Hadrian’s Wall stretches for just over 80 miles from Newcastle in the east to Carlisle in the west. It is an iconic border line between England and Scotland. But strangely and probably because it is literally so big there are misconceptions and myths about this ancient treasure. Let’s look at what it is and the best ways to visit the Wall country.
What is the area like?
The Wall crosses different types of countryside but it is the central section between Hexham and Greenhead which is the most dramatic. It is here that you get crags, loughs and distant views across the moors towards Scotland. This picture helps to convey the atmosphere of the region.
What can you see of the wall?
Surprisingly there is quite a bit of it left. You can find sections where the stone work is in excellent condition.
If you want to see an archaelogical dig, visit a Roman museum and climb a reconstruction of a Roman fort then Vindolanda is a good choice. It is only a mile to the south of the Wall.
This is a picture of a Roman bathing house
and this shows the reconstruction of a Roman fort.
Why was the Wall built?
The popular belief is that this was the northern boundary of the Roman empire and the wall was built to keep the Scots ( picts ) at bay. The reality is somewhat different. The most northerly wall was the Antonine Wall to the north of Edinburgh. Hadrian’s Wall was also built to control the movement of people and to collect taxes. The danger came equally from the south and you can clearly see sections where the defensive ditch was south facing.
How long was it in use for?
The wall was started in 122 ad. The Romans left sometime after 400 ad. Their presence for over 300 years left its mark amongst the regions towns and you can still see this in places like Corbridge. Once they left England the Wall started to be scavenged for building stones and it wasn’t until the 19th century that proper conservation initiatives were started.
What is the one part we should see?
The one section you should walk is between Housesteads fort and Steelrigg. It is here that you will come to Sycamour gap and the Robin Hood tree. When the movie starring Kevin Costner as Robin Hood was filmed they came to Sycamour gap for a cameo shot and ever since this has been known as the Robin Hood tree.
Who visits the Wall?
Lots of people but because it is spread over such a long distance it never seems too busy. There are always lots of charity walks and don’t be surprised to meet visitors from all over the world.
Where can you stay?
There are plenty of bed and breakfasts set up to cater for people walking along the Wall. Nearby towns like Gilsland, Hexham and Haltwhistle have a selection of hotels. But if you want to have a fixed base to explore the Wall then try a self catering cottage in the area.
How can you get around the area?
Whilst most people come by car there are really good alternatives. The railway between Carlisle and Newcastle has stations to the south and there is “Wall bus” which takes visitors up to popular sections. Many local taxi companies offer specialist travel to see the best sections.
What is the best time of year to visit the Wall?
Summer is beautiful but it can be busy at the popular attractions. Autumn is wonderful with the colours changing and the racing clouds over head. Do remember that sections of the Wall are quite wild and outdoor clothing is recommended.
This article was written exclusively for Cheap short breaks reviewed by Mike Holly. Mike works and writes about Northumberland.