|Location Map ( geo)|
|Distance:||29.7 miles (47.8 km)|
|Meets:||A68, B6320, B6341, B6342, B6309, B6524, B6323, B6545, B6918, A1, A167|
|Old route now:||B6918, A167, A189|
|Route outline (key)|
To look at the map, it would appear that the A696 might have merited a more significant number. Coming down from the Scottish border at Carter Bar, the A68, which has been heading purposefully for Newcastle upon Tyne, suddenly turns off and makes for the rather less significant destination of Corbridge, eventually meeting the A1 at Darlington. The road to Newcastle, by far the larger destination, becomes the A696 at this "totso".
Even more odd at first glance is that the A1 between Edinburgh and Newcastle is twenty miles longer than the Carter Bar route. So why is this road tucked away at the end of the A600s, rather than being the A1 or the A68? Well, when the numbers were given out in 1922, this route over the Cheviots, with its steep hills and unpredictable weather would have been rather more daunting than the well-established coastal route via Berwick.
Elishaw - Newcastle-upon-Tyne
The A68 follows the Roman Dere Street fairly closely down Redesdale, and on to Hadrian's Wall at Corbridge, but the "totso" at which the A696 starts is the result of a short deviation from the Roman route, to allow the A68 to cross the River Rede. But we are going to Newcastle, so we don't "turn off to stay on" the A68. The A696 initially follows the river to Otterburn, where it leaves us to rejoin the A68. The A696 now climbs over the moors to over 1000 feet at Raylees Common, before descending more gently to meet the River Wansbeck at Kirkwhelpington – the A696 only passes the edge of the village.
Across more agricultural landscape, the A696 strikes generally southeastwards, with a few of the more extravagant kinks ironed out by improved sections, to reach Ponteland – the largest community we have encountered so far (not that there's much competition). As with Kirkwhelpington, the A696 only sees a small part of the town, although in this case we do see the original town centre.
On the far side of town we encounter the first roundabout on the route, at the junction with the B6545, a relatively new road giving direct access from the Darras Hall estate. Within the next half mile there are two more roundabouts - at the first, the A696 gains trunk status and becomes a dual carriageway – a status it retains for the rest of the way. The reason for this sudden increase in importance is revealed at the next roundabout, which is the junction for Newcastle Airport.
From the airport junction to the A1, the A696 follows an off-line upgrade, with a couple of grade-separated junctions. The original road through Woolsington is now the B6918. In between the two runs the Airport branch of the Tyne & Wear Metro, which uses the former Ponteland branch line, which closed in 1929. Commuters from Ponteland now have to drive to the Airport to catch the Metro.
The B6918 and A696 meet again at a large roundabout – ahead lies the A167 heading for the centre of Newcastle, (although it was once a continuation of the A696 which ended in the centre of town). Passing underneath the roundabout is the Newcastle Western bypass, the A1, which we could take either north to Edinburgh, or south to Darlington - either way will take us back to meet the A68 again. However, for the A696, that's all there is.
- The A696/A68 Trunk Road (Prestwick Road End to Carter Bar) (Detrunking) Order 2004 - Detrunking of a section of the road following the 1998 consultation A New Deal for Trunk Roads in England