I’m not a complete petrolhead, though back in the ’70s I cherished my Sunday supplement guide to cars almost as much as my Donny Osmond posters. No, what like about roads is how they tell a story.
Look at the numbering, A then M routes 1, 2, 3, 4 radiating out from London , the numbers getting downgraded as straighter, faster routes take over.
In Scotland so many roads stop at a seeming dead end. But it wasn’t always so. If you look more closely you’ll notice that many of these road ends are watery. Because before cars became dominant, boats ruled. Settlements which are isolated today once enjoyed daily steamers from Glasgow.
If you know how to look you can trace the path of cattle from their Highland crofts, across land and sea (sometimes they swam), down to the market at Falkirk. Known as Drove Roads, they existed everywhere there were farms, their memory remaining long after the farmers who walked them. My uncles, two generations removed from the land, would suggest a walk along the “old drove road” though they earned their livings driving trucks and digging coal.
Not too far from here there’s a very famous scenic cattle route, though not itself a drove road Bealach na Ba*, it doesn’t lead to the markets but was the route for moving cattle between grazings.
I love a road with a name, Rathad nan Eilean**, the Great North Road, L’Autoroute de Soleil, and new ones like the 500 North Coast.
It’s back to those stories, the great road trip. Ok, it may more often be nose to tail and fumes. But I can dream, imagine the story, from that car, bus, truck; wonder what’s around that corner or over that hill? Get excited about that glimpse of the sea in the distance.
Roads. Sometimes I’m travelling along them.
Sometimes I arrive.
Roads you may like: