With the smell of the North Sea in my nostrils, I feel a long way from central London, where my journey began amid the tangier aroma of delivery driver diesel. My plan was to go in search of the old road between London and Edinburgh: the one that had served the mail coaches, witnessed marching soldiers and highway robbery, and had an ancient and evocative name: the Great North Road.
Over the last 300-odd miles I’d been pretty faithful to the old road – or at least as faithful as you can be while avoiding dual carriageways and speeding drivers. The key is to find stretches where the new has been built next to the old, rather than on top of it: an orphaned mile or so at Tempsford in Bedfordshire, Stilton in Cambridgeshire or Cromwell in Nottinghamshire. On these forgotten high streets I find it remarkably easy to visualise a time when the mail coach was the king of the road – the horses’ hooves clattering and the guard blowing his horn.
This page was last updated on 2021.07.08