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The A1 is the longest numbered road in the UK at . It connects Londonmarker, the capital of Englandmarker and the United Kingdommarker, with Edinburghmarker, the capital of Scotlandmarker. It passes through and near Hatfield, Stevenagemarker, Peterboroughmarker, Leedsmarker, Yorkmarker, Gatesheadmarker, Newcastle upon Tynemarker and Berwick-upon-Tweedmarker.

For much of its path it follows the Great North Road. Several sections of the route are classified as motorway. The modern course of this ancient route diverges where it passes through a town or village that has been bypassed, or where new motorway takes a more direct route. Between the M25marker (near London) and A696 (near Newcastle upon Tynemarker) the road is part of the unsigned Euroroute E15 from Invernessmarker to Algecirasmarker.


The A1 runs from the City of Londonmarker at St. Paul's Cathedralmarker to the centre of Edinburgh. It shares its Londonmarker terminus with the A40, in the City area of Central London. It runs out of London through Islingtonmarker (where Upper Street forms part of its route), up Holloway Road, through Barnetmarker, Potters Barmarker, Hatfieldmarker, Welwynmarker, Stevenagemarker, Baldockmarker, Biggleswademarker, Sandymarker, St Neotsmarker and Peterboroughmarker. Continuing north, the A1 runs on modern bypasses around Stamfordmarker, Granthammarker, Newark-on-Trentmarker, Retfordmarker, Bawtrymarker, Doncastermarker, Knottingleymarker, Garforth, Wetherbymarker, Knaresboroughmarker, Boroughbridgemarker, Scotch Cornermarker, Darlingtonmarker, Newton Aycliffemarker, Durhammarker, Chester-le-Streetmarker, past the Angel of the Northmarker sculpture and the Metrocentremarker in Gatesheadmarker, through the western suburbs of Newcastle upon Tynemarker, Morpethmarker, Alnwickmarker, Berwick-upon-Tweedmarker, into Scotland, past Dunbarmarker, Haddingtonmarker and Musselburghmarker before finally arriving in Edinburgh at the East End of Princes Streetmarker near Waverley Stationmarker at the junction of the A7, A8 and A900 roads.

Origins and history

The modern A1 mainly follows the Great North Road coaching route used by mail coaches between London, Yorkmarker and Edinburgh. The many inns on the road, many of which still survive, were staging posts on the coach routes, providing accommodation, stabling for the horses and replacement mounts. However, virtually none of the surviving coaching inns can be seen while driving on the A1, because the modern route now bypasses the towns in which the inns are to be found.

A traditional starting point of the Great North Road was Smithfieldmarker in Central London. Distances on the road were computed from the now demolished Hicks Hallmarker, situated at the south end of St John Street, just to the north of Smithfield Market. The route ran from Smithfield up St John Street to the Angel Islingtonmarker. However, with the building of the General Post Office at St Martin's-le-Grandmarker in 1829, coaches started using an alternative route, used by the modern A1, beginning at the GPO building and following Aldersgate Street and Goswell Road before joining the old route at the Angel. The Angel was an important staging post on the route. The next important stages were Barnet, Hatfield, Baldock, Biggleswade and Alconburymarker, all replete with traditional coaching inns.
Sign at Junction 1 of the A1(M) at South Mimms in Hertfordshire.
At Alconbury, the Great North Road joined the Old North Roadmarker, an older route from London which follows the Roman Ermine Streetmarker. Here a milestone records mileages to London via both routes: 65 by the Old North Road and 68 by the Great North Road. From Alconbury the Great North Road follows the line of Ermine Street north, through Stiltonmarker and Stamford as far as Colsterworthmarker (at the A151 junction). Inns on this section include the George at Stamford and the Bell Inn at Stilton, the original sellers of Stilton cheese.

At Colsterworth the Great North Road diverges west of the Roman road and continues through Grantham, Newark, Retford and Bawtry to Doncaster. North of Doncaster the Great North Road again follows a short section of Ermine Street called Roman Riggmarker or Roman Ridgemarker. Further north the Great North Road used the Roman Dere Street to Boroughbridgemarker from where it went to Northallertonmarker and then through Darlingtonmarker and Durhammarker.

In the first era of stage coaches York was the terminus of the Great North Road, on the route Doncaster–Selbymarker–York but was later superseded by the route Doncaster–Ferrybridgemarker–Wetherby–Boroughbridge–Darlington, the more direct way to Edinburgh, the ultimate destination. The first recorded stage coach operation running to York was in 1658. This took four days to reach its destination. Faster mail coaches began using the route in 1786, stimulating a quicker service from the other passenger coaches. In the 'Golden Age of Coaching', between 1815–35 coaches could get from London to York in 20 hours and the whole distance to Edinburgh in 45 and a half hours. In the mid nineteenth century, under competition from the new railways, coach services were withdrawn. The last coach from London to Newcastle left in 1842 and the last from Newcastle to Edinburgh in July 1847.

Scotch Cornermarker, in North Yorkshire, marks the point where the traffic for Glasgowmarker and the west of Scotland divides from that for Edinburgh, as it has for hundreds of years before motor traffic. As well as a hotel there have been a variety of homes for the transport café, now subsumed as a motorway services.

The road skirts the remains of Sherwood Forestmarker, and passes Catterick Garrisonmarker.

The original A1 was designated by the Ministry of Transport in 1921. The route was modified in 1927 when bypasses were built around Barnetmarker and Hatfieldmarker. In the 1930s by-passes where added in Chester-le-Streetmarker, Durhammarker and the Ferryhillmarker Cut was dug. In 1960 Stamford and Doncaster were bypassed, as was Retfordmarker in 1961 and St Neotsmarker in 1971.

During the early 1970s plans to widen the A1 along the Archway Road section were abandoned after considerable opposition and four public inquiries during which road protesters disrupted proceedings. The scheme was finally dropped in 1990.

The Hatfieldmarker tunnel was opened in 1986.

A proposal to upgrade the whole of the A1 to motorway status was investigated by the government in 1989 but was then dropped in 1995 along with many other schemes in response to road protests associated with other road schemes (including the Newbury Bypass and the M3 extension through Twyford Downmarker).

A 21km section of the road from Alconbury to Peterborough was upgraded to motorway standard at a cost of £128m which opened in 1998 required the moving the memorial to Napoleonic prisoners buried at Norman Crossmarker.

A number of sections from the Scottish border to Edinbugh were dualed between 1999 and 2004, including a 3km section from Spott Wood to Oswald Dean in 1999, 2km sections from Bowerhouse to Spott Road and from Howburn to Houndwood in 2002-2003 and the 13.7km "A1 Expressway", from Haddington and Dunbarmarker in 2004. The total cost of these works was some £50m.
Plans to dual the single carriageway section of road north of Newcastle upon Tyne were shelved in 2006 as they were not considered a regional priority by central government. The intention was to dual the road between Morpethmarker and Feltonmarker and between Adderstonemarker and Belfordmarker.

Current developments

A1 Peterborough to Blyth grade separated junctions

Work began in August 2006 to replace the six roundabouts on the A1 between Blythmarker and the A1(M) section to Alconbury with grade-separated junctions. These will provide a fully grade separated route between the Buckden roundabout (just north of St Neots and approximately north of the Black Cat roundabout) and just north of Morpethmarker at a cost of £96 million.

Blythmarker (A614) Fully operational May 2008
Apleyhead (A614/A57) Fully operational January 2008
Markham Moormarker (A57) Full operational April 2009
Gonerby Moor (B1174) Fully operational March 2008
Colsterworth (A151) and the junction with the B6403 Expected completion date September 2009
Carpenters Lodge (Stamfordmarker) (B1081) Fully operational December 2008

A1(M) Bramham to Wetherby motorway

Upgrade of of road to dual 3-lane motorway standard between the Bramham/A64 junction to north of Wetherby to meet the section of motorway at a cost of £70 million began in 2006, including a road alongside for non-motorway traffic. The scheme's public inquiry began on 18 October 2006 and the project was designed by James Poyner. Work began in May 2007, the motorway section opened in July 2009 and remaining work on side roads was still ongoing in late August and is expected to be completed by the end of 2009.

A1(M) Dishforth to Barton motorway

Upgrade of the existing dual carriageway to dual 3-lane motorway standard, with a local road alongside for non-motorway traffic, between Dishforthmarker (A1(M)/A168 junction) and Barton (North of Scotch Cornermarker), Which is the start of current northernmost section of A1(M), began in March 2009 and is expected to be completed by Summer 2012. Once complete this will provide continuous motorway standard between Darrington (south of M62 junction) and Washingtonmarker.

Proposed developments

Ellington to Fen Ditton scheme

The planned A14 Ellington to Fen Ditton scheme would require a new junction at Brampton, north of which the A1 will be widened to three lane dual carriageway from Brampton to Brampton Hut. The new 2 lane dual carriageway section of the A14 would run also parallel with the A1 on the section.

Sandy-Beeston Bypass

In 2003 a proposal for a bypass of Sandymarker and Beestonmarker, Bedfordshire, was put forward as a green lighted scheme as part of a government multi-modal study, with a cost of £67 million. However, the Highways Agency was unwilling to confirm the information as the study was preliminary and intended for future publication. In 2008 the proposal was submitted for consideration in the pre-2013/14 Regional Funding Advice 2 Programme of the East of England Development Agency.

Other proposals

The Highways Agency has also been investigating an upgrade of the A1 Newcastle/Gateshead Western By-Pass to a dual 3 lane motorway standard to alleviate heavy congestion which in recent years has become a recurrent problem.

Improvements to junctions near the village of Elkesleymarker, Nottinghamshiremarker are planned—the village's only access to the rest of the road network is via the A1.

Consideration is being given to widening the Brampton Hut to Alconbury sections to 3 lane dual carriageway.

Legend and popular culture

The highwayman Dick Turpin's flight from London to York in less than 15 hours on his mare Black Bess is the most famous legend of the Great North Road. Various inns along the A1 claim Turpin ate lunch there that night, or stopped for a respite for his horse. Harrison Ainsworth, in his 1834 romance Rookwood, immortalised this with a spirited account of this ride. Historians argue that Turpin never made the journey, claiming instead that the ride was by John Nevison, known as "Swift Nick", born and raised at Wortley near Sheffield and a highwayman in the time of Charles II, 50 years before Turpin. It is claimed that Nevison, in order to establish an alibi, rode from Gad's Hill, near Rochester, Kentmarker, to York (some ) in 15 hours. Even more unreliable evidence links highwaymen with the Ram-Jam Inn at Stretton, Rutlandmarker. The A1 passes a few feet from the door.

In literature the Great North Road features in The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens. Part of the J.B. Priestley novel The Good Companions features the Great North Road; represented to the northerner Jess Oakroyd as the gateway to such exotic destinations as Nottinghammarker. The Lord Peter Wimsey short story "The Fantastic Horror of the Cat in the Bag" by Dorothy L. Sayers features a motorcycle chase along the Great North Road.

The A1 and Great North Road are also celebrated in song. The A1 is mentioned by Jethro Tull on the title track of the album Too Old to Rock 'n' Roll: Too Young to Die! "Up on the A1 by Scotch Corner". Near the southern end, signs saying "Hatfieldmarker and the North" inspired the eponymous 1970s rock band Hatfield and the North. The A1 is mentioned in The Long Blondes' song, "Separated By Motorways", along with the A14. The A1(M) is mentioned in the song "Gabadon" by Sheffieldmarker band, Haze, and the 'Great North Road' is mentioned in Mark Knopfler's song, "5:15 AM", from the album Shangri La.


Some sections of the A1 have been upgraded to motorway standard. These are known as the A1(M). These include:

M25 to Stotfold

Looking southwards from junction 2.

This section opened in stages:
  • Junctions 1 to 2 opened in 1979
  • Junctions 2 to 4 opened in 1986
  • Junctions 4 to 6 opened in 1973
  • Junctions 6 to 8 opened in 1962
  • Junctions 8 to 10 opened in 1967


A1(M) Motorway
Northbound exits Junction Southbound exits
Stansted Airport (M11, M20)
Heathrow, Gatwick (M1, M40, M4, M3,M23) M25
Barnet A1081
Non-motorway traffic

South Mimms services
Road continues as A1 to Central London
Start of motorway Stansted Airportmarker (M11, M20)
Heathrowmarker Gatwickmarker (M1, M40, M4,M3,M23) M25
Barnetmarker A1081

Hatfieldmarker A1001 J2 No access
St Albansmarker A414 J3 St Albansmarker A414
Potters Barmarker A1001
Hatfield Tunnel
Welwyn Garden Citymarker, Hertfordmarker A414 J4 Welwyn Garden Citymarker, Hertfordmarker A414
No access J5 No access
Welwynmarker, Welwyn Garden Citymarker A1000marker J6 Welwynmarker, Welwyn Garden Citymarker A1000
Stevenagemarker, Waremarker A602 J7 Stevenagemarker, Waremarker A602
Hitchinmarker, Stevenagemarker A602marker J8 Stevenagemarker A602
Letchworthmarker, Baldockmarker A505marker J9 Letchworthmarker, Baldockmarker, Hitchinmarker A505
Stotfoldmarker, Henlowmarker A507 J10
Baldock services
Start of Motorway
Road continues as A1 to Sandymarker Stotfoldmarker, Henlowmarker A507
Non-motorway traffic

Alconbury to Peterborough

This section opened in 1998.


A1(M) Motorway
Northbound exits Junction Southbound exits
Alconbury B1043
Non-motorway traffic
J14 Road continues as A1 to Sandy
Start of Motorway Alconburymarker, Huntingdonmarker, Cambridgemarker, Felixstowemarker A14 (M11)
London THE CITYmarker and EAST
Sawtrymarker B1043 J15 Sawtry B1043
Yaxleymarker, Stiltonmarker A15 J16 Yaxley, Stilton A15
Peterborough A1139 J17
Peterborough services
Start of Motorway
Road continues as A1 to Newark Peterborough A1139
Non-motorway traffic

Doncaster bypass

This section opened in 1961 and is one of the oldest sections of motorway in Britain.


A1(M) Motorway
Northbound exits Junction Southbound exits
Bawtry A614
Blyth B6045
Non-motorway traffic

Blyth services
Road continues as A1 to Newark
Start of motorway Bawtrymarker A614
Blythmarker B6045
Sheffieldmarker, Rotherhammarker
Hull, Scunthorpemarker, Doncaster Robin Hood Airportmarker M18
J35 Sheffield, Rotherham
Hull, Scunthorpe, Robin Hood Airport M18
Doncaster, Doncaster Railport, Conisbroughmarker A630 J36 Doncaster, Doncaster Railport, Conisbrough A630
Barnsleymarker, Thurnscoemarker A635 J37 Barnsley, Thurnscoe A635
South Elmsall, Ackworth, Wakefield A638 J38 Start of Motorway
Road continues as A1 to Wetherby South Elmsallmarker, Ackworthmarker, Wakefieldmarker A638
Non-motorway traffic

Darrington to Dishforth

This section opened in sections:
  • Walshford to 49 opened in 1995
  • Junctions 43 to 44 opened in 1999
When this section opened it ended at a temporary terminus south of the M1. There was a final exit into Micklefield Village for non-motorway traffic onto what is now the access road. From opening in 1999 until 2009 junctions 43 & 44 were incorrectly numbered as junctions 44 & 45 and are shown as such in many road atlases.
  • Junction 46 to temporary junction at Walshford opened in 2005
  • Junction 40 to south of 43 opened in 2005 & 2006
The northern section of the upgrade, bypassing Fairburnmarker village opened to traffic in April 2005 with a temporary connection with the existing A1 between Fairburn and Brothertonmarker. The southern section, with a free-flow interchange with the M62 motorway opened to traffic on 13 January 2006.
  • Junctions 44 to 46 opened in 2009


A1(M) Motorway
Northbound exits Junction Southbound exits
Knottingleymarker A162
Non-motorway traffic
Ferrybridge services

J40 Road continues as A1 to Doncaster
Start of motorway No access
Hullmarker, Goolemarker, Manchestermarker, Pontefractmarker, Leeds M62 J41 Hull, Goole, Manchester, Pontefract, Leeds M62
Ferrybridge services
Leeds, Selbymarker A63 J42 Selby A63
No access J43 The SOUTH, Leeds M1
Leeds, York A64 J44 Leedsmarker, Yorkmarker A64
Wetherby, Boston Spa, Otley A659 J45 Tadcaster, Boston Spa, Otley A659
Kirk Deighton, Wetherby A168 J46
Wetherby services
Kirk Deightonmarker, Wetherby A168
Knaresborough, Harrogatemarker, Leeds Bradford International Airportmarker A59 J47 York, Knaresborough A59
Riponmarker, Boroughbridgemarker A168 J48 Boroughbridge A168
Knaresboroughmarker A6055
Thirsk, Teesside A168 (A19) J49 Start of Motorway
Road continues as A1 to Scotch Corner Thirskmarker, Teessidemarker A168 (A19)
Non-motorway traffic

Dishforth to Scotch Corner

Section to be upgraded to dual 3-lane motorway standard, work began in March 2009. It will include four new junctions:


A1(M) Motorway
Northbound exits Junction Southbound exits
Motorway to continue to/from J49
Riponmarker, Thirskmarker A61 J50
(under construction)
Ripon, Harrogate, Thirsk A61
Northallertonmarker, Leeming Barmarker, Bedalemarker A684 J51
(under construction)
Northallerton, Leeming Bar, Bedale A684
Richmondmarker, Citadilla, Catterick Garrisonmarker A6136 J52
(under construction)
Richmond, Citadilla, Catterick Garrison A6136
Penrithmarker, Broughmarker A66
Richmond A6108
Scotch Corner servicesmarker
(under construction)

Penrith, Brough A66
Richmond A6108
Motorway to continue to/from J56

Due to junction numbers further north being based on older rejected plans which included more planned junctions there will not be a Junction 54 or 55.

Scotch Corner to Gateshead

This section opened in stages:
  • Junctions 56 to 59 opened in 1965
  • Junctions 59 to 63 opened in 1969
  • Junctions 63 to 65 opened in 1970


Looking northwards at Washington Services as the A1(M) approaches Junction 65.
A1(M) Motorway
Northbound exits Junction Southbound exits
Melsonby, Barton B6275
Non-motorway traffic
J56 Road continues as A1 towards Wetherby
Start of Motorway Melsonbymarker, Bartonmarker B6275
Darlington, Stockton, Middlesbroughmarker A66 J57 No access
Shildonmarker, Bishop Auckland A68 J58 Darlington A68
Newton Aycliffe A167 J59 Newton Aycliffe, Darlington, Stocktonmarker A167
Newton Aycliffemarker, Hartlepoolmarker, Ferryhillmarker A689 J60 Newton Aycliffe, Hartlepool A689
Spennymoormarker A688
Durham A177
Durham services
Bishop Aucklandmarker, Spennymoor A688
Durham, Sunderlandmarker A690 J62 Durham A690
Chester-le-Streetmarker A167
Stanleymarker A693
J63 Chester-le-Street A167
Stanley A693
Washington A195 J64 Washington A195
Washington services
South Shieldsmarker, Tyne Tunnelmarker A194 J65 Start of Motorway
Road continues as A1 to Edinburgh Sunderlandmarker A1231marker
Non-motorway traffic

See also


  1. Roadlists
  2. Norman W. Webster (1974) The Great North Road
  3. Norman W. Webster (1974) The Great North Road: 15-16
  4. Norman W. Webster (1974) The Great North Road: 22-23
  5. Norman W. Webster (1974) The Great North Road: 56-7
  6. Norman W. Webster (1974) The Great North Road: 6-9
  7. .
  8. Highways Agency - A1 Elkesley Junctions Improvement

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