A7, Carlisle, UK

This Great Road was initially published in issue 68 of Total 911.

If you’re in England and you set your satnav to direct you to Scotland’s historical capital city of Edinburgh, the chances are, it will take you up the M6, which then becomes the M74 as you cross the border to Scotland.

It may then tell you to remain on the motorway almost to Glasgow and then hop across to Edinburgh via the M8. Motorway all the way, then. It may take you off the M74 earlier and then cut you across on the A702 or A71 but, either way, it’s not the most direct route. And neither is it the most exciting route.

For some excitement, you need to leave the M6 at Carlisle, near the border with Scotland and head up the A7, which is, in fact, the most direct route to Edinburgh. However, even though the motorway takes you on a dogleg, it’s still most people’s option, which means that the A7 is refreshingly underused.

LOCATION: Edinburgh to Carlisle, UK

LATITUDE: 54.8954°N/2.9311°W


Longtown Sheep Market – England’s largest

Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh

Auld Cross Keys Inn, Hawick

The Glen Hotel, Selkirk

And that’s a good job, too, because less than a mile of its 92 miles are dual carriageway – and that’s an insignificant stretch near Carlisle. Not too worry, though, as the route has plenty of good passing places where you can see well ahead.

The first stretch of the road is fast and empty with some pleasant vistas but nothing to write home about, and you’re likely to get held up at traffic lights here and there. Then, after you leave the historic town of Hawick, you’re treated to some superb fast bends all the way to Selkirk and beyond but still with room to overtake.

The Scottish Borders are described by locals as an area that people just pass through, which is a shame as there is some stunning scenery and interesting towns and villages to visit – it’s worth a short detour to Melrose, for instance.

The town of Galashiels is bypassed and, from there, the A7 loses its trunk road status for the final 30-odd miles north to Edinburgh. And that’s odd because it’s here that you start to notice the traffic building up as people head to the city.

Choose a quiet time, though, and it’s a lot of fun to navigate along, with plenty of twists and turns as it winds along.

Finally, you reach the outskirts of Edinburgh and hit the inevitable congestion. If you wish, you can follow the A7 all the way to Prince Street in the city, crossing the Royal Mile as you do.

Once you’ve finished your time in Edinburgh, do choose the A7 for your return trip, in favour of the dull motorway route – it’s just as good the other way!

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