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If you’re considering a walking holiday but you’re hesitating because you’re not sure if you’re fit enough – don’t worry! It’s an understandable concern – and whilst it’s true that some of our trips require an excellent level of fitness, others are much more gentle on the legs. We’ve picked out a few UK-based trips for different fitness levels to help you work out your own level and find the one that’s just right for you. All of our trips include a suitability guide on the main trip information pages.
Gentle Trips for First Time Walkers
The Cotswolds, as well as being picture-perfect, are an ideal introduction to walking in the English countryside. The terrain is hilly rather than mountainous, and you’re rarely too far from a pretty village in which to stop for a rest and refreshments. The walking days are generally up to around 20km – comfortable for most reasonably fit people. The Cotswolds are a designated Area of Outstanding Beauty, and as you meander through the countryside visiting medieval villages built in golden limestone, it’s easy to see why.
Although this trip is gentle on the legs, you will need to be a fairly competent map-reader.
This trip is available in 5-day and 8-day versions – and if you prefer wheels to feet, you can also explore the Cotswolds by bike.
Traditional Cotswolds houses
If walking in the Scottish Highlands sounds like the preserve of the super fit, then think again! Despite taking in some of Scotland’s most dramatic and breath-taking landscapes, most of the walking on The Great Glen Way is actually fairly straightforward – much of it along canal towpaths and forest tracks. The walking becomes a little more challenging on the last 3 days – but you can avoid a particularly steep climb on the last day by taking an optional taxi transfer. The days range from around 13km to 29km. This trip is a great way to sample the splendour of the Scottish Highlands without pushing your body to the limit.
Along the canals of the Great Glen Way
Moderate Trips for the More Active
If you’re looking for a trip in this category, you’re spoilt for choice, as the majority of our trips are classed as moderate. But here are a couple you might like to take a look at.
Although the daily distances on the St Cuthbert’s Way vary from 8.5km to 22.5km, the walk includes some steep ascents and descents, and some boggy terrain, which make it a little more challenging than the distances suggest. But with that little bit of extra fitness comes the reward of some delightfully unspoilt countryside and historic towns. Starting in Melrose in Scotland, and stretching across to the Northumberland coast and the island of Lindisfarne, this is a walk deep in historical and religious significance, as well as a route that takes in some beautiful countryside away from the hordes.
This trip is available in 8-day and 10-day versions.
Lindisfarne (Holy Island) at the end of St Cuthbert's Way
With some fairly long days (24 to 27km), and steep climbs and descents, not to mention some unpredictable weather, Hadrian’s Wall represents a moderate challenge – and you’ll need a bit of walking experience behind you to take it on. This is a walk rich in history – the Roman Emperor Hadrian began building the wall in 122AD to keep out his enemies to the north, and is now the world’s largest Roman artefact and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As you walk in the Romans’ footsteps, you’ll discover some of England’s finest landscapes, towns and villages.
This trip is available in 8-day and 10-day versions.
Challenging Trips for Experienced Walkers
The sheer length of the entire Pennine Way (429km) makes it a pretty serious challenge, before you factor in the long days, remote sections, some fairly basic accommodation and lack of shelter from weather that can be very unpredictable. But this classic of British walking is rightly regarded as one of the world’s greatest – stretching through three national parks and encompassing fells, rivers, dales and waterfalls. The Pennine Way should be on the bucket list of any serious walker with a good level of fitness.
You can make the Pennine Way a little less challenging by doing just the Southern or Northern sections.
The Pennine Way
Although the Coast to Coast is offered in extended versions (up to 18 days) for those that like to take things at a slightly slower pace, the classic 15-day version includes some long days (an average of 25km per day), with 6-9 hours a day of walking at a steady pace to cover the distances required. But the Coast to Coast is our most popular walk for a reason – three national parks, charming towns and villages, stunning landscapes, and the sheer achievement of crossing England from the Irish Sea to the North Sea has given this route legendary status.
We offer several versions of the Coast to Coast – both guided and self guided, ranging from 15 to 18 days, and you can also do shorter sections on their own.
The Coast to Coast
Protected by UNESCO since 1987, Hadrian’s Wall today stands as the largest remaining artefact from Roman times anywhere in the world.
A must-see for history aficionados, this Roman wall in England can also be explored on foot along the adjoining 83-mile Hadrian’s Wall Path. The undulating, well-waymarked walk follows the ancient Roman Wall with a largely rural feel – we believe that the middle three days in the south Northumberland National Park are the most spectacular!
Below are 7 Hadrian’s Wall Walk facts you may not yet know about the celebrated British icon:
1. The history of the Hadrian’s Wall goes back to 122AD
The Hadrian’s Wall is a defensive fortification conceived by Hadrian, who ruled the Roman Empire for more than 20 years (117-138AD). It was constructed in the province of Britannia, which at that point marked the northernmost border of the Empire, to “separate Romans from Barbarians”.
2. The Roman Wall is built across northern England’s narrowest point
Hadrian’s Wall originally ran between the Solway Firth on the Irish Sea and the banks of the River Tyne, close to the North Sea; this is the narrowest point in northern England. It took 6 years to complete and, in its original form, it covered 80 Roman (73 modern) miles.
3. Post forts were built on every Roman mile…
…although Hadrian's Wall mainly served as a military construction: huge garrison forts were built at intervals, allowing for a counter attack or a raid to be organised at short notice. A deep ditch, known as The Vallum, was dug alongside it, while gatehouses would control access over the frontier forests and moors.
4. It was extended and enhanced with impressive stone defences over the years
Initially, stone was brought in on the Tyne by boat to supply those areas where it could not be cut locally. At later stages, much of the stonework was mortared, allowing the Wall to survive the centuries to become one of the oldest structures in the country today.
5. UNESCO describes Hadrian’s Wall as “a striking example of the organization of a military zone”
Hadrian’s Wall was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1987 as an “outstanding example of Roman military architecture”, protected for its “extraordinarily high cultural value”. According to UNESCO, much of it remains “in an exceptionally good state of preservation, surviving as part of a landscape which still contains significant visible traces of the Roman military presence”.
6. The Hadrian’s Wall Path celebrates its 15th anniversary in 2018
Classified as a ‘National Trail’ in the UK, the Hadrian’s Wall Path officially opened in May 2003 after many years of negotiations with landlords and farmers to finalise the exact route. A Hadrian’s Wall walk will take you to follow 83 miles across English town and country, forest and moorland, World Heritage Site and National Park.
7. It is often described as an alternative English Coast-to-Coast route
More than just tracing the history of England’s North, the Hadrian's Wall Path offers abundant scenic variety, from the modern cityscapes of Newcastle upon Tyne (North Sea) to the red sandstone hues of medieval Carlisle and from industrial Tyneside to the quiescence of Bowness on Solway (Irish Sea). With that, it can be seen as an alternative route to the famous Wainwright's Coast to Coast trail. Expect barren blustery heights in the Northumberland National Park and lime green pastoral scenes in the Eden Valley… omnipotent along the route, Hadrian’s Wall snakes its way!
If you feel inspired to walk the Hadrian’s Wall Path, at Sherpa Expeditions we offer two options to follow the Roman wall in England over 8 or 10 days.
Follow Hadrian's Wall Walk in England
>> Hadrian's Wall Trail - 8 Days
>> Hadrian's Wall Trail - 10 Days
To give you a deeper understanding of our cycling and walking holidays in Europe, we like to introduce you to the On Track feature. This is a series of quick Q&A’s on a specific trip from the Sherpa Expeditions offer.
Today’s frequently asked questions are answered by resident guide John, who went on a Hadrian’s Wall walk himself.
Why was Hadrian’s Wall built?
We know from tablets that Emperor Hadrian wanted to keep "intact the empire", which had been imposed on him via "divine instruction." The wall was a defensive fortification in the Roman province of Britannia, begun in AD 122 and used for around three centuries. The wall was built by 15,000 men in under six years and runs from the banks of the River Tyne near the North Sea to the Solway Firth on the Irish Sea. From here the Romans could command their resources and control the raiding skirmishes of the Northern Britons.
What is special about walking Hadrian's Wall Trail?
Hadrian's Wall is the finest surviving frontier construction of the Roman Empire. Although by no means continuous in its current state, the long-distance footpath that we know as Hadrian’s Wall Trail stretches for 83 miles from Newcastle Upon Tyne to Bowness on Solway. Over this distance, over hill and dale you will find milecastles, barracks, ramparts and forts, in ever changing scenery. If you have a good imagination you will enjoy a walk in history. There are plenty of museum sites and other things to see as well including mediaeval castles, old villages, the bridges over the River Tyne and a look round Carlisle.
Can you see much of the wall when you walk it?
People may have in their mind something that looks like the Great Wall of China; but the ravages of time and use of the dressed stone from the wall for urban building, stone walling and road construction have all reduced its size. The final third of the wall to the west, was a mud embankment originally. You only see a tiny section of wall in Newcastle, a bit more in Heddon on the Wall, and then the stone walling really takes off as we walk into the undulating central section of Hadrian’s Wall.
Do you actually walk on Hadrian’s Wall?
The wall is a UNESCO recognized monument and the path does not walk directly on it to avoid damage, although there are places where you cross it or walk on it to visit museums, milecastles etc. The ditch built by the Romans beside the wall is often associated with a modern road, so you do actually walk parallel with roads for much of the first couple of days and the last day especially. Apart from where these are quiet lanes however, you will be walking generally on a specially created footpath beside the road or beside the wall.
What impressed you about this trip?
I love the section between Milecastle 31 at the Temple of Mithras and Milecastle 49B, at Birdoswold. There are so many great views and classic landscapes such as looking over Crag Lough - a lochen at the base of crags. There is 'Sycamore Gap' where an iconic sycamore tree grows at a gateway in the wall. Other surprises include minor things: walking past rock crags and cliffs where they quarried the stone 2000 years ago and seeing holes where 'pincers' were used to lift cut rock. Also seeing the substantial foundations of the Roman Bridge at Chollerford, was quite a surprise.
Who would you recommend to go for a Hadrian’s Wall walk?
Anyone with a good level of fitness can enjoy this walk, but it will especially appeal to people with an interest in history. There will be good opportunities to make the most of the historical sites along the way. A Hadrian’s Wall walk is also an excellent first time long-distance path to take. The hike is well waymarked as it is a 'National Trail' and so navigation is rarely an issue. It is also another coast to coast walk as you start on the tidal River Tyne and finish by the Irish Sea. For some, it may be an alternative to well known 'Wainwright's Coast to Coast,' that takes two weeks to walk from coast to coast.
Is Hadrian’s Wall Trail very popular?
On large sections of the walk you will not see many people at all, but the middle section around Housteads Fort and the hills of Steel Rigg get a lot of walkers and day trippers who walk and visit the forts such as Housteads, Vindolanda (off route), Birdoswald and Chesters.
Are there extra costs involved when I want to hike Hadrian’s Wall?
We choose to exclude lunches and dinners on this trip as there are many options to choose from along the way. Also Visits to the museums, open air or otherwise, do add up and you should decide locally whether you have the time and energy to visit them. Admissions vary and apply to Segedunnm (£5.95), Vindolands (£11), Housteads (£7.50), Birdoswald (£6.50), and Chesters (£6.60) – prices valid at the time of writing. The last three are run by 'English Heritage' and it might be worth your while to become a member of them if there are more things you want to see that they run in England.
We hope this information has indeed answered some of the questions you may have had on doing the Hadrian’s Wall walk. If you have other queries, please get in touch with John and the Sherpa team via phone or email.
Did you like this Q&A and would you like to get similar details of one of our other active Europe holidays? We’d be happy to hear about your suggestions.
Or if you like to be among the firsts to hear about the latest On Track Q&A destination, sign up for our monthly e-newsletter here.
New exhibition offers rare insight in the role and daily life of the Roman Empire’s cavalry forces
Walking Hadrian’s Wall Path this year will give you the opportunity to gain a rare insight in the role and daily life of the cavalry forces of the Roman army. Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site hosts a temporary new exhibition: Hadrian’s Cavalry, which launched in April 2017.
Hadrian’s Wall forms part of the ‘Roman Limes’, which represent the border line of the Roman Empire when it was at its greatest in the 2nd century AD. At present, remains of this border line can be found in Germany, Scotland, and of course England. Protected by UNESCO since 1987, Hadrian’s Wall today stands as the largest remaining artefact from Roman times anywhere in the world.
Hadrian’s Wall Walk
A must-see for history aficionados, Hadrian’s Wall can be followed on foot along the adjoining 84-mile (135km) Hadrian’s Wall Path. With Sherpa, you have two options, an 8-day and a 10-day version, that can take you on a self guided walking trip across the rugged countryside of Northern England, from Whitley Bay in the east to Carlisle in the west.
The undulating, well-waymarked walk follows the ancient Roman Wall with a largely rural feel. Enjoy stunning vistas from places like Newcastle Keep, Highshield Crags and Bowness-on-Solway and walk in the Northumberland National Park. At night, enjoy the hospitality of country B&Bs brimming with personality and local charm. Self guided Hadrian’s Wall walking holidays
depart daily between April and October.
Hadrian’s Cavalry exhibition celebrates the cavalry regiments that once guarded this famous North West frontier of the mighty Roman Empire. Ten museums and venues form a unique wall-wide exhibition that takes place from Saturday 8 April to Sunday 10 September 2017. Ornate helmets, shields, decorations and weapons have been collected from museums around Europe and are now on display in various locations. Spectacular re-enactment events at different places along the Wall will also be part of the exhibition. From July, a specially commissioned piece of contemporary art will be on display at English Heritage’s Chesters Roman Fort and Museum (day 5 or 6 on our walks).
For more information on Hadrian’s Cavalry and our Hadrian’s Wall Path walking holidays
, contact our team of travel experts
or browse information on Hadrian’s Wall, Classic Hadrian’s Wall 8-day walking holiday
, or the Hadrian’s Wall Trail 10 day walking trip
Best Pubs in the UK for Walkers
The UK is famous for its historic inns and pubs, and no matter what your choice of refreshment, relaxing in one at the end of a day’s walk is an essential part of a walking holiday in the UK. We’ve asked around the office and here is a list of our favourite pubs that you can visit on one of our UK walking holidays.
Old Dungeon Ghyll, Langsdale
Located in the Lake District, the Old Dungeon Ghyll is a famous climber’s bar that has offered accommodation and sustenance to weary fellwalkers and climbers in the midst of some of the highest mountains in England, for over 300 years.
Why we like it: Stunning location and a great place to rest up with other exhausted walkers and listen to their epic tales.
Visit the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel and more on our Cumbria Way walking holiday >>
DORSET AND WESSEX TRAILS
Smugglers Inn, Osmington Mills
This lovely old pub dates back to the 13th century and was once the home of the leader of the most notorious gang of smugglers in the area during the 18th and 19th centuries (Emmanuel Charles).
Why we like it: Cosy inn near the sea has some good ales and its location makes you feel miles from the real world.
Visit the Smugglers Inn and more on our Dorset and Wessex Trails walking holiday >>
Red Lion, Burnsall
The Red Lion in North Yorkshire was originally a Ferryman’s Inn from the 16th century and on top of some delicious real ales the pub also serves up a tasty selection of local game and produce. Image from Tip Advisor
Why we like it: Good old-fashioned pub with great food, nestled right by the old bridge.
Visit the Red Lion pub on our Dales Way walking holiday >>
GREAT GLEN WAY
Glenmoriston Arms, Glenmoriston
Another pub that was originally a Drover’s inn, the original hotel built on the site dates back to 1740, six years before the battle of Culloden.
Why we like it: Great old bar with over 100 varieties of single malt Whisky, including some from extinct distilleries.
This renowned whisky bar has a huge range of single malts to choose from and friendly bartenders who can talk you through the tasting of Scotland’s national drink.
Why we like it: Great food and whiskey (obviously) and a relaxing place for a meal after a visit to Urquart Castle.
Visit the Glenmoriston Arms, Fiddlers and more on our Great Glen Way walking holiday >>
WEST HIGHLAND WAY
Kings House Hotel, Glencoe
The Kings House hotel is one of the oldest (and most remote!) licenced inns in Scotland and offers an extensive bar with magnificent views of the hills. It even has a sneaky climber’s bar round the back.
Why we like it: Location, Location! This pub has one of the most famous backdrops in Scotland (Buchaille Etive Mor).
Visit the Kings House Hotel and more on our Great Glen Way walking holiday >>
COAST TO COAST
Buck Hotel, Reeth
Originally a coaching Inn dating back to around 1760, the Buck in has been refreshing weary travellers for centuries. Inside you’ll find a cost bar with many of the original features still in tact.
Why we like it: Good range of well-kept beers/ales on draught and great zippy food.
Black Bull, Reeth
Older still than the Buck Hotel, the Black Bull dates back to 1680 and offers a wide selection of hand-pulled ales and good hearty food.
Why we like it: The Black Bull’s position on the village green makes for a great spot to rest in the sun (if you’re lucky!) and the pub is also amusingly famous for its ‘Old Peculiar on draught’; two pints of which apparently and you are anyone's!
The Lion, Blakey
The Lion Inn on remote Blakey Ridge is a 16th Century freehouse. Located at the highest point of the North York Moors National Park, it offers breathtaking views over the valleys of Rosedale and Farndale.
Why we like it: This cavernous old pub in the middle of nowhere has a great feel to it inside with open fires and low beams, and outside in the beer garden you have some great views over the dales.
Horseshoe Hotel, Egton Bridge
The 18th century Horseshoe Hotel sits on some stunning grounds on the bank of the River Esk, in the quaint English village of Egton Bridge. Catering to walkers it is a great place to relax and replenish your energy.
Why we like it: You always hit this old fashioned pub right about when you feel like a drink! It’s beautiful beer garden is a great place to rest your weary feet before you contemplate crossing the Esk on stepping stones!
Visit these pubs and more on one of our Coast to Coast walking holidays >>
The Boathouse is a traditional pub, with low-beamed ceilings, stone floor and a dark wood bar decorated with tankards, pump-clips, and paintings.
Why we like it: Extraordinary range of 12 varieties of real ale or cider on hand-pulls and great home-cooked meals.
Twice Brewed Inn, Once Brewed
Overlooked by Steel Rigg, one of the best stretches of Hadrian’s Wall, the Twice Brewed Inn’s setting in rural Northumberland is quite unique. There are many theory’s surrounding it’s unique name that you can learn more about on your visit.
Why we like it: Once a brewery, this pub lives up to its name with a range of tasty ales.
Visit the Boathouse and Twice Brewed Inn on our Hadrian’s Wall walking holiday >>
Image credits: Some images used in this article were sourced from the pub's website, Trip Advisor or Visit Scotland.