Hadrian’s Wall Path – Gilsland to Sewingshields Crag

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.

Highlights

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.

Northumberland Traveller

Since leaving Malaysia almost a year ago I have been living in Northumberland, a scenic and historic county in the far northeast of England. During this year I have been doing lots of walks and exploring the county’s many attractions but I have not had the time or inclination to do much blogging.

Until now.

Seeing as we are all in Covid-19 lockdown, it seems a good opportunity to write up my travels in Northumberland. If you are running low on reading material you can take a look and get some ideas for places to visit once this coronavirus plague is behind us (please don’t visit now!)

What’s So Great About Northumberland?

It’s Spacious. It’s the least crowded county in England. Northumberland is big with an area around 5,014 sq. km (the 6th biggest) while its population is low, only 319,000 in 2018, meaning a population density of just 63 people per sq. km. Less people means less traffic on the roads, less stress, less pollution, etc.

It’s Scenic. Northumberland is geographically diverse with the Northumberland National Park taking up over a fifth of the county, a long and spectacular coastline, large forests, lakes, rolling farmland, majestic rivers and the windswept Cheviot Hills. And Northumberland has a great location surrounded by scenic places such as the Lake District in Cumbria, the North York Moors, County Durham, and the Borders of Scotland.

It’s Historic. There are a lot of historical remains here ranging from Hadrian’s Wall, castles and peles to mining and industrial sites. The City of Newcastle upon Tyne (once part of Northumberland but now administered as part of Tyne and Wear) is a wonderful city, packed full of historical places of interest and heritage sites.

It’s Friendly. The people of Northumberland are welcoming, hardy, salt-of-the-earth types, with the most attractive of all the northern English accents.

What Will I Be Blogging About?

Here are some of the walks and sights that I have covered and might write about depending on how long I’m confined to my house:

Long Distance Walks such as:

City Trails & Art Trails:

  • Lowry Trail
  • Bewick Trail
  • John Martin Trail
  • Norman Cornish Trail
  • Newcastle City Trail

Other Walks:

  • Derwent Reservoir Walk

Castles

Roman Sites

  • Corbridge Roman Town
  • Chesters Roman Fort
  • Housesteads Roman Fort

Museums

  • Laing Art Gallery
  • The Clayton Museum
  • Wylam Railway Museum
  • Stephenson Railway Museum
  • North East Land Sea & Air Museum
  • Bowes Railway Museum
  • Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade Watch House and Museum
  • Woodhorn Museum

Historical Homes and Gardens

Churches and Abbeys

Lighthouses

  • Souter Lighthouse
  • St Mary’s Lighthouse
  • Tynemouth Pier Lighthouse

Monuments & Statues

Railway Related Sites

Other Attractions

Attractions in Neighbouring Counties

That’s a lot of writing so I’d better get started.