Over the years, I have followed numerous driving itineraries in England and Scotland — through the West Country, the Cotswolds, the Highlands, to name but three — but they have invariably been circular and self-contained. On this trip I constructed a route that links the two countries together. I decided that our point of departure would be York, a historic city at the southern edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and that we would conclude our journey in Edinburgh.
After landing in London, rather than making a preliminary four- to five-hour drive up the A1 (M) motorway, we opted to take a fast train from King’s Cross station. The comfortable 210-mile journey to York takes a little over two hours. (It is worth bearing in mind that in Britain there is often a huge difference in the cost of peak and off-peak rail fares. If you travel outside of peak times and reserve your tickets online well in advance, first-class tickets are reasonably priced; otherwise they can be extortionate.)
York is the gateway to a hilly, unspoiled region that extends north for approximately 125 miles to the Scottish border and that spans around 150 miles from the Lake District in the west to the North Sea coast in the east. The city was established by the Romans in A.D. 71, and in A.D. 306 Constantine the Great was proclaimed emperor there. In the ninth century it became a Viking capital, Jórvík. Later, York prospered as a result of the wool trade, and in 1080 work began on York Minster, the largest Gothic cathedral north of the Alps. (One unmissable highlight is the Great East Window, the world’s largest expanse of medieval stained glass.) The Middle Ages also gave York imposing city walls, built on top of the Roman ones, which remain almost completely intact.