Alnwick was an important staging post on the Great North Road, the main highway between the two capitals of London and Edinburgh, though until the mid-18th century, it was such a poor road that journeys between the two cities took about two weeks. Road improvements, as a result of the various Turnpike Acts and better road building methods, pioneered by McAdam and Telford, led to both reduced journey times and increased passenger comfort. By 1830, coaches were making the trip from London to Edinburgh in less than two days and the increased passenger numbers led to the growth in coaching inns.

The era of the mail coach was abruptly ended, however, with the growth of the railways following the Rainhill Trials of 1829. By 1850, mail coaches on the Great North Road had all but ceased. The road suffered serious neglect which was only reversed with the introduction of the motor car in the 20th century.