|Location Map ( geo)
|71.6 miles (115.2 km)
|A780, A75, B7020, B7076, A74(M), A708, B719, B712, B7016, A72, B7059, A703, A6094, B6372, A766, B7026, B7003, A703, A768, A720, B701, A772, A7, A700
|A708, A74, A752, A6094, A7
|Old route now:
|Route outline (key)
The A701 was at one time the major route between Dumfries and Edinburgh, but has now been largely downgraded on its northern section in favour of the A702, and to a lesser extent the M74 / A74(M) Motorway; the southern section heading north out of Dumfries is still trunk, however.
Dumfries – Beattock
The first 20 miles of the route form the primary link between Dumfries and the A74(M) for northbound Glasgow / Edinburgh bound traffic and is generally speaking a high quality single carriageway, although there are notable exceptions. One of the interesting things about this road is that despite the multitude of modifications that have taken place to it over the last 30 years it still retains a lot of its older features like milestones and attractive stone bridges (although some have been bypassed). The route passes largely through attractive rural countryside with no intermediate settlements of any significance. It rises and falls gently along its entire route and the wide vista is crowned with a view of the Southern Uplands.
The A701 now begins at a traffic-light junction on the norther edge of the town centre, where the A780 turns off down Loreburn Street opposite the Dumfries Academy. Edinburgh Road as it is called is one of the most attractive routes out of Dumfries, passing a lot of substantial (and expensive) town-houses, although the route is soon on the river bank. The A701 which is not primary at this point, curves away from the river, around a tight right hand bend before it passes over the Dumfries/Glasgow railway. The route then curves to the north as it passes through a mini roundabout at Moffat Road. This intersection is notorious for being the site of many near collisions as the roundabout has very limited visibility and even when waiting at the lines it is hard to be certain that your way is clear. The tree lined Edinburgh road then passes Marchfields, which is composed of an attractive old house surrounded by modern developments, and continues to a roundabout on the A75 Dumfries bypass. This roundabout is a large but simple affair and it is at this point the the A701 becomes primary.
Although now out of Dumfries proper, the route remains urban as it works its way north east through the villages (suburbs?) of Heathhall and Locharbriggs, which have large industrial areas on their eastern side. There are surprisingly few road-fronting properties as the route passes through the Tinwald Downs Roundabout on its way north, and as the road itself is wide, the speed limits seem low. There are some interesting sights though like the now derelict Gates Rubber Factory plant (former Arroll Johnstone Car plant: the first concrete framed building in Britain) and the Curries Lorry Depot, with Curries being one of the biggest hauliers in Scotland. This stretch of the road is also littered with traffic calming features like bollards, slaloms, hatching down the middle and traffic islands, as well as a plethora of traffic lights, all making for a slow exit from the town as it stretches out for over 1.5 miles.
Eventually, however, the urban area comes to an end and the enjoyable drive north begins. The first few miles are very narrow and twisty (for a primary A road). Quarries lie behind the trees to the left, but otherwise the road passes through fields. Once past the tight left-handed bend at Amisfield, the road opens up considerably, with long straights linked by sweeping bends. The road has been improved considerably along this stretch, with many loops cut out and wide verges constructed. One such loop, now a layby, crosses the former Dumfries–Lockerbie railway, although the bridges have been removed and the cutting largely filled in. After climbing up to a summit of around 124m, the route dips down into the Ae valley on a very wide and open stretch of road. It is possible it was intended as a dual carriageway – many maps still show this section to be dualled. At the bottom, the river is crossed on a new bridge a little downstream from the attractive old Water of Ae bridge which is now gated and primarily used by local farmers to store hay.
As the road begins the climb out of the valley, it passes through the hamlet of Parkgate and the entrance to the Barony Agricultural College before squeezing between the buildings of Wester Parkgate as it continues north east. This area is also where the Scotland–Ireland gas pipelines are routed through, which explains the narrow band of newly replanted hedges. The next few miles are on the original road alignment but the road, although quite narrow, has good visibility and there is some pleasant scenery. However, this section does have the tendency to have long undulating straights followed by sharp kinks or bends. The character of the landscape has changed considerably now as it runs well above the 100m contour, dipping occasionally as it crosses streams. The open fields have given way to a landscape with a lot more coniferous plantations, although interspersed with older broad-leaf forests.
Sitting within a larger block of forestry which straddles the road is the traffic light controlled St Anns Bridge over the Kinnel Water. The bridge is very decorative but is narrow and not really suitable for the traffic flows of a modern A Class road. In addition the bridge has a strange curve onto it which means that while crossing, traffic is facing south even though it is heading north. Once across the bridge, the road continues to gently climb, passing in and out of the trees as it follows a slightly sinuous straight up to a summit of 184m. Along the way, felling has removed some of the trees, improving the views immensely. It is interesting to note that these forests were considered as a possible location for a holiday village (Center Parcs), and indeed planning permission was requested but nothing happened. Once out of the forests the route drops down into Annandale, in which the most obvious features are the British Gas pumping station and the A74(M) motorway. Beyond these is the first clear view of the the Southern Upland hills which now crowd around to the north, and are often shrouded in mist and rain.
Towards the bottom of the hill, the B7020 comes in from the right from Lochmaben, and soon after the B7076 (former A74) also comes in from the right from Lockerbie. This section of the road has generally been improved to provide better access to the gas pumping station. It is also interesting to note that these are the first classified roads to meet the A701 since the A75 Dumfries bypass, 15 miles to the south. Between the two junctions, the route sweeps onto the Beattock bypass, the old road continuing ahead into the village. This road is now an unclassified southern entrance to the village where it meets the old (pre-bypass) alignment of the A74 in the centre, where there are still a fingerpost and a pre-Worboys sign at the junction. The new alignment of the A701 soon finds the southbound carriageway of the ex-A74 (Beattock's first bypass), while the northbound carriageway has become a cycle route. Prior to the upgrading of the A74 to a motorway there used to be a simple grade-separated junction with the A701 utilising an underpass. This explains the steep slope that has been climbed to get to the height of the A74's embankment. About a hundred yards to the right, Beattock's second bypass, the A74(M) runs alongside.
A further mile along the A701 curves to the left, crossing the Evan Water on Beattock Bridge to meet Junction 15 of the motorway at a 5-limb roundabout. To the left is the old Telford Inn (still operating behind an abandoned bridge of the old A74) and the now-unclassified road back to Beattock, then comes the B7076 northbound, then the A74(M) on and off slips, and finally the A701 continues towards Moffat under the motorway, although it will lose its primary status at the second roundabout of Junction 15, where the southbound slips are accessed.
Beattock - Kaimrig End
East of the motorway, the A701 still has over 50 miles to go before reaching Edinburgh. This is generally a quieter and more attractive route to the city than the signposted A702 further north; the relative narrowness and twistiness discourages heavy vehicles, though there is no specific restriction. The only place of any size for most of the distance is Moffat, which is soon reached. A short, improved straight leads to a sweeping right hander and then the route winds down to the Annan Bridge over the River Annan. Parkland lines the river bank, with a large car park, while the A701 follows Church Gate into the town centre. Moffat is a spa and holiday town, notable for the grave of John Loudon Macadam of road-surfacing fame in the old cemetery, and a wide High Street Market Place which is lined with some stunning old buildings. The High Street is so wide it consists of two S2 roads running down either side with ample room for transverse bus parking between. At the southern end of the square, the A708 for Selkirk heads off to the right.
Moffat Town centre is well worth a pause, but the A701 continues north onto Academy Street and soon comes to a roundabout where an unclassified road continues ahead on the level of the River Annan to follow it for most of the way to the source. The A701, meanwhile bears left and re-crosses the river at New Bridge on its way out of the town and starts a long winding climb into the hills. The initial climb away from the Annan is steady as it passes through fields and patches of woodland. After a couple of miles, it finds the last junction with a classified road for a long way, where the B719 for Greenhillstairs and the B7076 (ex-A74) north of Moffat forks off to the left. Shortly after the junction, a sharp right hand curve crosses the Holehouse Linn, known for the connection with a gruesome murder in 1935, when Dr Buck Ruxton of Lancaster killed his wife and nursemaid, then cut up their bodies and placed parts of them under this bridge and the rest at other spots in the area.
The road then climbs along the flank of a hillside with forestry above and rough grazings below, dropping down to the upper waters of the south-flowing Annan. Apart from a couple of dips across small burns, the road continues to climb until the natural, and spectacular amphitheatre of the Devil's Beef Tub comes into view ahead. This is the source of the Annan, and there are a series of narrow laybys offering photo opportunities. After winding around 3 sides of Ericstane Hill and then the western end of the Devil's Beef Tub, the route plunges into forestry, large swathes of which have been felled in recent years. After crossing a shoulder, which is a watershed, at Annanhead Moss, the road curves around Flecket Hill, reaching a summit of 412m. For southbound travellers, this is quite a dramatic transformation, as the road emerges from the trees and swings gently right giving a vertiginous view down into the Devil's Beef Tub, quite a shock if you are not expecting it. Heading north, the route dips down to cross another watershed, this time the British watershed meaning that for the rest of the journey the water flow is ultimately eastward.
As the road emerges from the trees, it crosses the border between the historic counties of Dumfriesshire and Peeblesshire immediately east of their border with Lanarkshire, then the source of the River Tweed is signed on the right, with a number of tiny streams converging below Tweedshaws. Initially an imperceptible stream in the moorland, the Tweed soon emerges as a recognisable river, which is followed for many miles. Just beyond Tweedshaws, the road plunges back into the forestry, most of which has been felled and replanted. The descent is long and gently, with the road meandering gently before crossing the small Smid Hope Burn, and following it back to the Tweed. Now back in the widening valley, the road winds in and out of the trees, with some spectacular views ahead and behind. There are a scattering of farms on either side of the valley, often hidden in the trees or lying across private bridges on the far side of the Tweed.
The only settlement in many miles is the tiny village of Tweedsmuir, which is strung along the valley floor for about a mile. An unclassified road to the right climbs up to the Talla Reservoir, and was extended when the more recent Megget Reservoir was built, now providing a spectacularly hilly route to the A708 at St Mary's Loch. As the A701 continues generally northeastwards a level embankment can be seen at intervals on either side of the road, marking a long-closed railway used for the Talla construction. A bit north of Tweedsmuir is the Crook Inn, dating from 1604 and supposedly Scotland's oldest licensed coaching hostelry, in which the railway proprietor had a financial interest. Events at the Crook on Friday nights during that period, after the wages had been paid out, can be imagined. It was said that the workers were paid their wages on a Friday and, by Monday, most of the money had come back to the railway company.
With the A701 following the Tweed downstream, it is slowly losing height, but this is disguised by many gentle ups and downs. As the river winds back and forth across the valley floor, it occasionally squeezes the road onto a narrow shelf cut into the hillside, while at other points the road is enjoying a much easier course through the fields. A few miles beyond Tweedsmuir, the river bears right towards Peebles deep in the uplands to the east, but the character of the road changes little. A slight climb takes it through a shallow pass below Rachan Hill, on the far side of which the B712 turns off to the right, cutting the corner to join the A72 west of Peebles. The small Holms Water is then crossed at Rachan Mill, and soon after the village of Broughton is reached, strung along the roadside either side of the Buggar Water. Two left turns lead west to Biggar, the second being the B7016, which nearly crosses Lanarkshire to reach Forth.
Broughton sits in a wide valley at about 200m above sea level, but soon the road is climbing again, as it follows the little Broughton Burn upstream, crossing it at the edge of the village. The burn is winding through the field beside the road as it climbs gently through the fields and onto the moorland above. A block of forestry sits near the summit at 268m, and then the road descends once more. Half a mile or so later, Kaimrig End is reached. This is a TOTSO junction with the A72 angling in on the left from Biggar, the A701 having priority. The two routes then multiplex north for 3 miles, the A72 number being dominant.
Blyth Bridge - Edinburgh
The A721 from Carnwath comes in from the left just before the village of Blyth Bridge, where the multiplex ends. Again, the A72 turns off, to make a second TOTSO, as it continues east to Peebles. The junction is a triangle junction, with the two arms climbing steeply alongside the A701 before turning to meet at the top of the steep bank. The A701 continues northeastwards, passing through the small village which mostly lies off to the left, and on to the strangely-named settlement of Mountain Cross (the hills here are nothing like mountains, nor is there an obvious cross or crossing) before coming to another small village, Romannobridge. It takes its name from Romanno Bridge which carries the road over the Lyne Water at the southern end of the village. Just beyond the bridge, the B7059 cuts back to the right, heading for the A72 for Peebles, and the two routes then multiplex to the north through the village. There are extensive ancient cultivation terraces on the hill to the right, best seen by the light of the setting sun.
The village is scarttered along the roadside at the foot of the Cloich Hills for about a mile, and at the far end the B7059 turns off to the left, heading for West Linton and the A702. There is now a long gentle climb into a shallow pass with a summit of 293m, followed by a slight descent to Leadburn at the Midlothian boundary. The road has some long straights, but undulates and isn't particularly wide as it passes through farmland scattered with houses and patches of woodland. At Leadburn, the A701 TOTSOs to the left at a skewed crossroads to head north, the A6094 continuing the northeasterly line straight ahead and the A703 south for Peebles being sharp right. There have been plans to remodel this junction, as the present layout gives very poor sighting for some movements. The A703 now multiplexes with the A701 for several miles as they head north over surprisingly level ground, with a noticeable dip to cross the narrow valley of the Black Burn at Halls Bridge.
After a short climb, the road becomes windier as it falls into the valley of the River North Esk, curving back into the Lead Burn valley as it descends through the trees on Peebles Road. At the bottom of the hill, the B6372 turns right for Gorebridge just before the bridge over the river. The two routes then enjoy a brief multiplex climbing Bridge Street into Penicuik town centre. The B6372 leaves again to the left for the A766 west of the town centre, while the A701 turns right and takes the long way around the pedestrianised part of John Street. After passing the Town Hall on the High Street, the route curves between a car park and supermarket, with a roundabout at the entrance, before curving back onto the northern part of John Street. Penicuik's main industry used to be paper manufacture, the first mill opening in 1709, but this has now ended and the town is basically a dormitory for Edinburgh, whose city centre is only 9 miles away. The old town centre has suffered from the opening of a large retail park between here and the city. There are a few shops along the left hand side of John Street at first, facing onto some fine old stone houses, but slowly there peter out, replaced by more modern housing.
After passing some parkland, the A766 turns left to cut across to the A702 southwest of the town. The A701 then follows Edinburgh Road through the suburbs and past a large supermarket. A small burn is crossed in a bank of woodland, after which school playing fields and parkland line the roadside, with the housing estates set back further from the road. After passing a large barracks on the way out of Penicuik, there are a cluster of roadside houses by the golf course at Milton Bridge. A handful of fields then sit either side of the road as it meets the B7026 as it comes in on the right from Auchendinny at a rare bit of D2. There is notional green belt between Penicuik and Edinburgh, but not of much scenic value. The coal mining which used to proliferate here has left its mark on the terrain, and very few fields survive. The A701 then, very noticeably, swings off line to meet the B7003 at the oversized Gowkley Moss Roundabout. The size and positioning suggest a bigger, unfulfilled plan, but details have yet to be found.
Half a mile further on, as the A701 reclaims its original line, the A703 (which has been multiplexing with the A701 since Leadburn) forks left for the A702 at Hillend. The junction is signalised, the A703 often congested. Half a mile further on and the B7006 is proivided with a small roundabout as it turns right for Roslin, home of the 15th century Rosslyn Chapel, and ultimately the B7003 again. The A701 is now passing Bilston, a sort of detached suburb which has a core of interwar houses and large new estates being built around it. At the next signals, the A768 turns right for Loanhead, with a large industrial estate, and before long the Straiton Retail Park is reached. Two signalised junctions are followed by a roundabout, giving access to the southern stores, then the route becomes a dual carriageway with two more signalised junctions giving access to the park and ride and the main retail park site.
This is by far the busiest section of the A701, with large volumes of traffic between the retail park, industrial estates and the Edinburgh City Bypass, which is the very next junction. This is Straiton Junction,an unusual GSJ, originally a Dumbbell Interchange, the southern roundabout having been turned into a teardrop with the inside circulation lane closed, forcing traffic to use the northern roundabout - although admittedly there is very little traffic wishing to make this manoeuvre. In addition to the slip roads for the A720, the B702 also meets the A701 at the southern roundabout.
Once across the bypass, the A701 drops down the hill on the dualled Burdiehouse Road, the few fields that could be seen from the road now largely developed. The dual carriageway has been largely reduced to D1 with bus lanes, which continue to the light-controlled crossing of the B701. Beyond this, the A701 passes through typical suburbs of villas and bungalows shading into tenements, marking the city's growth outwards over time. Howden Hall Road remains wide, was probably originally S4, but again bus lanes have reduced this. The centre of the road is mostly hatched, providing room for numerous narrow right-turning lanes, while a whole series of pedestrian crossings are passed. The busier junctions are all signalised, and as the route curves through Liberton as Liberton Gardens it becomes a little greener with first St Katherines Park and then Liberton Cemetery alongside the road.
The A701 then descends Liberton Brae to the long, wide signalised junction with Kirk Brae, which comes in from the right at a sharp fork. A short distance to the north, another minor road, Mayfield Road, also leaves at a fork, creating an 'X' shape, with an extended central stem, which is all treated as a single junction. The A701 continues north along Liberton Road and soon meets the A772. This route comes in from the right at a sharp fork, and used to be the A7, which marked the original end of the A701. After a short run through the trees, the A701 then reaches a busy signalised crossroads providing access to the Cameron Toll Shopping Centre. This takes its name from Cameron Toll, and historic junction a short distance to the east on the current route of the A7. Now following Craigmillar Park, the route continues north, passing some fine villas before the route becomes more urban after crossing the railway.
Mayfield Gardens becomes Minto Street, then Newington Road with shops along both sides, and large leafy suburbs hidden behind. Numerous sets of lights have been negotiated, whether for junctions or crossings, but then next is the end of the A701. To the right is East Preston Street (A7 for Dalkeith), straight ahead is South Clerk Street (A7 for the east end of Princes Street), while left is West Preston Street (A700 for the west end of Princes Street).
The A701 originally ran between Peebles and Edinburgh, but was diverted and extended to Dumfries in 1935. There have been many minor improvmenets to the route over the years, but surprisingly few substantial upgrades have been carried out, and of those that have, some have been related to works on other routes.