Anne Ward is the mastermind behind the remarkable Nothing to See Here blog and now the author of a Nothing to See Here book, subtitled A Guide to the Hidden Joys of Scotland. On this jaunt she takes us down a pair of roads that just don’t add up.
The B7076/B7078 is literally the road less travelled. Starting at Gretna near the Scottish-English border, the B7076 runs north before the B7078 takes over, carrying on to Lesmahagow 23 miles south of Glasgow. Or the other way round if you’re heading south. We often take this route from Glasgow down to Dumfries & Galloway. There are definitely more scenic roads in the UK, but this is my favourite.
There’s something about it that doesn’t quite add up. It’s very spacious for a B-road, with dual carriageway in parts and generous verges. Traffic thunders up and down the M74 which runs alongside, but this is usually empty. It feels like discovering a secret passageway in the British highway system. It has the feel of another country like America or Australia – somewhere that has great open roads but hardly any traffic.
Like Miss Haversham, it has an air of faded grandeur. This is what happens when roads themselves get overtaken. Until the 1990s this was the A74 which was the main route between Scotland and England. Thousands of vehicles thundered up and down this every day until it all got too much and the 6-lane behemoth, the M74 was built. I thought road classification had something to do with size as B-roads are usually little things, but in this case it just means no one cares anymore. It had been superceded and is now demoted, put down a peg or two thanks to its shiny new neighbour.
Once you know this it’s easy to spot signs of its glorious past life. The road is strewn with strange stunted slip roads that go nowhere. If you look fast enough you can catch glimpses of ghostly road markings, now overgrown. The odd stretches of dual carriageway are particularly out of place. Some of it is still in use but other stretches have been halved with one carriageway turned into the rather generous route 74 cycle path.
There isn’t a polite word to describe the road surface. The word “patina” spring to mind. I feel a bit sorry for it, if you can feel sorry for a road. Like so many things in Britain, it did its job but got left to rot when it could no longer keep up with demand. It’s an odd thing, a relic of a past era, a bit like the ghosts of the pre-Beeching railways. On a practical level, bumps and potholes aside, it’s a pleasure to drive along this open road enjoying the Scottish countryside. It’s spacious and quick and there’s often an excellent view of the traffic jams on the M74.
How to get there
The B7076 starts at Gretna in Dumfries & Galloway (Junction 22 of the A74(M)) and runs to Elvanfoot in South Lanarkshire. The B7078 starts at Junction 13 of the M74 and carries on to Lesmahagow. There are numerous interchanges with the M74 along the way and the roundabouts sometimes spit you back out on to the motorway. Be determined and get back on the B-roads at the next opportunity.