Hadrian’s Wall

“Variety of scenery, a genuine coast to coast and a lesson in history characterise Hadrian’s Wall. England will be a better understood place when the walk is completed”

(84 miles. 5/8 days)

Hadrian’s Wall is a long distance walk which follows the line of the Roman Wall. It was built by Hadrianus between AD120 and AD126 in order to keep out the raiding Scots. Certainly the views to the north are far reaching and provide a fantastic panorama of the Border Lands.

Near Shield

Near Shield

The walk itself starts in the east at Wallsend, Newcastle and finishes beyond Carlisle to the west on the Solway Furth. The most dramatic and interesting section of the walk is from Chollerford through to Banks but even the two outside legs have their own fascinations. Of course there is also the immense satisfaction of crossing the country!

We will also plan, book & transfer your bags on your long distance walk on Hadrian’s Wall click here

This is not one of the more difficult long distance walks, the signage is good (except through the cities) and the wall offers a good ‘handrail’ for progress. As it is part of a ‘World Heritage Site’ there are places the walkers route has been altered to preserve the wall and its forts (there is a milecastle every Roman mile). I must admit not finding this any concern and the detours offer interesting little discoveries.

Much of the accommodation does tend to be off the route (a few miles) but there is usually local buses, taxis or the accommodation may offer a mini bus service.

The long walk to Chollerford

The long walk to Chollerford

Sample Itineraries

It is perfectly possible to take anything from 4 to 10 days to ‘walk the Wall’. There is plenty of accommodation (particularly if you take your time and visit the nearby attractive market towns) so make your own up but…

Our Most Popular Itinerary (7 days/8 nights). 

Day 1. Wallsend to Heddon on the Wall 15 miles

From Wallsend the route follows the River Tyne through the attractive centre of Newcastle. Pass the Quayside, the Tyne and Millenium bridges before carrying on through the east end of the city before a short climb to Heddon on the Wall.

Day 2. Heddon on the Wall to Chollerford 15.5 miles

From Heddon on the Wall the walk follows fields and the Vallum through some pleasant countryside. The city is left behind, the walking easy and their are some milecastles remains to explore.

Tyne Bridge and the Sage

Tyne Bridge and the Sage

Day 3. Chollerford to Twice Brewed 12 miles

From Chollerford the wall itself becomes increasingly prominent, the landscape more spectacular but the walking harder. The undulating walk passes Vindolanda and more famously Housesteads before arriving at Steel Rigg just outside Twice Brewed. The market town of Haltwhistle is nearby.

Day 4. Twice Brewed to Gilsland 9 miles

The lack of mileage is made up by the continual interest in probably the best day of the walk. The route follows the escarpment which becomes if anything more undulating. Chesters Fort and the Roman Army Museum are enroute as are the pretty villages of Greenhead and Gilsland.

Day 5. Gilsland to Newtown. 9 miles

The walking becomes less arduous as the wall drops towards the west. The small villages of Banks and Walton break up the day pleasantly as the walk crosses through some open countryside. There are less signs of the wall at this stage. At the end of the day Brampton is only a few miles off track and worth a visit.

Beaumont, near Carlisle

Beaumont, near Carlisle

Day 6. Newtown to Carlisle 9 miles

The walk from Brampton heads west till it crosses the M6 and meets the River Eden. The path soon arrives at Carlisle with a genuine medieval feel about the city. The castle is impressive as are the city walls and cathedral.

Day 7. Carlisle to Bowness on Solway 14 miles

A day which contrasts well with what has gone before. After initially following the River Eden the path meets the estuary of the Solway Firth. The views are extensive, both to the  Lake District Mountains in the south and Scotland to the north. However it is the peace and noise of the extensive bird life which is the memories you will take away from the day.

Hadrian’s Wall Highlights (Forget the 2 Ends)

The most memorable part of the wall is the mid section so if you are a little short for time consider walking Days 3, 4 and 5 only, a fantastic way to spend a long weekend.

 

Maps

Hadrian's Wall

 

Hadrian's Wall profile

Maps Required (East to West): O/S Explorer 316, OL43, 315 and 314. Alternatively look for Harvey strip maps.

 

My walk along Hadrian’s Wall (West to East)

In May 2018 myself and JP decided on a night in Woodall Spa (following a football match Boston vs Blyth Spartans) that we would ‘Walk the Wall’. Both of us are from Newcastle and had visited the forts during school days but had never really ‘got’ the area. Coupled with the fact I increasingly enjoy the challenge of a long distance walk a crossing made sense.

Planning

A few decisions were made:

  • We would walk West to East mainly because we wanted to end in our ‘home town’ and hopefully celebrate with the odd beer (little did we know). This is not the traditional direction.
  • The walk would be done quickly, 4 days at 20 plus miles a day was the challenge.
  • We would stay in the main market towns slightly off the route rather than guest houses/bunk barns which may have been closer to the path. I simply fancied visiting/staying in Brampton, Haltwhistle and Corbridge as I did not know them well.
  • We would operate a shuttle service with our 2 cars, moving one to the end point of the day. Although a little time consuming it worked well and enabled us to easily get to our overnight towns.
  • We would use maps not a guide book to find our way (for anyone who knows me an obvious decision). We were never lost although maybe took a couple of inadvertent detours.
  • Mist my border collie would come with us despite developing a limp the week before.
  • We would meet people enroute! There were a few souls who agreed to meet us and even a few who walked some of the way with us. Thanks to all.
Near Steel Rigg

Near Steel Rigg

JPs wife Ella and 13 year old son accompanied us for much of the way, on bikes! No they did not cycle next to us they planned their own cycle route for 4 days. This included an interesting trip to Kielder Reservoir via the Border Rievers Trail. An excellent alternative for those with a bike.

Therefore with 2 nights accommodation booked (Brampton and Haltwhistle) and a scrounged night with our friend Anita in Corbridge (she lives there) we were set to go.

Day 1

We had decided on a long 24 mile day to start our 4 day trek. A car was therefore left in Low Crosby and we all travelled to Bowness on Solway for the start of the walk. From Carlisle it seemed an awfully long way. There is an official start/end to the walk on a side path in the centre of Bowness which we did find eventually. The first section of the walk takes you alongside the road with Scotland the Solway Firth to the north. We saw some waders but to be honest it was head down walking.

Edward 1st Burgh by Sands

Edward 1st Burgh by Sands

We met a couple of Americans , the first of a lot. There is definitely something in our history that they like (maybe it is that we have one!) although these two were dawdling to such an extent I do not believe they ever would have got past Carlisle. The only noticeable feature of the wall itself was a deep Vallum (2m deep on average) to the south, running parallel to the road. Everything with the Romans was straight. The first major place of interest was Burgh by Sands, a small village but with a statue of Edward 1st who bizarrely came here all those years ago.

The estuary had been our companion for nearly 7 miles but now the route headed inland. Farmland dominated the views as we continued west to the very attractive village of Beaumont. A group of scouts were enjoying a full cooked meal as we sat next to the church consuming our mars bar. Planned eating on walks has never been our strong point. Sadly we were not offered a burger and the lack of food clearly led to a navigating error and some field hopping to get back on course. The River Eden provided our ‘handrail’ as we entered the outskirts of Carlisle.

From Carlisle

Carlisle

Carlisle

Many use Carlisle as a place to stay but we had many more miles to complete. A jogger informed us that the route used to pass next to Sainsburys but sadly for us (hungry that we were) we had to stick to the river. The river entered some parkland and JP demanded a stop. I was happy and happier still when he dug out a sandwich (thanks Ella).

This section of the walk is really a bit of a grind so we headed on quickly. Mist went too quick and bolted at one point (afraid of loud bangs) but I managed to catch her before she disappeared! The M6 was past but unlike my crossing of the Coast to Coast did not feel significant.To be honest beer was calling at this stage, it had been a long day and we were meeting friends in Brampton. However we still had to get to the car at Low Crosby. The village of Linstock felt more like a model village than a real place. The route then headed along some marshy land next to the River Eden before eventually arriving at Low Crosby. Looking back it was not a thriller of a day but it did feel we had accomplished a lot and were really in to the walk. Not that we had seen the stone section of the wall at all!

Day 2

Village of Banks

Village of Banks

After a night in the Hampton Arms in Brampton we decided to move car 2 to Greenhead, 15 miles along the wall. This did not seem like far enough but gave us an option on arrival whether to continue. In the end we did. Back to Low Crosby I have to say I found the first 4 to 5 miles instantly forgettable. A series of tracks led through lowland sheep fields and remote farms. It was an unspoilt landscape. The section was enlivened by meeting a young Dutch mother and her little boy. They were walking part of the wall but had no concept or thoughts where they were or where they were going. She had a tent on her back and was last seen heading off track to a farm I know not where. It made us seem organized.

Having walked for nearly 30 miles it was starting to become irritating that we had seen no sign of the stone wall itself. The odd milecastle, but no sign of the stone. However success was round the corner and, just before the steep climb to the pretty village of Banks, we saw a proper section of the wall. It was such a surprise JP took a photo. Banks itself marked a significant change on the route. The village was attractive enough but now the real Hadrian’s Wall took prominence. See my concluding comments on this!

First sight of the Wall

First sight of the Wall

From Banks

From Banks the route followed a  minor road for 4 miles (the path hopping from one side to another) with some excellent views to the south over the Tyne Valley and the wilderness to the north. Dead straight, as befits a Roman road, it eventually arrived at the first major fort of the wall, Birdoswald. The size of these forts is always a surprise, a real community beautifully preserved by English Heritage. After a wander around the remains we abandoned ship and had a very welcome cup of coffee.

After Birdoswald the path drops steeply to the River Irthing and then climbs sharply up the other side. Anyone who says Hadrian’s Wall is flat is simply wrong. I was enjoying this section a lot, the navigation was a little challenging but there was a lot going on. We were at the watershed of east and west and moved from Cumbria to my home county of Northumberland. Greenhead was on a tributary of the South Tyne, surely it was downhill from here.

Above Walltown

Above Walltown

At Greenhead we did some frantic car moving. It was nearly 6 when we arrived back at Greenhead with car 2 moved forward to a beautiful car park in a quarry near Burnhead. The drive took 10 minutes but the 4 miles of walking was a strenuous 2 hours. The navigation was tricky as we climbed out of Greenhead towards Walltown. The wall was soon prominent as we arrived on a stunning airy crest. The undulating hillside continued past High Chesters Fort (ignored) but kept close to the high point of the ridge. The views ahead to Steel Rigg were excellent and promised much for the next day. It was a late finish by the time we arrived in Haltwhistle. We had to knock up the chip shop owner to get anything to eat but at least one of the pubs served us a good pint (or two). We stayed in a lovely apartment, part of the Centre of Britain hotel.

Day 3.

345m High Point

345m High Point

A memorable day over the best section of Hadrian’s Wall. From the start at Burnhead a steep climb set the tone for the day. For the next 6 miles we climbed and descended from view to view including at 345m the highest point of the walk. The famous scene depicted in Robin Hood’s Prince of Thieves with the solitary tree at Steel Rigg was admired. We did however wonder how Kevin Costner got permission to climb on the wall, none of us lesser mortals could. Despite being impressed with ourselves and the mileage we were completing each day we were put in our place on Steel Rigg. A walker/runner passed us walking the Pennine Way, he was completing the route in less than a week making it over 30 miles a day. He was training for an even quicker run.

It was lunchtime when we approached Housesteads Fort and the conclusion to the steep undulations of the central section of the walk. Another well known fort, Vindolanda, lies a little way to the south but we did not have the time to visit.  After 2 and 1/2 days it was nice to have some company and we were met by Anita, Helen and Lucy for the walk to Chollerford. We were staying at Anita’s in Corbridge that night and all proved to be a great tonic on the walk and a help moving the cars. We had a short time to look around Housesteads, the most popular of Hadrian’s Wall forts.

Chollerford Walking

Near Housesteads

Near Housesteads

After an initial climb the next 9 miles to Chollerford took us alongside the ‘Military Road’. I remember this from my childhood, again an arrow like legacy of the Romans. We talked our way along this airy but mainly flat section, the views to the north particularly good. The trig point at Milecastle 30 proved to be an excellent resting point. Still 30 miles to go and myself and JP considering a further extension to the day. From the trig the route drops down in to Chollerford and where the girls were parked at Chesters Fort.

The girls headed off having moved our car to the Errington Arms for our late afternoon 4 mile stroll! However myself and JP were not yet ready to head off and had a very pleasant pint in the George hotel overlooking the South Tyne. The trouble with being beside a river is you always are faced with a climb next. So it was but after 500 feet we topped out and joined the path heading directly east. This section just clicked off the miles to be honest and it was not long till we arrived at the pub. Resisting a second pint we drive to Corbridge and found Anita’s house. Ella and Joel returned from the their Reivers cycle. They seemed to have enjoyed it. A final pint in the Pele Tower pub completed a great day.

Wasting time, Chollerford!

Wasting time, Chollerford!

Day 4

Our final day was always going to be interesting. Not only would it complete the walk but Newcastle is a city and city walking is boring? However we planned to break it up with some beers as we crawled along the Tyne. And so we did!

However we had a section of typical Hadrian’s Wall walking in the morning till we dropped down to the River Tyne. 10 miles of it in fact. This section really was a bit of a slog, much of it beside the road or in the 2m vallum! Mist was not with us today, the thought of her in the city did not appeal although she could easily have done the first section. We broke the trip up with a coffee at a pub enroute and eventually arrived at Vindobala fort. The countryside section was now finished.

Sewingshields

Sewingshields

It is true that walking in urban areas has more navigation challenges and a couple of minor route finding errors occurred as we dropped down from Heddon on the Wall. We skirted Close House golf course before meeting the river. I found this section quite interesting as, despite being a native of this city, I had never explored this part of the city.

The Tyne Riverside Park found us in Newburn where we met Anna, Adrian and Felicity. They had had already been in the pub a while when we had arrived and were suitably cheery! The morning section had been longer than anticipated and we made an error in finding the pub in Newburn.

River Tyne

Tyneside Marina

Tyneside Marina

After our first pint of the day we headed through Lemington, crossed the A1 and in to the joys of Scotswood. Actually the walking was fine and after Scotswood the path dropped down to the river. A quick stop in a 2nd pub (or an Italian bar?) and the increasingly attractive views along the Tyne led to a cheerful walk to the quayside. Anyone who knows Newcastle recognizes it as the best city in the country, it certainly is. The views across the river, past the 7 bridges and across to the Sage. It was so good we stopped late afternoon on the quayside for a number of extra beers. The sun was out and it was glorious.

However we still had 4 hours to complete the walk. We were joined by Helen and Lucy as we followed the Tyne towards Wallsend. For the first 2 miles this proved to be very enjoyable, the highlight being a hidden marina near Pelaw. We could have been in the Mediterranean! The final 1 mile in to Wallsend was a bit of a slog (probably due to the beer) and the ending a bit of an anticlimax. However I always feel that way on completing a long distance walk, the anticipation of the finish never matching the reality. Myself and JP parted, headed to the Metro and went home!

The End (or Start) Walllsend

The End (or Start) Wallsend

Final Thoughts

I would recommend anybody to walk Hadrian’s Wall. The walk is full of interest and variety and certainly I ended up with a greater understanding of the history of the area. I have a few thoughts though.

  • There is no doubt that most of the interest and enjoyment of the walk is packed in to the middle 30 miles.
    • Be aware each end of the walk has long sections of little interest. Either city walking or straight walking on paths next to roads.
    • Consider spending more time and just walking the middle 30 miles.
    • Walk the full Hadrian’s Wall 84 miles if your primary motivation is to ‘complete’ the walk.
  • Make an early decision whether you want to stay as close to the route as possible or as we did hop down to the nearby market towns.
  • I was surprised how few people we saw walking the route considering we were going ‘against’ the most popular route.
  • Spend time to look at the forts and read about the history (we missed out on Vindolanda in its entirety. The walk will be improved as a result.