Perhaps no single source of change had a greater power of transformation than the improvement of the roads. Not only did greater ease of travel quicken the speed of commerce, but better facilities for communication promoted the interchange of ideas and the dispersal of information. The appalling state of the roads in the early part of the century can be guessed from the fact that up to about 1750 a stage coach went only once a month from Edinburgh to London, taking twelve to sixteen days. In the same year, a whole winter’s day was spent by a coach with four horses in travelling the sixteen miles from Edinburgh to Haddington. In 1770 a carrier from Selkirk to Edinburgh found it easier to travel up the channel of Gala Water than use the road, and took two weeks for the double journey or 76 miles. On side roads, horse and cart would almost completely disappear in mud holes.

Local tolls had been imposed since 1714, but the great improvements came in 1750-1760 largely by reason of the Turnpike Road Act of 1751, which empowered Road Commissioners to levy a more adequate assessment. The Commissioners for East Lothian were the first north of the Tweed to take advantage of the Act and in 1755 Dunbar Town Council sent representatives to a meeting in Haddington for establishing a Turnpike Road at Beltonford. Some ten years later, the Great Post Road ran through Dunbar, milestones marked the distance along it and the Union and Mail Coaches changed horses daily at the George Hotel. “Nothing wrought so remarkable a change in civilising the country, in developing its trade, and improving the social and industrial condition of the people, as the Turnpike Road Act of 1751” (Graham).