|Distance:||94.3 miles (151.8 km)|
|Meets:||M6, A1, A8, A900, A68, A6091, A689, A595, A69, A6|
|Route outline (key)|
Route of the A7
EdinburghM6 J44 into Carlisle town centre. While stretches of the A5 through North Wales, and the A6 in Derbyshire may rival it for lack of upgrading, the A7 is largely untouched for most of its length. There isn't even the excuse of a parallel motorway to explain the lack of investment in this road (there's no M7), as the alternative routes south of Edinburgh (A702, A68 and A1) all still need a lot of work done.
So rant over (!), on with the description... The A7 is non-primary and non-trunk to Galashiels (although the green signs still exist in Midlothian between the A720 and the boundary with the Borders), and primary trunk from Galashiels to the English/Scottish border, and then primary non-trunk to Carlisle. The section from the Scottish Border to Carlisle was detrunked in 2005/6 following the review of trunk roads (see: A New Deal for Trunk Roads in England for further information).
The A7 starts in Edinburgh at the famous (in SABRE circles at least) A1/A7/A8/A900 junction at the east end of Princes Street. It heads south of the the impressive North Bridge crossing the Royal Mile, passing through Edinburgh's Old Town and crossing the Cowgate as the built-up South Bridge. As it continues south past the original site of Edinburgh University, the Festival Theatre, and the cafe where the Harry Potter books were supposedly written, it has a number of names, including Nicolson Street and Clerk Street. At a traffic light-cross roads (A7/A700/A701), the A7 turns sharp left onto East Preston Street.
The A7 therefore takes a right at more traffic lights onto Dalkeith Road, and heads SE again, past the A6095 roundabout at Cameron Toll, and out past the new Edinburgh Infirmary to meet the A6106, A68 and A720 City Bypass at the traffic light controlled Sheriffhall roundabout. Here, one of the three(!) modern A7 bypasses starts. The mainly single lane (short three lane stretch northbound) Eskbank bypass has four further roundabouts, crossing the B6392/A772 (old A7), A768, A6094 and B6392 again, before narrowing and bending sharply right then left, past the B6482 turn off to Easthouses, and under the old Edinburgh- Carlisle railway viaduct. The A7 is now a standard semi-urban two lane road, passing through Newtongrange and crossing the B704 at traffic lights.
Newtongrange to Hawick
Out of industrial Midlothian now, the A7 gradually ascends past Gorebridge, bypassing North Middleton by modern bypass #2, and up to the flat and windwept Middleton Moor. Side roads lead to Innerleithen (B7007) and Pathhead (B6367) before the A7 leaves Lothian and enters the Borders. For the next 20 miles or so the road twists its way down the valley of the Gala Water, past Heriot, Fountainhall (one decent straight bit for overtaking), to Stow. Before this stretch of the A7 lost trunk status, there were elaborate plans to build a dual carriageway along the trackbed of the old railway; more recently there's been a campaign to rebuild and reopen the railway between Gala and Edinburgh. More major bends before the A7 reaches Galashiels (33 miles from Edinburgh, but 1h 20 minutes on the bus!). At a 'give way' sign, the A7 becomes the Galashiels ring road (one way system) -- heading south the road has been rebuilt avoiding the town centre while the northbound half uses town centre streets, meeting the A72 at traffic lights.
Our road now heads SE out of Gala to meet the newish (c1976) alignment of the A6091 trunk road from Melrose and the A68 at a roundabout. The A7 is now primary trunk, and heads south along another twisty section before a 70s vintage realignment crosses the River Tweed and takes the A7 to Selkirk. Selkirk is built on the side of a hill, so the A7 climbs and winds slowly up through the centre of the town, with a turn off for the A707 and A708 to Moffat, and at the top of the hill on the edge of the town the A699 heads east to St Boswells and Kelso.
The A7 between Selkirk and Hawick, the largest of the Border towns, is actually not too bad, with plenty of overtaking on the realigned stretches. Here the road crosses open farmland before descending to Teviotdale and Hawick (originally Hawick never appeared on A7 direction signs—it was the Carlisle - Galashiels - Edinburgh road, but the town allegedly didn't appreciate being missed off in favour of Gala, so all A7 signs now include Hawick). At a roundabout where the A698 now heads off to Jedburgh and Kelso, a recent rerouting has the A7 now avoiding the town centre along a designated road to the west, but the decrease in journey time is probably minimal. The road is mostly S2 because south of Selkirk it isn't heavily used and Carlisle- Edinburgh traffic is encouraged to use the M6/M74. There was talk of dualling in the early 90s, but it came to nothing as the money would have been better spent elsewhere.
Hawick to Carlisle
South of Hawick, again the road follows a fairly narrow valley, and is a mixture of bends and the odd realigned straight. As the hills close in at Teviothead, and a few miles further on the road crosses the E-W watershed at the lonely hotel at Mosspaul, and enters Dumfriesshire. Descending towards Langholm, again the road is a mix of short realigned stretches (including a piece of three lane) and twisty road with a couple of bad bends.
Langholm is a real bottleneck—to the north and south the A7 crosses the river by traffic light controlled bridges while in the centre of town is a stretch of road which is only wide enough for one lane of traffic. At Langholm the B7068 (ex A709) heads W to Lockerbie, and the B709, which left the A7 at Heriot 56 miles back, almost but not quite rejoins the A7. Another length of B road is also nearby - the B6318 to Heddon-on-the-Wall. South of Langholm the A7 meets the B6318 now at traffic lights, and turns sharply across the Esk bridge (having previously crossed the North Esk and South Esk back in Midlothian).
The A7 used to wind its way through woodland, but this was bypassed in 2009 with a decent stretch of S2, before meeting the 4th and final A7 bypass, avoiding Canonbie. The old A7 through Canonbie was briefly the B720, but the section north of the village was closed to all traffic following a landslip, so the southern part of the old A7 is now the B7201. The Canonbie bypass stops just short of the Scotland/England border (which must be impressive for anyone heading north for the first time on the A7 - enter Scotland and immediately hit some lovely new road).
Continuing south, the A7 passes through Longtown, with turnings off for the A6071 (W - Gretna, and E - Brampton and Carlisle Airport). The countryside is now very flat here, and so the road is a little straighter, as it eventually reaches junction 44 of the M6, and the end of the A689. It was also the former end of the A74
South, the A7 heads into Carlisle, briefly dual carriageway but mainly single lane, until the B6264 joins from the left at which the road becomes multi-lane. Crossing the River Eden, the A595 from West Cumbria meets the A7 at a large traffic light controlled roundabout, and then carries on as a dual carriageway known as Georgian Way to a point where it meets the A69. Here the A7 becomes part of Carlisle's one way system with the southbound A7 becoming Spencer Street then at a TOTSO junction it runs along the westernmost part of Warwick Road (formerly A69) then at another TOTSO becomes The Crescent and here it meets the A6 opposite Carlisle's Citadel Railway Station. The northbound A7 runs along English Street (part), Devonshire Street, Lowther Street (part) and part of Victoria Place before joining up with the southbound traffic on Georgian Way.
When road numbers were first being allocated, there were a number of options for the route of the A7, one of which was to act as a border route and leave the 6 zone more or less exclusively to England. The draft route diverged at Hawick and ran along what's now the A698 to meet the A1 at Berwick-upon-Tweed, and appeared on early Bartholomew maps. There was some debate over what number the Hawick - Edinburgh road should have, with one option being the somewhat confusing "A7a". Eventually, it was decided to keep the single digit roads in Scotland running outwards from Edinburgh, giving the A7 its recognised route.
The current route in Edinburgh is the former route of the A68. Originally the A7 continued straight on along Minto Street and eventually out of Edinburgh on Gilmerton Road; since the Eskbank bypass was opened, this is now the A701/A772 and the A7 now follows what was the A68.