Trek Notes - England

Hadrian's Wall

Hadrian’s Wall

This is the newest "National Trail" in the U.K, only 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 alot 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 hastling 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some kind of order and consolidate the extreme North of the Empire, especially after one of the legion divisions was withdrawn from Britain to fight the German tribes leaving Britain under defended.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 (under-floor 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, leaving only a few Italian restaurants in the region 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 mediaeval 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.


General Information

Duration of tour
8 days (7 nights)

8 April  – Mid October.

Starting point of tour
Whitley Bay (Newcastle Upon Tyne).

Tour ends
Carlisle (Cumbria).

Easy to Moderate. Some longish days (around 13–15 miles) and short steep climbs and descents. Generally however undulating. Mixed weather can be expected at anytime.


National Trail Acorn marks often attached to “finger posts” and stiles. The wall either as an embankment or a wall forms a suitable waymark for much of the route, but you will have to use map interpretation especially in times of low visibility, and getting to know how far you have come. So you should be accustomed to using map and compass.


Please note that with all our night stops we aim to reserve rooms with ensuite facilities. In some circumstances ensuite rooms may not be available at the time of booking. Below we list our normal stops along the route, note that room numbers in the different locations are limited and so we may have to find alternatives on some occasions.

Night 1
At Whitley Bay  our family run 4 crown hotel is in the ideal position - overlooking the beautiful Whitley Bay golden sands.

Night 2
In Wylam we stay in another nice Victorian country house which has been noted by English Heritage. The rooms are large and ensuite. It has been described by some clients as a home from home.

Night 3
At HumsHaugh, our guesthouse located only half a mile from the wall and Chollerford. It is a welcoming working farm which offers magnificent views of Northumberland.

Night 4
Near to Housesteads we stay at a farm B&B situated about half a mile north of Hadrian's Wall within Northumberland's beautiful National Park. Magnificently situated, the wall can be seen from the farm. It is in the middle of all the most important sites (Housesteads, Vindolanda, Great Chesters and the Roman Army Museum at Carvoran are all within 4 miles, via beautiful scenic walks if you have the time or you have an extra day).

Night 5
At Lannercost we are about half a mile off the route, but in a beautiful little village, in a nice Inn which is near to the ruined abbey and attractive river. The place is quiet and rooms are well appointed having been praised by previous walkers.

Nights 6 & 7
Our Final two nights are spent in Carlisle at a small hotel Situated in a solid Victorian terrace. It has its foundations literally on Hadrian’s Wall. All rooms have hot drinks tray, hair dryer, remote controlled TVs, radio alarms and direct dial telephone with lap top point. There is also a Bistro restaurant open everyday except Sundays.

PLEASE NOTE: It is generally normal practice when staying in hotels that you check-in on or after 2pm and checkout by 11am the following morning. Guesthouses/bed & breakfast establishments are normally check-in on or after 4pm and checkout by 11am.


Day 1 Whitley Bay
Travel to Newcastle and then onto Whitley Bay. If you have time you will be able to take the Metro back into the city to have a look round this vibrant “Toon.”

Day 2 Whitley Bay to Wylam / Heddon on the Wall 15 Miles (24km)
Today you take the short train (metro) from Whitley Bay to Wallsend and the start of the walk (15 mins, not included). If you have time before setting off on your days walk 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 along side 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 at last. 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.

Day 3 Wylam to HumsHaugh 16.5 miles
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 became itself a source of material for the foundations of General Wade’s military road, the trail though 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.

Day 4
Humshaugh to Housesteads (Once brewed) 12 miles (19.3 km): 
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. Our 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. Now follows arguably the most scenic section of the trip; over Highshield crags and then down via Peel Crags to the National Park car park at Steel Rigg. From here you can walk out to accommodation at Once Brewed.

Day 5:  Once Brewed to Lanercost / Banks 13 Miles
The wall climbs to its highest point over Windshields Crags, before descending to the delightfully named Bogle hole. Then downsteps 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 mediaeval 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 find a shop / Post office.  You turn off here for the last mile or so to the little hamlet of Lannercost and our country Inn.

Day 6: Lannercost to Carlisle 13 miles
The route continues undulating across country,  reaching the little village of Walton, where a pint might  be in order. 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 Mediaeval  Pele, Peel Tower that rang in times of danger so that the locals could congregate  within its fortifications. Next we come to  Rickerby which  has, in contrast,  a Victorian  folly tower. Finally we cross the River Eden, wind round the river 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. Alot 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.

Day 7: Carlisle to Bowness on Solway 15 miles
As you have a second night in your hotel in Carlisle, the final walk today can be done in either direction. Most efficiently take a scheduled bus  (at own expense) at around 09:00 to Bowness On Solway and walk back to Carlisle, or just check the timetables and walk to Bowness and then bus or taxi back. The walk itself from Carlisle follows the 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.

Day 8: Depart Carlisle
After breakfast.


Bed and breakfast with ensuite facilities where available.  Luggage transfers from Inn to Inn. Full route book and map package including notes on finding your accommodation each night.

Extend your Stay

Extra nights
Housesteads/Once Brewed. From £28 per person per night.
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