Officially opened in May 2003 after many years of negotiations with landlords and farmers to finalize the exact route which stretches 83 statute miles/133 km across town and country, forest and moorland, World Heritage Site and National Park. The actual wall however, was started as long ago as 122 A.D! At this time The Roman Emperor; Hadrian was having a lot of trouble with the restless natives to the north; those devilish blue painted Pictish and assorted Caledonian warriors were causing mayhem across the wild Northern frontiers and hassling trade and settlement.
It became imperative to create some kind of order and consolidate the extreme North of the Empire, especially after one of the legion divisions was withdrawn from Britain to fight the German tribes leaving Britain under defended. The wall was built “to separate Romans from Barbarians,” across northern Britain at its narrowest point between the Solway Firth and the North Sea. In its original form it was built in 6 years over 73 modern miles (80 Roman ones). It was extended and enhanced with impressive stone defences following natural ridge lines and with a deep ditch (The Vallum) dug alongside it. Later much of the stonework was mortared allowing it to survive the centuries to become one of the oldest structures in the country today. The amount of work and finance that would have gone into the wall was immense; even with slave or conscript labour. Post forts were built every Roman Mile over the of the route. At intervals huge garrison forts were built so that a counter attack or a raid could be organised at short notice.
These included baths with hypocausts (underfloor heating). There were also gatehouses controlling access over the frontier forests and moors. So there must have been hundreds of skilled and semi skilled masons involved and thousands of labourers. Even stone was brought in by boat on the Tyne, to supply areas where it could not be cut locally. Things are more peaceful today, the Picts have disappeared altogether, absorbed perhaps into other tribes like the Scotti, the Romans have gone and much of the imposing defensive structures were dismantled and used for building and field wall stone. This means that you can enjoy “walking the wall” unmolested, on this alternative Coast-to-Coast route. It is a great walk, with a lot of scenic variety from the modern, busy cityscapes of Newcastle Upon Tyne to the red sandstone hues of medieval Carlisle, from industrial Tyneside to the quiescence of Bowness on Solway. From the barren blustery heights of Highshields Crags in the Northumberland National Park; to the lime green pastoral scenes of the Eden valley. Omnipotent along the route the Wall snakes its way. In sections interrupting a housing estate here, popping up under a road there. Then from being little more than a grassy bank it transforms into stone and rollercoasters over crag tops and down into impressive fort like structures such as at Birdoswald and Housesteads.
Moderate. Some longish days (around 15–17 miles) and short steep climbs and descents. Generally however undulating. Mixed weather can be expected at anytime.
Travel to Newcastle and then onto Whitley Bay. Stretch your legs and take the time to visit St Mary's Island, Lighthouse and Visitor Centre where you will experience spectaluar coastal views.
Accommodation: The Metropolitan is a contemporary styled 4 star B&B.
Today you take the 15 minute train from Whitley Bay to Wallsend and the start of the walk. If you have time before setting off take a close look at the remains of the Roman fort of Segedunum which marks the beginning of the route today. This is a multi award-winning site, with reconstructions of a Roman Bath House and an excellent interactive museum. From the Tourist Information in Wallsend, by the Swan Hunter Ship Yard, the trail heads out following the walls of the ancient Roman fort of Segedunum. Take the old Tyne to Blyth railway line, now a footpath through to Walker where you join the River Tyne at the Riverside Park and pass Byker. You come into the riverside area of downtown Newcastle upon Tyne with vistas of the elegant Tyne Bridges and of the Newcastle skyline including St. Nicholas Cathedral. There should be time to climb up to Newcastle Keep. Walk out of the city alongside the river. There is plenty of evidence of present and former industrial activity. As you get to the old village of Newburn, the countryside really begins to open up. You are now in the county of Northumberland. Just before you would cross the River Tyne for Heddon on the Wall, on the trail, we turn off for Wylam and our overnight stop at the end of this flattish day.
Accommodation: We stay in a nice Victorian country house which has been noted by English heritage.
After crossing over the River Tyne, you have your first steep ascent up to Heddon on the Wall, where there are some wall remains. To beyond Chollerford now, the National Trail follows beside the roads that have been built over part of the wall. The wall itself became a source of material for the foundations of General Wade’s military road, the trail often follows along the Vallum, the ancient ditch line created as a defensive feature when the wall was built. Look out for remains of Vindobala fort and the reservoirs around Welton. There is a pub at East Wallhouses after about 6 miles. A slight deviation to Halton after 9 miles might be in order to admire the old keep.
Accommodation: The Hadrian Hotel is situated close to Hadrian's Wall this cosy pub is an ideal spot for walkers to relax.
The route follows beside the road as far as Fozy Moss, where the road veers off the wall as it reaches the crags of the Whin Sill Escarpment. This stage roller coasters to Housesteads, with its famed fort and National Trust Museum. There are excellent views over the “Northward Tynescape” to the Bellingham and Simonside Hills. You now follow arguably the most scenic section of the trip; over Highshield Crags and then down via Peel Crags to Steel Rigg. From here you can walk out to Once Brewed.
Accommodation: We use a range of B&B ensuite accommodation.
The wall climbs to its highest point over Windshields Crags, before descending to the delightfully named Bogle Hole. Then down steps through Thorny Doors and up Cawfields Crags with excellent views onto the Pennines. The way passes by Great Chesters and Magnis (Roman forts), passing Greenhead, the ruin of medieval Thirlwall castle and in another mile or so crosses the Cumbria / Northumberland border on the River Irthing at Gilsand. There are interesting Roman defences to visit at Birdoswald, and eventually after a trek to Banks you will hopefully find a shop/post office open for refreshment. Banks overlooks the Irthing Valley and Lanercost priory below. From here there are few signs of Hadrian's Wall remaining so enjoy the last significant portion maintained by English Heritage at Hare Hill. The path starts to slowly descend to Garthside. There are interesting views over the Irthing Valley as the walk heads into Walton. This is easy walking along the edge of fields and beside some old established hardwood trees. On approaching Walton the way drops into the valley below crossing King Water. A short section of road takes the walk into the village of Walton, a small village with an interesting church in the centre beside the village green.
Accommodation: Abbey Bridge was originally a public house and has sandstone flagged floors in the hall and guest’s lounge. As with many of the public houses in the area it became a temperance inn during the latter part of the 19th century and was extended to provide a meeting room. So the southern part of the house has large casement windows and high ceilings whilst the northern part is a traditional Georgian farmhouse with sash windows and many original features.
The route continues undulating across country. After crossing the very attractive Cam beck, you briefly join the road at Newtown Village near the green before skipping across the fields. Here you are following the wall line via Old Wall, Blea head and Wall head farms, before detouring on a little “sandy lane” that takes you down to The Stanegate, the old Roman road that leads into Crosby on Eden and the River Eden. Now you will be riverside walking for about a mile. At Linstock there is a medieval ‘pele’, Peel Tower that rang in times of danger so that the locals could congregate within its fortifications. Next you come to Rickerby which has, in contrast, a Victorian folly tower. Finally cross the River Eden, meander towards Stanwix, then up into Carlisle - a very interesting historical city, with a castle started by Henry I, extensive wall and other Roman remains and then there is the cathedral. The town has changed hands several times between Scotland and England and this is reflected in parts of the town’s structure. Carlisle is quite a bit smaller than Newcastle. A lot of the buildings such as the castle and the Old Town Hall are made of fine red sandstone. Beer fans will not want to miss out a couple of drams, as this is the centre for the Theakstone’s Brewery. Visit the Tullie House Museum for a fine collection of Roman remains. The inner city has been pedestrianised making exploration enjoyable around the market square.
Accommodation: For two nights stay in a small 3 star AA graded hotel was built in the 1850's and it has its foundations literally on Hadrians Wall and has proved a popular stay with our clients.
As you have a second night in Carlisle, the final walk today can be done in either direction. Take a morning bus to Bowness On Solway and walk back to Carlisle or walk and then bus or taxi back. The walk itself from Carlisle follows at first the Southern side of the River Eden. The trail follows the Eden once again, more or less parallel with the line of the Wall and Vallum, through Grinsdale and Beaumont where you at last veer away from the Eden. You get good views from just north of the village to the peaks of Skiddaw and High Pike to the south and across the Solway Firth to the West. Through Burgh by Sands, a short detour takes you to the point on the marsh where Edward I died in 1307. In the vicinity of Dykesfield House, the trail joins an old railway embankment for a couple of miles before rejoining the line of “The Wall” near Glasson. From here the route follows the minor road to Bowness on Solway, the site of the Roman fort of Maia and journey’s end.
Trip concludes after breakfast.
Overall we enjoyed the trip very much though we did find the sections through Newcastle and Carlisle just a trudge. Sections directly along the walk were really great.
P and H Jackson, Kidman Park, SA
Magnificent walk, we had splendid views, lovely accommodations and all weathers – loved it!
J. Taylor., Oxley, QLD, Australia.
Per Person, Twin Share