There is no definitive explanation as to why Hadrian’s Wall was built almost 2000 years ago in AD 122, but it’s assumed the 80-mile fortification, which splits England from Scotland, was built as an expression of Roman power and to protect the civilised folk from the barbarians north of the wall! The wall was built by an estimated force of 15,000 men in under six-years and although it has lost much of its stone, it is still a wonder to behold.
Stretching from sea-to-sea across the top reaches of Northumberland and Cumbria in England, Hadrian’s Wall was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987. From ramparts and forts, to museums, cosy pubs and market towns, there is plenty to explore, and whether you only have a day or are feeling adventurous and want to walk its length, there is intrigue every step of the way.
Hadrian’s Wall Path
Famed among walkers, the Hadrian’s Wall Path is a long-distance footpath which runs from Wallsend on the east coast of England to Bowness-on-Solway on the west coast. It is a relatively gentle, flat route which traces the path of the wall through remote countryside and major cities such as Newcastle and Carlisle. The 84-mile path, which invites you to retrace the ancient footsteps of Roman legions, can be broken down into six stages from east to west, all between 12-16 miles per stage.
Wallsend to Heddon-on-the-Wall – 15 miles (24km) long
The walk starts at Segendunum Fort, which was the most easterly Roman outpost, before making its way to the city of Newcastle along the north bank of the Tyne and then into the open countryside. This section of the walk is primarily urban with brief glimpses of the wall, but Tyneside is an experience in itself! If you’re eager to skip the cities then it is possible to catch the number 22 bus from Wallsend to Throckley via Newburn.
Heddon-on-the-Wall to Chollerford – 15.5 miles (25km) long
This is a wonderful part of the walk through open countryside and woodland, with the wall and the Vallum (the ditch which runs the length of the wall) visible in sections. This part of the walk is relatively flat and easy-going, travelling around arable farmland.
Chollerford to Steel Rigg – 12 miles (19km) long
The Roman fort of Chesters (a Hadrian’s Wall must-see) sits close to the start of this section of the walk. The wilder pastures make this a slightly more energy-sapping stretch, but it is worth it for the striking views over the countryside to the north, and much more of the wall is within eye line.
Did you know? Chesters Roman Fort was the first fort on Hadrian’s Wall and is now regarded as the most complete Roman cavalry fort in Britain.
Steel Rigg to Walton - 16.25 miles (26 km) long.
Continuing scenic countryside, the Wall and Vallum are, again, intermittently visible along this section of the walk. The museum at the Roman fort at Birdoswald makes for an interesting stopping point. Look out for the footbridge at Willowford, which is made out of the same ‘weathering’ steel as the Angel of the North! It is at the end of this stretch that you will encounter the last piece of upstanding Wall, at Hare Hill.
Walton to Carlisle – 11 miles (18 km) long.
The path returns to gentle farmland for this section, as you continue your way westwards. Patches of woodland punctuate the open plains, and there is a scenic stretch of parkland as the route travels alongside the River Eden.
Top Tip: Between May 1st and October 31st, walkers can pick up a Hadrian’s Wall Path passport and get it stamped at major sites along the way. They can be picked up from local tourist centres!
Carlisle to Bowness-on-Solway – 14.75 miles (24 km) long
The last traces of the wall may be long gone, but this is still a highly enjoyable path, which encounters the Solway Frith and has pleasant, expansive views into Scotland. The path terminates in Bowness-on-Solway, where you can end your journey as you began it – with a trip to a fort. Fort Maia, which stands on a sea cliff, is the most western of the forts that lined Hadrian’s Wall. Thought its name translates to mean ‘the larger’ it was actually the second biggest fort on the Wall!
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Header image courtesy of VisitEngland