diamond geezer

 Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Great British Roads - A1: Edinburgh - London
The (other) first mile: Princes Street - Meadowbank


Road begins: Wellington statue (National Archives of Scotland)
At the non-London end, Britain's most important trunk road starts somewhere very central. In the heart of Edinburgh, adjacent to the Balmoral Hotel, at the northern hub of the UK road system. Heading west from this staggered road junction is the start of the A8, heading along Princes Street towards Glasgow. Heading south is the start of the A7, crossing the chasm across Waverley station to the Royal Mile and on to Carlisle. And heading east is the start of the A1, up a hill, with virtually no traffic whatsoever. This way to London. [map]

The first building along Waterloo Place is a restaurant, currently shrouded by scaffolding heralding the arrival of a new Travelodge above. There's a corner shop, not quite on the corner, where they sell all the same cheapo stuff as in Islington (400 miles down the road) plus boxes of souvenir shortbread. And within a few yards there's an ornate bridge over a lesser road below, narrow enough that you might never notice, not unless you were properly studying the streetside architecture. Very tasteful.

The A1 then curves around the flank of Calton Hill. No access up top for car drivers, sorry, but those on foot can ascend the path to the summit and revel in a glorious view across the whole of the city. Every Edinburgh calendar features a snapshot towards Princes Street and the Castle crag - it's the perfect skyline panorama. Another extinct volcanic plug rises to the south - the startling strata of Arthur's Seat - temptingly close but rather tougher to climb. Less geological are the tightly-packed streets rolling down towards the Forth, where you might just catch sunshine on Leith. Or stare closer to home, and enjoy the motley assortment of towers, observatories and unfinished Parthenons that dot the hilltop. Like I say, the view's A1.

The Great North Road continues around the hill, with a sheer drop below, past a government fortress and an old High School built for show. There are two well-weathered cemeteries, one Old, one 'New', their tombs crammed in tight wherever contours allow. And inbetween stands a squat rotunda, resembling a giant pillared urn, bearing witness to the literary talents of Robert Burns. In Regent Gardens there's a very different, very modern memorial, where 32 chunks of indigenous rock (one from each Scottish local government area) have been laid out in an artificial circle. With the tenement mansions of Regent Terrace strung out alongside, and Arthur's Seat towering opposite, this short stretch of the A1 is an elegant visual treat.

A lowly Bowling Club at the foot of the hill is the first sign of approaching reality. Beyond the turreted wine merchants there's a petrol station, then a string of chiropodists and bookmakers and the like, as the street metamorphoses into "London Road". I can't imagine that anybody driving along here is heading that far - more likely to the car park outside the The Meadowbank Shopping Centre where Sainsbury's and TK Maxx pull in the crowds. We're in proper Edinburgh now, the part that tourists never reach, packed with everyday shops and flats and a Chinese restaurant called Xanadu. Here the A1's a very ordinary road, yet to evolve into a dualled monster, and all the more endearing for it. From one capital to another, it's the one.
Mile ends

Road continues: Duddingston, Newcraighall, Dunbar, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Durham, Scotch Corner, Doncaster, Grantham, Peterborough, Stevenage, Hatfield, South Mimms, Borehamwood, Barnet By-Pass, Archway Road, Holloway Road, Upper Street, Goswell Road, Aldersgate, Museum of London.

A1 links
A1: The Great North Road (an in-depth e-book)
A1 route description (from SABRE)
Five years ago I walked the first London mile of the A1, as well as the A2, A3, A4 and A5.
Google map: all of the A1; just the Edinburgh 1st mile.


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream