Combining a walk with landmarks of significant historical interest is the perfect way to exercise, blow away the cobwebs, and absorb stunning views and the history of our islands.
not only provide all the clothing and equipment necessary to enjoy such trails, we also like to bring you information about particular walks that we think will be of interest to our customers. In this article we are looking at The Hadrian’s Wall Path which is steeped in history, with plenty of stunning landscapes to stimulate the mind and legs along the way.
The history of Hadrian’s Wall
Built by the Roman army for Emperor Hadrian in AD 122, for almost 300 years Hadrian’s Wall was the north-west frontier of the Roman Empire. According to his biography, written some 200 years later, when Hadrian visited Britain in AD 122 he ‘put many things to right and was the first to build a wall, 80 miles long, from sea to sea to separate the barbarians from the Romans’.
The wall took at least six years to complete, the plan being for a wall of stone or turf, with a guarded gate every mile (known as a Milecastle). There were to be two observation towers and a wide, deep ditch to the front, unless a crag or river deemed this unnecessary. Before completion, 14 forts were added.
Perceived as the most famous of all the frontiers of the Roman empire, Hadrian’s Wall was made a World Heritage Site in 1987.
The particulars of Hadrian’s Wall
It is often mistakenly thought that Hadrian’s Wall represents the English/Scottish border, but actually much of Northumberland, England’s largest county, lies north of the Wall.
Hadrian’s Wall is 73 miles (80 Roman miles) long and crosses northern Britain from Wallsend on the River Tyne in the east, to Bowness-on-Solway in the west. The majority of the wall was made of stone, but the western 30 mile section was made of turf.
The stone sections had a maximum height of 4.6 metres with a width of 3 metres (10 Roman feet). This made the wall wide enough to create a walkway along the top. The turf section was 6 metres (20 Roman feet) wide.
What can walkers see of Hadrian’s Wall today?
Today the wall remains standing in many areas, with Housesteads being one of the best-preserved forts. The foundations of a hospital, barracks and flushable toilet are all still visible. A vast chunk of the wall at Heddon-on-the-Wall, on the way in to Newcastle, is still standing, and the ruins of the Roman bridge that crossed River Irthing are still there to see.
The Hadrian’s Wall Path
The Hadrian’s Wall Path is an 84 mile (135 Km) long National Trail, stretching along the length of the Hadrian’s Wall site. As with many National Trails, the walk doesn’t have to be completed in one go, there are many circular walks along the trail.
The walk passes through some of the most beautiful countryside England has to offer, with the juxtaposition of the bustling cities of Newcastle and Carlisle. On average it takes an experienced walker between 6 and 7 days to complete the entire trail, but extra time should be considered for visiting some of the Roman sites along the way, which all have museums and refreshments.
It is not an easy walk. In particular, the 23 mile section between Chollerford and Birdoswald has lots of short climbs and descents, not dissimilar to walking along the coast. That said, anyone who is reasonably fit should be able to complete the trail.
The route is very clearly marked, even in poor visibility, so navigation is not difficult. As long as walkers track their progress with a guidebook or map, there shouldn’t be any problem. In some places the wall itself guides you in the right direction, whilst in others the acorn symbol and marking arrows will help you.
The Hadrian’s Wall Path Route
The Hadrian’s Wall Path begins either in Wallsend or Bowness-on-Solway. It is easily reached
by public transport using the seasonal AD122 Hadrian’s Wall Country Bus which provides an excellent service to many points along the trail between Newcastle and Carlisle. There are many accommodation options along the way, with some offering a drop-off and pick up service.
Obviously, the walk can be completed in either direction, east to west or vice versa, but just bear in mind that from east to west you will be walking into the prevailing wind, which perhaps in the summer isn’t a major factor. It really depends on where you want to end up. Some consider it better to be in Newcastle with its easier transport links, whereas others prefer to finish the walk in the beautiful Solway estuary for quiet reflection.
Can I take my dog on The Hadrian’s Wall Path?
Because the path passes through farmland with grazing stock, and there are stiles which dogs may struggle to get over, The Hadrian’s Wall Path is not promoted as a dog friendly trail. You are entitled to take your dog, but out of respect for farmers, it must be on a lead where there is livestock.
What should I take with me on The Hadrian’s Wall Path?
- You will need a guidebook or map
- Suitable clothing is essential to ensure you are prepared for the many climate changes that take place in this beautiful part of the country.
- The correct footwear is obviously important to tackle this mainly grassy path which presents terrain surprises along the way.
- Backpackers will need the necessary equipment to be covered for all eventualities, particularly if you are camping along the route. The provision of campsites is improving but there are gaps, and wild camping is not advised.
- It is advisable to take a cheque book with you as card payments are still not available with some accommodation providers.
- Take plenty of water, regardless of the time of year.
- Insect repellent will be necessary in the summer months.
- A small first aid kit would be advisable.
The Hadrian’s Wall Path is a special trail. It is the only coast-to-coast walk to follow a World Heritage Site. There is an extensive array of archaeological remains, including the Roman Forts of Segedunum (Wallsend), Chesters, Housesteads and Birdoswald. Whin Sill escarpment, also known as Great Whin Sill, is a well preserved Roman masonry and earthworks in County Durham, and the Solway salt marshes offer sightings of amazing wildlife.
We’d love to hear from you if we’ve inspired you to complete this iconic walk. Likewise, we’d be happy to offer any advice you may need regarding your clothing or footwear, or what you should take with you. Just get in touch
Roman army on the orders of the