The Royal Road
The North-South Road and its continuation in the Great West Road together formed the Royal Road, which had been built by the Númenóreans linking the Two Kingdoms, to enable travel between Gondor and Arnor.
In the Third Age, the Royal Road stretched from the north-western Fornost, past Bree and Andrath, south-eastwards past Dunland and Isengard to Minas Tirith, and continued east over Anduin until Minas Morgul. Today these roads have decayed from lack of maintenance but by the end of the War of the Ring, there were plans in place by King Elessar to restore the ancient royal road.
Before the breaking of Beleriand in the War of Wrath, the Great East Road was the longest road in Middle-earth. After Beleriand sank beneath the waves, the Old South Road had supplanted it. In the early Third Age, the road served as the main linkage between Gondor and Arnor. The road was the lifeline between the two kingdoms, and existed well throughout Tolkien's legendarium. By then this road, together with the Great East Road, became known as The Royal Road.
The road begins at Fornost Erain, the ancient capital of Arnor. From there the road runs 100 Númenórean miles south to the ancient crossroads of the Great East Road at Bree, known as the Greenway Crossing. Below Bree, the road becomes known as the Greenway as it is overgrown with grass due to its waning use in the Third Age.
The road passes through the Andrath and meets up with the road out of the Southfarthing from Sarn Ford. It then runs south-east through the desolate wastes of Minhiriath to the ruined city of Tharbad on the Gwathló (Greyflood). At Tharbad, the ruined bridge-town, the road crosses the Gwathló via a series of causeways and a massive stone bridge over the river. From Tharbad, the road continues south-east through the land of Enedwaith and enters Dunland just west of the Misty Mountains. In southern Dunland, the road turns due east, crosses the Fords of Isen near Isengard and enters the Gap of Rohan between the Ered Nimrais and Hithaeglir.
Upon crossing the River Isen, the road enters the Kingdom of Rohan and becomes known as the Great West Road. The road then travels eastward slowly sloping south along the northern edge of the Ered Nimrais through Edoras and entering the Kingdom of Gondor by crossing the Mering Stream. Ultimately the road reaches Minas Tirith, the capital of Gondor.
While the North-South Road is said to run from Fornost to Minas Tirith, it continues as the Great West Road towards Minas Morgul and the gates of Mordor.
The North-South Road is specifically mentioned in The Lord of the Rings, when describing shipments of pipe-weed from the Shire's Southfarthing to Isengard. Saruman's ruffians also used the road to reach the Shire, as did he and Gríma Wormtongue just before the Battle of Bywater.
Boromir is also mentioned as having used the road, travelling from Minas Tirith to Rivendell. He lost his horse at Tharbad's broken bridge. The Nazgûl also used the road when they travelled north in search of the One Ring.
Old South Road
The Old South Road - A Third Age name for the section of the North-South Road from approximately Tharbad southwards. Most of this route had ceased to exist by the time of The Lord of the Rings, with only remnants of the causeways still extant in the fens of Minhiriath.
Notice: The same term was also used to describe a road in Beleriand in the First Age which ran from the Pass of Sirion, past Doriath, and down to Nargothrond.
Great West Road
An old road of the kingdom of Gondor passing from the Fords of Isen along the northern end of the Ered Nimrais, past Edoras, to Minas Tirith.
From Minas Tirith this road turns due east to Osgiliath, where it once crossed Anduin via a great stone bridge. From Osgiliath, the road continues across Ithilien and ends at Minas Ithil, which by the end of the Third Age had become known as Minas Morgul.
The Greenway is a smaller portion of the North-South Road, which runs from Fornost Erain, ancient capital of Arthedain, to Minas Tirith, capital of Gondor, in the far south. Now part of the ancient road is called "the Greenway" as it has long since fallen out of use, and grass has slowly but surely covered most of it, giving its name.
The section of the road that is called "the Greenway" pertains to the area from about Thornley's Work Site in the north, past the Greenway Crossing just west of Bree — the North-South Road's junction with the Great East Road — to the Andrath in the south.
Great East Road
While the Great East Road officially never was part of the Royal Road, it was thought of as such by general Man and Hobbit.
The Great East Road (also known as the East Road or the East-West Road) was an ancient Dwarven route passing from western Beleriand, over the Ered Luin, through what later became The Shire, through lands that would become Arnor, and to the Misty Mountains. Travellers could cross the Misty Mountains by using the High Pass, and continue their journey to the distant dwarven lands in the East by using the Old Forest Road through Mirkwood.
The Great East Road was originally laid by the dwarves during the First Age before the first rising of the Sun, probably during the last Age of Stars, and ran from the Iron Hills through Rhovanion to Khazad-Dûm, from which it continued across Eriador to the Ered Luin, and then on into Doriath in Beleriand. The western parts were built to facilitate the passage of companies of dwarf craftsmen (and later, their armed escort) across eastern Beleriand, before the Sack of Doriath by the dwarves of Nogrod ended their trade.
After the First Age, and the ruination of Nogrod and neighbouring Belegost, focus shifted to the eastern part of the ancient road, which had been built by the dwarves of Khazad-Dûm in the Misty Mountains. Khazad-Dûm's inhabitants, the Longbeard dwarves, continued to grow in power and influence, and their trading needs meant that the road from the Iron Hills which travelled through Mirkwood to their gates became widely known.
On the western side of the Misty Mountains, after traversing the High Pass, the road continued to the Ered Luin, and this part ultimately became known as the Men-i-Naugrim or "Old Dwarf Road". When the Númenórean realm in exile of Arnor was founded, the Arnorians took over the maintenance of the Men-i-Naugrim, and built several fortresses on or near it (including Weathertop), and expanded or created bridges over the rivers Baranduin (Brandywine) (Bridge of Stonebows) and Mitheithel (Hoarwell) (The Last Bridge). After Arnor was divided in III 861, the Great East Road formed the boundary between two of its successor states, Cardolan and Rhudaur.
By the time of the War of the Ring in the late Third Age, where the Great East Road met the North-South Road (Greenway) lay the ancient village of Bree. A days ride east lay the Forsaken Inn, beyond which lay Rivendell. West of the crossroads the hobbits had colonized The Shire, and their most important towns lay athwart the Great East Road; (Hobbiton and Michel Delving to name two).
After the War of the Ring, sections of the road that ran through The Shire would have been off-limits to Men, under a proclamation of King Elessar.
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