs, the Local High­way Author­ity respon­si­ble for the road from which the des­ti­na­tion is accessed (the Home Traf­fic Author­ity) should always be your first point of con­tact so,

  • Check our net­work map to see if we man­age your road.
  • If we don’t, visit Direct­Gov to look up your High­way Authority
  • For tourist signs in Greater Lon­don (exclud­ing M25 and A282), con­tact Trans­port for Lon­don —

Sub­mit an enquiry

The High­ways Agency is an exec­u­tive Agency of the Depart­ment for Trans­port (DfT) and is respon­si­ble for oper­at­ing, main­tain­ing and improv­ing the strate­gic road net­work in Eng­land on behalf of the Sec­re­tary of State for Transport.

If you have an enquiry regard­ing a Brown Tourist sign and would like to dis­cuss a pos­si­ble loca­tion for signs on the Strate­gic Road Net­work, please com­plete the details below and we will pass it to a team local to your Region.