Hadrian’s Wall Walk
We had to take a local country bus from Carlisle to the beginning of our walk in Bowness-on-Solway on the west coast. It was a bus trip down a narrow country road to our destination. It seemed that everyone on the bus were doing the walk, too. Besides myself and Donna on the small bus, there was another group of 8. We were all staying in two of the very few B&Bs in this very small and cute village of Bowness-on-Solway. Once we checked out our room, Donna and I walked through the village, did some exploring, checked out the scenery and had some dinner.
Day 1: Unfortunately, my body must have been anxious about getting started on the walk as I got only 4 hours sleep – not a great way to start the walk. We started out at 9 a.m. It was a bit chilly and windy to start but we soon warmed up.
In Port Carlisle, not long after starting out, we met a nice gentleman who lived along the trail and had a signpost with several destinations and distances on it. Believe it or not, he had signposts for both Montreal and Vancouver and took our pictures for us under them. What a sweet guy.
We passed through some other small towns this day before reaching Carlisle again at the end of the day – a walk of just over 14.2 miles of about 7 hours. We didn’t see any evidence of the Wall this day. This was because many of the stones from the Wall were used for buildings and other fences in the area long before the historic value of the Wall became appreciated.
We felt pretty good for our first day but a bit tired. We arrived in Carlisle with enough time to see some of the Tullie House Museum with its Roman exhibits and then to quickly run in to see the magnificent Carlisle Cathedral before it closed. We didn’t have enough time to see Carlisle Castle though.
Day 2: Yea, I had a good nights sleep! And there was plenty of sun to accompany the wind today.
In the afternoon, Donna & I detoured off the trail to go into the town of Brampton for an early dinner and to pick up a few little groceries. Brampton was a lovely little town and very cute. Because of this detour to Brampton, we walked some footpaths from Brampton to the little community of Abbey Bridge and to our B&B. It was wonderful walking on top of a hill with great views and then along a stream through a forest where thousands of bluebells were in bloom. We walked 13.9 miles with additional miles from our detour to Brampton.
Day 3: Before setting out for the day, we visited Lanercost Priory. This priory was built about 1169 as an Augustinian monastery with stones from the Wall.
Because we had to wait for the Priory to open, we got a bit of a late start today. During our journey today, we saw the remains of a Roman turret or observation tower at Banks.
Oh, it was such a tough and long day today. Lots of ups and downs on the crags! The wind was not only very strong but it was coming from the east and we had to walk into it! I was so tired by the end of the day that I was dragging myself into the town of Once Brewed and to the Twice Brewed Inn. We got there about 8 p.m. After dinner, we just collapsed into bed. I probably fell asleep before my head hit the pillow. After all, we did do about 9 hours of up down, up down, up down, all day into the strong wind and it was one of our longer days at 14.7 miles. I can see why some walkers did this section in 2 days! I would certainly recommend it for some. When we checked out the elevation climbs before the walk, it didn’t look like a problem. But, we had no idea how many times we would be climbing up those crags.
Day 4: We had a good nights sleep so we started back to climbing more crags. Thank goodness most of the climbing was in the morning and the afternoon had easier terrain.
Today we passed by the famous sycamore tree in Sycamore Gap, and got to see the remains of the large Roman fort, Housesteads. At Housesteads we saw evidence of the Roman’s underfloor heating. How advanced there were! Towards the end of our day, we saw the Mithraw Temple and the Brocolitia Roman Fort.
We walked (12 miles) to Chollerford today along the wall, and then walked to our B&B in Simonburn, a mile or so off the trail. We ate dinner at the nice little village pub in Simonburn.
Day 5: It was a long walk today (15.5 miles) but definitely not so hilly. We passed by some little villages and saw some nice scenery. We saw evidence of our country walk coming to an end as we had to pass over a large motorway to get to our destination at Heddon on the Wall.
Day 6: Before we left Heddon, we had our last glimpse of a major piece of the Wall. It was mostly downhill from here. We walked along a nice trail towards Newcastle. We had to walk through Newcastle and along the River Tyne to get to the official end of the Wall trail on the east coast at Wallsend.
I felt a little let down as there was no obvious sign to mark the finish but there was Segedumum. This was the eastern fort and the location of a museum. We toured the museum and viewed the original excavated remains of the fort to mark the official end of our walk. As the walk was officially over, we took public transit back into the centre of Newcastle to get to our hotel for the night.
Notes: The main reason we walked west to east was because the wind usually blows that way and we wanted the wind behind us to help us along. We didn’t want to walk into it. Well, this week the wind was blowing east to west and then northeast to southwest so we had to walk into it all week. I am sure our faces got some colour not only from the sun but also from wind burn. Not only that, the north wind brought some colder temperatures.
As the British still are clinging to the use of miles rather than kilometres, I just recorded our days in miles.
The scenery along the way was interesting and varied. We walked through fields, sheep and cow pastures, along narrow roads sided by stone or bush fences.
We saw hundreds of sheep and their lambs as it was just after lambing season. Some were even willing to pose for us as long as we didn’t get too close.
We didn’t walk through many towns but we did walk through a few (or at least along the edge of some), like Rickerby and Banks. It was a lovely 6 day walk.
On the 6 day walk, we had to cross many fences via stiles. A stile could be steps, ladders, or narrow slits. They allow people to get to the other side of the fence but not the farm animals. We came across so many stiles and also different types of stiles.
Number of kissing gates we passed through – way too many to count! (A kissing gate is a U- or V-shaped enclosure, allowing only one person to pass through at a time.)
Number of step stiles (wooden steps, ladders and stone steps) we went over – quite a lot
Normal gates – there were several of these but we didn’t count them!
We got to see one folly.
Hadrian’s Wall was much more isolated than I imagined except around Carlisle and Newcastle.
We had our bags picked up each day and delivered to our next stop for the night. We each carried a backpack with the things we needed for the day such as extra shoes, extra layers of clothes, food, water, first aid kit, sunscreen, etc.
Milecastles were small forts every mile along the Wall to house the troops and to give the Roman troops a place to patrol and to maintain the Wall from.
We saw only a few Honesty Boxes even though there were supposed to be more. They are boxes filled with things like chocolate, water, juices, and other snacks. If you take an item, you should be honest and leave money to pay for it. I don’t know who is responsible for them or who makes the profit.
My younger sister, Donna, was very sharing. She not only shared her cold with me but also her cold medication and cough tablets! Thanks Donna.
We were very lucky to have fairly good weather. We hardly got any rain. We had some sun for a day or two and the rest of the time the skies were cloudy. The only complaint we had regarding the weather was the strong wind and the very strong wind gusts, especially the ones we had to walk into!