The speed limit at Scotch Corner has been lifted as the roadworks, six months late, have come to an end. Hurrah! Once again, we can whizz past this major landmark without even noticing it exists. Yet, it has been there on our maps and satnavs for at least 2,000 years…


SCOTCH CORNER is where the Roman road of Dere Street, which crossed the River Tees at Piercebridge, meets another Roman road (name unknown) which headed west to Bowes and Stainmore. Today, of course, the A1(M) meets the A66 at Scotch Corner.

The recent roadworks have enabled archaeologists to discover a surprisingly early and large Roman camp on the south-west side of Scotch Corner. It is from the 1st Century, pre-dating Roman York and Carlisle by ten years, and it covers the equivalent of 13 football pitches.

Artefacts found include a figurine made of amber. It appears to be a toga-clad actor. A similar one was found at Pompeii.

Coin moulds were also found, suggesting this was the most northern mint in Europe.

The finds suggest that there was a lot of high quality activity at Scotch Corner.

Perhaps they tie in with the local legend of the Battle of Scotch Corner, which is said to have been fought around AD71 between the Romans and the Brigantes tribe which dominated the region from its earthworks at Stanwick St John.

Some versions of the legend say the “battle” was bloodless and ended quite amicably with the two sides agreeing to rub along together; other versions say that it was so bloody that the Brigantes leader, Venutius, was slain. Either way, the Romans gained control and marched north to tackle the Scots. The importance of Scotch Corner faded as they focussed on their wall, but it looks to have been the Romans who established the corner as a stopping point. Their tradition is continued to this day by the hotel and motel.


WITH plenty of travellers in carriages and on horseback in centuries gone by, there were opportunities for sellers of roadside refreshments to make a living. Old maps show that between Catterick and Scotch Corner, there were hostelries called the Black Bull Inn, the Blue Anchor and the Crown and Anchor.

The hostelry at Scotch Corner was called The Three Tuns. It was probably to the east of the current hotel, on the edge of Middleton Tyas.

As well as refreshing human travellers, the inn looked after the animals which were driven vast distances to market. The smithy in the inn yard is said to have been the last in the north to fit iron shoes to cattle – just like a horseshoe, it was to protect their feet.

In the same yard, the feet of geese were coated in tar and sand to assist them on their journey to market.

In this dim, distant past, Scotch Corner might have been a genuine crossroads. There is a legend of a cobbled way, called Nun’s Walk, heading eastwards through Middleton Tyas. Where the nun was bound, no one knows, although there is a suggestion that the religious-sound Chantry Farm between Tyas and Croft was her destination.


THE petrol engine ended the days of droving and coaching. From 1924, the Automobile Association had one of its famous black-and-yellow roadside patrolman’s phonebox on the corner (phone number: Gilling West 3).

The old inn with its stone mounting steps was demolished in 1939 when the Roman road was widened into a dual carriageway.

The current hotel was built on the western side of the road. It was super-modern, with hot and cold running water in every bedroom, an American-style bar, and its own bakery.

Almost immediately, war broke out, and part of the hotel was requisitioned by the RAF for convalescing airmen. It is said that a ghost in an RAF uniform still haunts the hotel.


IN the 1960s, motorway-standard bypasses, around Leaming and Catterick, crept northwards through North Yorkshire, and in 1965, the Darlington bypass opened to the north of Scotch Corner. It used the site of Barton quarry for a large interchange and then followed the trackbed of the Merrybent Railway, an old mineral line, northwards to Aycliffe Village.

In 1971, the Scotch Corner section was upgraded with a huge, oblong “road circus” being created to allow the A66 to meet with the A1 and to accommodate local traffic into Tyas and down the 1939 road to Richmond.

Within a decade, the A1 in North Yorkshire was struggling to cope and steps were taken to upgrade the road once more but delays to road-building plans were as long as the delays on the roads themselves.

In January 1989, after the New Year Bank Holiday was marred with a 17-mile long traffic jam, roads minister Peter Bottomley told The Northern Echo: “We will wipe out the A1 chaos.” Stretches at Wetherby and Dishforth, he said, were already being improved, and he promised a three-lane carriageway from Leeds to Scotch Corner.

“Our intention is that the other major improvements will follow in phases until completion in the mid-1990s,” he said.

However, it was not until March 2018 – a stunning 20 years behind schedule – the Scotch Corner was upgraded sufficiently for its speedtrap to be lifted.