The A697, nearly 70 miles from end to end, provides an attractive partial alternative to the A1 and A68 between north east England and south east Scotland. It is largely rural, passing through only a handful of villages and small towns, and though not traversing any really high ground, the undulating nature of the terrain gives many attractive distant views. The road lies in the historic counties of Northumberland (nearly 45 miles, running generally NNW) and Berwickshire (nearly 25, generally WNW). Only three other A roads are met between the end points (plus a fourth whilst the road is the junior partner in a multiplex), though many B roads.
Section 1: Morpeth – Wooler
Leaving the A1 at a diverging GSJ 2 miles from Morpeth, the large village of Longhorsley is reached in 5 miles, then the tiny one of Weldon in another couple, where the B6344 for Rothbury leaves at a GSJ despite the fact that both roads are S2; the A697 is on a bridge crossing the River Coquet at this point which may explain this. Another large village, Longframlington, is reached shortly, with the B6345 on the right for Amble on the coast. The road now enters the relatively high ground of Rothbury Forest, the only significant tree cover coming from modern forestry plantations, before reaching the B6341 crossroads, Rothbury to the left and Alnwick to the right.
In another 10 scenic miles there is a junction with the B6346 on the right, again for Alnwick, and then in rather fewer we come to Wooler. Here in quick succession the B6348 and B6525 are on the right, for Belford to the east and Berwick due north respectively. Wooler is an attractive town known for centuries for its livestock market. Its centre is off to the left but the A697 has always had its current route.
Section 2: Wooler – Coldstream
Shortly after Wooler is the village of Akeld where the B6351 leaves on the left for Kelso via the northern edge of the Cheviots. We remain low, then after a few miles we pass through the one-street village of Milfield. In another few miles the B6352 is on the left, again for Kelso, followed immediately on the right by the B6354 for Berwick and then the B6353 crossing it on a more easterly course to the A1 just south of the road over the tidal causeway to Holy Island. Our road now turns almost due west and reaches its last place in England, Cornhill-on-Tweed. Here the A698 from Berwick joins on the right at a roundabout and multiplexes with us for the next 3 miles. Surprisingly, the A698 is the dominant number despite the fact that that road is non-primary elsewhere. Almost immediately the B6350 for Kelso is to the left, then shortly a bridge over the River Tweed leads into Coldstream and Scotland.
Section 3: Coldstream – Oxton
Just into the town the A6112 for Duns bends back sharply to the right, then we pass along the High Street and close to the Market Square, where General George Monck raised the eponymous Guards in 1659. In a couple of miles the A698 leaves on the left at a TOTSO for Kelso. Our road regains its number by turning to the north to leave the valley of the Tweed. In a few miles we come to Orange Lane, where the B6461 makes a staggered left-then-right crossing, south west for Kelso and north east for Berwick, then fall into the valley of the Blackadder Water, where we meet the B6460 on the right for Berwick, then turn west and run into Greenlaw. This used to be the county town of Berwickshire before being replaced by Duns. The Town House which was the county building is still here, but in need of restoration. We see it where the A6105 for Duns joins on the right - this road multiplexes with ours for a few hundred yards before turning off to the left for Earlston.
There is now a largely straight stretch of 7 miles until the B6456 for Westruther angles sharply back on the right and then the A6089 for Kelso similarly to the left, at the village of Whiteburn. We now enter Lauderdale and run parallel to the A68 as it goes through Lauder, the A697 keeping to the east of the town. The two roads are linked by the B6362 (the original route of the A697, downgraded in the 1980s) on the left. After World War II, the current route (formerly the B6473) also became the A697. It runs past the grounds of Thirlestane Castle to the west and in a few miles comes to its end at a roundabout at Carfraemill on the A68 near the village of Oxton.