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The Great North Road is Britain's Route 66 - we've just forgotten how to sing its praises
For hundreds of years kings, queens, soldiers, rebels, mail coaches and highwaymen used the Great North Road to get from A to B. But in 1921, Britain’s most illustrious highway ceased to exist – on paper at least. The Ministry of Transport decided that roads needed numbers, not names. The A1 was born.
A hundred years later, journalist and cyclist Steve Silk sets off on an adventure to follow this iconic 400-mile route, searching for the stories along the most romantic and historic road in the United Kingdom.
Steve isn’t your average Middle-Aged Man in Lycra. Firstly, he’s no sportsman, and secondly, he’s much keener on coffee shops and museums than gear ratios and miles per hour. Instead of the familiar service stations and tourist hotspots, Steve takes readers on a tour of the forgotten treasures of this ancient highway. Seen from the slow pace of the saddle rather than a car seat, the towns and countryside of England and Scotland reveal traces of Britain’s remarkable past and glimpses of its future.
A tribute to Britain and the endless appeal of the open road, The Great North Road is enriched with history, humour and insight. With lockdown restrictions easing and many people choosing to holiday in the UK this year, this is the perfect gift for armchair explorers, those with a love for the British countryside, homegrown adventure, and local history – as well as avid cyclists.
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.
|Publication date:||8th July 2021|
'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
'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
Steve Silk is a journalist working for BBC Look East in Norwich. Before attempting his adventure along the Great North Road, he’d only really cycled around the lanes of Norfolk. Over the course of 11 days, he broke most of the rules of cycle touring, but still managed to get there in one piece, proving that if he can do it, almost anybody can! He is also the author of two previous books, The Wherryman's Way and Hidden Riverside Norwich, which saw him explore the Norfolk Broads on foot and by canoe. The Wherryman's Way won the East Anglian ...More About Steve Silk