The Hadrian’s Wall Path is an 84 mile (135 km) long trail stretching across the narrow neck of Northern England from Wallsend, Newcastle upon Tyne in the east to Bowness-on-Solway in Cumbria on the west coast.
The trail follows the line of Hadrian’s Wall built by the Romans from A.D. 122 onwards to consolidate the northern border of the Roman Empire. The path passes through some of England’s best scenery and there are a number of Roman forts and museums along the way for the history lover.
So far I have walked the most scenic part of the trail from Gilsland to Sewingshields Crag which includes the best preserved sections of wall, many points of interest and excellent views. The total distance walked was about 24 miles (there and back) spread out over several days.
National Trail near Gilsland. National Trails are waymarked with the white acorn symbol shown here.
Thirlwall Castle, above, was built in the early 14th century using stone recycled from Hadrian’s Wall. Legend has it that during one of the many Anglo-Scottish skirmishes in the 15th century a servant of the castle hid the owner’s most precious possession, a golden table, down a well where it remains to this day, protected by a magic spell.
Typical Hadrian’s Wall scenery. A lonely farmhouse alongside the wall.
The trail passes through working farms and pet dogs need to be kept on a leash if there are any sheep around.
Watch towers or turrets were usually built about every half mile along the wall. This is English Heritage’s artistic impression of turret 45a at Walton Crags around AD 180. Roman Empire to the right, barbarians to the left.
Only the foundations of turrets remain.
Small forts, called milecastles, were incorporated into the wall every Roman mile (about 1.48km). They had gateways to allow people to pass to and from the Roman province of Britannia. This is an artist’s impression of Cawfields milecastle around AD 130.
An outline of a milecastle’s foundations can be seen here.
The builders of Hadrian’s Wall made use of any natural crags and cliffs along its route to improve its defensive qualities. The central sector of the wall follows a craggy rock formation called Great Whin Sill.
Not exactly the Great Wall of China but impressive all the same. The original wall would have been taller. Many of the stones have been removed and reused over the centuries and found their way into churches, stately homes and farmhouses.
This section of the trail provides good exercise with lots of steps and slopes.
Sycamore Gap is probably the most photographed spot on Hadrian’s Wall. The tree grows in a natural gap in the Whin Sill. The tree has appeared in numerous TV shows and in the 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves starring Kevin Costner.
Housesteads Roman Fort was a strong defensive position and contained barrack blocks and a hospital.
You can wander around the ruins of Housesteads Roman Fort and there is a museum to provide explanations of what you are seeing.
Time to walk back to my car.
Far from light pollution, the Dark Skies sites at places such as Walltown Quarry provide a great opportunity to enjoy the star-filled night sky.
If you are interested in walking the Hadrian’s Wall Path you can obtain lots of practical information from this website.
One thought on “Hadrian’s Wall Path – Gilsland to Sewingshields Crag”