In the year 122 AD, shortly after taking control of the Roman Empire, Caesar Publius Aelius Traianus Hadrianus Agustus trekked himself, his guard and his mouthful of a name to the edge of the known world. It was a bold, long and, at times, dangerous journey that few Romans dared to make. It is unclear how long he stayed in Britain, but Hadrian certainly left his mark on the island. Before he left, Hadrian left orders to construct a wall, the likes of which the world had never seen – a wall that stood four metres high and three metres thick that would stretch from sea to sea.
Today, Hadrian's Wall still stands and serves not for protection, but as an attraction. The 135-kilometre-long wall is now a beloved attraction to hikers and history buffs, and it’s traced by a National Trail. The trail winds through some of England's most scenic countryside and follows the footsteps of the Roman soldiers who once patrolled the area. The walk, though muddy at times, is relatively easy and is fairly flat, save for the highest point, which only rises to 345 metres. While the trail primarily winds through the countryside, it does go through the cities of Newcastle and Carlisle. To make this long walk more do-able for hikers, it is split into six fairly simple sections for hikers to conquer one at a time.
Wallsend to Heddon-on-the-Wall
This leg of the trail spans a hearty 24 kilometres. When Hadrian said 'build this wall from sea to sea', his soldiers listened. The wall starts at the sea right by the Swan Hunter shipyard. For history buffs hiking this trail, it is recommended to stop by the nearby Roman fort of Segedunum before heading off, just to get in the spirit of the whole adventure, though the trail passes quite a few other Roman forts. The path from Wallsend to Heddon-on-the-Wall takes hikers primarily through urban areas. Before leaving Newcastle, hikers should highly consider stopping at one of the local pubs and sitting down for a beer, especially the beer that bears the town's name. The path also traces the banks of the Tyne for while. However, the last part of the trail getting near Heddon-on-the-Wall takes in some beautiful countryside.
Heddon-on-the-Wall to Chollerford
The second leg of the trail is a bit longer than the first at 25 kilometres long. This leg of the hike is all countryside. At the halfway point, when visitors start seeing the earthwork Vallums, there are two places for hikers to rest – Wallhouse Farm and the Robin Hood Inn. The Wallhouse Farm is much like it sounds, a quaint little farm, but it also serves as a bed and breakfast. The Robin Hood Inn, however, is much more interesting to history buffs . It truly feels like one of those roadside inns from a lost era where visitors can get a bed and a beer in the same place.
Chollerford to Steel Rigg
The trail from Chollerford to Steel Rigg spans 19 kilometres. Once hikers get to Chollerford, they should consider stopping at the nearby Roman fort of Chesters. For those who want to explore a little before heading out of Chollerford, Haughton Castle is located just a few miles north and makes an excellent little day trip. While walking towards Steel Rigg, hikers will begin to notice that the trail now has a bit of an incline to it and instead of walking past farmland, the landscape turns more into moorland. Many walkers agree that this is one of the best parts of the hike. The raise elevation runs along crags and gives beautiful views of the countryside. Shortly before arriving at Steel Rigg, the path passes the Roman fort of Vercovicium. This particular fort has been majorly restored and is very interesting to the wandering history buff.
Steel Rigg to Walton
Steel Rigg to Walton is 26 more kilometres. With this section comes yet another Roman fort at Birdoswald, which actually has been turned into a museum showcasing some beautiful pre-Roman and Roman era artifacts from around Britain. Once hikers get closer to Walton, they should consider wandering off the path and heading south to the beautiful old Lanercost Priory. Much of the priory was built using stones from the wall north of it, so even though visitors are wandering away from Hadrian's Wall, it is not like they are really leaving it.
Walton to Carlisle
From Walton it is only a short 18 kilometres until hikers reach the town of Carlisle. For the shortest leg of the hike, the surrounding area turns back into farmland, crossing over the M6 motorway. Parts of the path runs alongside the River Eden, making it seem like a nice little stroll by the river. This is yet another long stretch of hike with nothing more than nature. There are a few campsites, but other than that, visitors will not find many accommodations or places to get food and drink without wandering off the path. However, visitors are sure to notice when they are getting close to Carlisle, not only can they see the city long before they get to it but the change from pleasant farmland to urban suburb is a bit sudden and kind of jarring.
Carlisle to Bowness-on-Solway
The trail from Carlisle to Bowness-on-Solway is usually the last leg of the trip for hikers, but it serves as the beginning for many as well. From Carlisle to Bowness-on-Solway it is a little mosey of 24 kilometres. The first part of the section of the walk is rather bare in terms of scenery, however for those who want to wander off the path and go explore Carlisle there’s plenty to see. Those interested in the Roman history of the area should visit Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, which showcases the history of Roman occupation as well as art from the time period. Another can't-miss attraction in Carlisle is Carlisle Castle, which has stood proudly for nine centuries.
The trail then traces the River Eden to the Solway Firth. This last leg of the hike is a pleasant, flat walk but can be muddy during the wetter seasons so hikers should be prepared to get a bit dirty. Just shy of the halfway point, there is a wonderful Bed and Breakfast called the Rosemont Cottage that is by the beautiful old St Michaels Church that was built in the 12th century. It is a beloved stopping point for many weary trekkers. The path finally comes to an end at Bowness-on-Solway right up against the Solway Firth.