I know, I know. I’ve posted about the Hadrian’s Wall Path already. Shortly after I completed it, I shared a bunch of photos (here are part 1 and part 2) and a video. What I haven’t done, however, is actually talk about it.
It’s a magnificent hike.
In this post, I’m going to share all the details of my week on the Hadrian’s Wall Path.
Hadrian’s Wall was built by Roman Emperor Hadrian in 122 AD. The northernmost border of the Roman Empire, it used to be the most heavily fortified border of the whole empire. It was built after it became obvious that the ferocious Scottish clans couldn’t be conquered. The wall’s main purpose was protection and border control. It stretched westward for 73 miles (117 kilometers) from Segedunum on the River Tyne, present-day Newcastle-upon-Tyne, on the North Sea coast to the shore of the Solway Firth on the Irish Sea coast. Every mile there was a so-called milecastle, which controlled the movement of people and goods along and through the border.
Hiking the Hadrian’s Wall Path
The Hadrian’s Wall Path, one of England’s greatest long-distance hikes, runs along and over the original wall from Wallsend in the east to Bowness-on-Solway in the west. I hiked this fabulous 84 mile-long (135-kilometer) trail with my dad in the last week of September 2012. Walking between six and seven hours each day, it took us six days to finish.
England wouldn’t be England without rain. And we experienced a lot of it during the first two days. We expected this and had booked accommodation in B&Bs and inns before leaving. Knowing that we could take a hot shower and have a warm meal and a pint in the evenings made getting soaking wet during the day a lot more bearable. If you plan to do this in summer, when the weather is drier and warmer, camping is strongly recommended. Several farms along the trail have campsites and basic facilities.
We got absolutely drenched during those first couple of days, but finally, on the third day, the skies cleared up. The scenery, too, got more interesting. While on the first day the trail led through the city center of Newcastle and its suburbs, on the second day we already found ourselves in the countryside. The walk from Heddon-on-the-Wall to Chollerford took us through fairly flat fields and along the Military Road.
More hiking: Hiking the Müllerthal Trail, Luxembourg
On day three the Hadrian’s Wall Path led from Chollerford to the Twice Brewed Inn in Hexham, and ran along and sometimes even over the actual wall. The landscapes, especially those in Northumberland National Park, were absolutely spectacular. They consisted of hills, rocks and stones, marshes, bogs and meadows,… everything that makes the English countryside so attractive. Sometimes, after climbing another steep hill and looking out over the fields, we felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. That’s the effect that a few days of moving at your own pace have on your mind; in a car we could have covered the same distance in less than an hour.
We hiked for six days, backpacks strapped on our backs, and thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it – even the unrelenting downpours. Sore legs, painful knees, blisters, broken shoelaces or rain, we didn’t care. The views, landscapes and tremendous history of the region more than compensated those nuisances.
The third and fourth day, from Chollerford to Walton, were the most physically challenging, yet the most enjoyable. Nice weather, magnificent views, solitude and adventure; four keywords to sum up those days and the main ingredients of a memorable travel experience.
The Hadrian’s Wall Path flattened out again after Walton, for we were now approaching the west coast. The last day, from Carlisle to the Solway Firth, took us along wide and slow-flowing rivers and through the marshes of the estuary.
More hiking: 15 Long-Distance Hikes of Less than One Month
Day 1: Wallsend – Heddon-on-the-Wall (13 miles / 21 kilometers)
Day 2: Heddon-on-the-Wall – Chollerford (15 miles / 24 kilometers)
Day 3: Chollerford – Hexham (15 miles / 24 kilometers)
Day 4: Hexham – Brampton (12 miles / 19 kilometers)
Day 5: Brampton – Carlisle (12 miles / 19 kilometers)
Day 6: Carlisle – Bowness-on-Solway (17 miles / 28 kilometers)
Because we had booked our accommodation beforehand and didn’t camp, we could carry everything easily in two backpacks. Food was available in abundance along the way; there were stores, pubs and restaurants.
- Distance: 84 miles (135 kilometers)
- Time: 6 days
- Signage: The Hadrian’s Wall Path is marked with arrows and a white acorn, the official symbol of the English National Trails.
- Highlights: Segedunum, Birdoswald Roman Fort, Housesteads Roman Fort, the Roman Army Museum, Chesters Roman Fort and Hadrian’s Wall itself, obviously.
- If you want the certainty of a bed at night, it is suggested to book ahead.
- Always carry sufficient water and food.
- Make sure to have some cash on you, as not all places accept debit and credit cards.
- Bring a rain jacket – it rains in England.
- Definitely break in your walking boots beforehand.
- Research the availability of public transportation along the way.
- Take lots of photos – it’s beautiful in England.