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The Great North Road is Britain’s Route 66 – we’ve just forgotten how to sing its praises

In 1921, Britain’s most illustrious highway, the Great North Road, ceased to exist – on paper at least. Stretching from London to Edinburgh, the old road was largely replaced by the A1 as the era of the motor car took hold.

A hundred years later, journalist and cyclist Steve Silk embraces the anniversary as the perfect excuse to set off on an adventure across 11 days and 400 miles. Travelling by bike at a stately 14 miles per hour, he heads north, searching out milestones and memories, coaching inns and coffee shops.

Seen from a saddle rather than a car seat, the towns and the countryside of England and Scotland reveal traces of Britain’s remarkable past and glimpses of its future. Instead of the familiar service stations and tourist hotspots, Steve tracks down the forgotten treasures of this ancient highway between the two capitals.

The Great North Road is a journey as satisfying for the armchair traveller as the long-distance cyclist. Enriched with history, humour and insight, it’s a tribute to Britain and the endless appeal of the open road.


An enjoyable ode to a road that cyclists planning a trip will love, with entertaining nuggets of trivia and history for anyone who has ever hit the A1 for a long drive. Silk is a man on a mission, snaking alongside the main carriages on his winding passage by bike north via many a cafe and old coaching inn (many of which Charles Dickens visited, apparently). This journey may just give the lockdown Lycra brigade ideas.
Tom Chesshyre
I love this book. I love the idea of considering something as mundane and utilitarian as the A1(M) in a fascinating, historical context. Who knew that behind this seemingly endless snake of concrete and tarmac lies the makings of a fabulous journey of pilgrimage? It is a joy to learn about the background to Steve's journey and to follow him as he makes his way along his very own Great North Road.
Rachel Ann Cullen
I was going to ride the Great North Road and write about it... but in the light of this annoyingly good book, I won't.
Tim Moore
Weaving the history of the old road with the colour and the characters of today, Steve proves that any journey is an adventure if you know where to look.
Alastair Humphreys