Walking Hadrian’s Wall
The Hadrian’s Wall footpath crosses wild and beautiful terrain, its route covering the shortest distance coast to coast across the country, following Hadrian’s frontier. This is a real walking holiday (up to 13 miles per day) – a wonderful way to chart the entire length of the frontier, on foot – as the Romans would have done. Pass forts, mile castles and some fine museums, as we walk west to west. We start along the shore of the Solway Firth and end at the excavated fort and reconstructed bath-house at Segedunum. Crossing the remote Northumbrian and Cumbrian fells, one can easily imagine the Roman soldiers, far from Syria or Spain, as they patrolled the farthest flung corner of the Empire.
- To the south, the lands of the Pax Romana, to the north, the subdued Iron Age tribes
- Walking the wall in the company of a specialist in Roman archaeology
- Small Group
- Low Single Supplement
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- All Inclusive
Our journey begins with a transfer to the Cumbrian village of Wetheral, perched high on the banks of the River Eden. Here we check in to our comfortable hotel, where we meet our group and guide lecturer. This evening we enjoy an introductory talk about the history of Hadrian’s Wall – an engaging taster of what is to come.
Our walk starts at Bowness-on-Solway and the western end of Hadrian’s great legacy, an area of outstanding natural beauty boasting views across the border to Scotland. It is here that we join the Hadrian’s Wall Path, a national trail which follows the wall for 80 Roman miles (that’s 84 miles in modern measurements), and finishes in the aptly named town of Wallsend.
As we head out of Bowness – once the site of the Roman fort Maia – we keep our eyes and ears open for the local birdlife: lapwings, godwits, plovers and knots all make this spot their home. With the wall as our constant companion we start to imagine the impact of this ‘divine’ construction on the ancient Britons and Picts who lived beside it.
This afternoon we travel by coach to the Tullie House Museum in Carlisle, a classical building housing informative displays about this area’s Roman past, and frequently updated exhibits on local wildlife. (8.5 mile walk)
Today we follow the line of the wall from Crosby-on-Eden to the fort and museum at Birdoswald. Birdoswald, known as Banna in ancient parlance, is the only archaeological site along the wall at which significant Roman occupation has been proven, and as such makes for a thrilling stop-off point.
It is believed that Roman auxiliaries lived here from approximately 100 to 400 AD. The remains of its gates are still very much in evidence, as are traces of its granary, barracks, and – most unusually – an exercise building, presumably used for the training of soldiers in less hospitable weather. We can also see the remnants of the turf wall which preceded its stone counterpart. (12.5 mile walk)
After a restful night and a hearty breakfast, we return to Birdoswald in order to pick up our walk from where we left off. The trail takes us to Carvoran, a Roman fort where notable excavations have included the discovery of a two-foot long iron spearhead, found at the bottom of a well. Carvoran is now home to the Roman Army Museum, offering a comprehensive insight into what life would have been like as a Roman soldier – as well as an excellent exhibition charting Hadrian’s progress from boyhood to ruler.
Our journey continues to Steel Rigg, a dramatic crag with breath-taking views across the rugged countryside. A wonderful reward for our day of walking. (11.5 mile walk)
Our morning begins with a visit to Vindolanda, in the heart of the Northumberland National Park. The earliest remains of the fort here predate Hadrian’s Wall, and were first established in approximately 85 AD – the timber huts from this era are now buried in the waterlogged soil. The fort was subsequently demolished and rebuilt nine times, and foundations of its stone constructions are still visible for us to explore. Highlights include the well-preserved 3rd century bath house, and the remnants of the only temple dedicated to a Roman deity to have ever been found in a Roman auxiliary complex.
Our next stop is Steel Rigg, where our walk continues along the crags to Housesteads Fort and Carrawburgh. This section introduces us to some particularly spectacular scenery, including sheer cliffs, tracts of woodland, the lake of Crag Lough, and the famous Sycamore Gap, where one of England’s best loved trees stands framed by lush green hills. (8 mile walk)
We lace up our boots for a visit to the fort and mithraeum at Carrawburgh, our starting point for today. It is thought that this elegant temple was built by Roman soldiers in around 200 AD, as its three altars, dedicated to the bull-slaying god Mithras, were all inscribed from commanding officers. A nymphaeum, or natural grotto, was also located here, though no visible traces remain.
This afternoon we stride out to Chesters on the bank of the North Tyne River, enjoying the fresh country air and changing views. At Chesters we are rewarded with a visit to the most complete Roman cavalry fort in the country, Cilurnum. The site, maintained by English Heritage, features an extensive collection of artefacts, a fine bath building and officers’ quarters. (6 mile walk)
Today we pay a visit to Brunton Turret, one of the best preserved turrets along the length of the wall, with its beautiful archways curving from the grass. We walk from here across Dere Street – a Roman road which ran from York into Scotland, allowing the legions quick access to the northeastern territories.
Our delightful hike ends at Harlow Hill this afternoon, a small village which once contained ‘Milecastle 16’ – one of the small forts erected to mark the length of Hadrian’s Wall at regular intervals of one Roman mile. (11 mile walk)
The last of our thigh-stretchers gets going by way of Heddon-on-the-Wall, where we see the longest unbroken section of Hadrian’s Wall, measuring an impressive 280 yards from end to end. This substantial structure demonstrates how thick the wall was meant to be, showing it at its original, planned width of two metres. A medieval kiln and circular chambers are also visible here.
Later we view the surviving wall that stretches around Denton, before continuing to the Temple at Benwell, dedicated to the local god Antenociticus, a deity thought to have been involved with military affairs.
With the majority of our leg-work now behind us, tonight we kick off our hiking gear and enjoy a well-earned dinner to mark the last night of our holiday with the group. (11 mile walk)
Our journey from coast to coast is almost at an end. We enjoy a gentle walk to the remains of the Roman fort at Newcastle, on the banks of the River Tyne. From there we board a metro to the Great North Museum, which was built for Northumbria’s natural history collection in 1884. Alongside fantastic fossil galleries and displays about the living planet we find a detailed Hadrian’s Wall exhibition, where treasures and stories abound.
Our final destination is Wallsend, where we visit the site of Segedunum, the most completely excavated fort on Hadrian’s Wall, which once housed troops from mainland North Europe. An interactive museum reveals what life would have been like for a cavalry officer at the height of the garrison’s powers. Next door we find Swan Hunter’s shipyard, where some of the greatest 20th century ships were forged – most notably RMS Mauretania.
The adventure comes to an end at the seaside town of South Shields, where we say our goodbyes and head home. (2.5 mile walk)
- Expert Guide Lecturer
- Tour Manager
- Local Travel - Private a/c coach
- Meals - All meals included with wine at dinner
- Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in program; tips included
- Field Notes
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