An American’s Adventure on the Hadrian’s Wall Path

May 27, 2019 by
POSTED BY May 27, 2019

Hey everyone,

Back in September 2018, I completed the 10-Day Moderate Hadrian’s Wall Path in England with Hillwalk Tours. It encompassed eight days of hiking with ten night’s stay in B&Bs along the path. Every morning at the B&Bs, breakfast was provided. I always chose a typical English breakfast, usually consisting of bacon, eggs, sausage, mushrooms, stewed tomatoes, fried potato, and toast with a choice of coffee or tea. English bacon is sliced ham fried, not American style bacon. Also included is a luggage transfer from one B&B to the next every day so all that is required is a backpack with rain gear, lunch, water, and of course cameras.

Here’s an overview of my unforgettable trip on the Hadrian’s Wall Path:

DAY 1: Arrival in Newcastle

I flew into Newcastle Airport and had set up my schedule to have a free day in the city of Newcastle beforehand. This also gave me time in case of any travel delays to have some time before the hike started. The metro in Newcastle is excellent, and I was able to take it from the airport to within a few blocks of my B&B in Whitley Bay on the North Sea. On my free day before the hike I walked the walkway along the shore to Tynemouth where I visited Tynemouth Priory and Castle. From there I took the metro to Wallsend and visited the Segedunum Museum and Roman Fort.

DAY 2: Wallsend to Newburn

The first day of walking started with a 19 km section and I was very excited to start this journey. The Path starts behind the Segedunum Museum building and a signpost is at the beginning of the path giving distances and directions.

A sculpture named “Sentius Tectonicus” at the easternmost point is what a lot of hikers use to denote the beginning of the path. The sculpture is near the gate at the museum. The “acorn” on the Bowness-on-Solway sign is the logo for the trail and is posted all along the path.

The beginning of the path is paved and was formerly a rail line of the Blythe and Tyne rail company. Some signs of its former use such as bridges, abutments, and riveted girders converted to benches are seen while hiking. The Hadrian’s Wall went through what is now the city of Newcastle. Throughout parts of the city are stones from the wall used as part of some buildings.

Further along the trail is a monument commemorating the Battle of Newburn Ford fought in 1640 during the Second Bishops’ War between 20,000 Scottish and 3,500 English troops. The Scottish invaders defeated the English forces of Charles the First, crossed the Tyne and captured Newcastle thus controlling London’s coal supply.

The path returns to the River Tyne beyond this monument. After more hiking there was Tyne Riverside Country Park with a boat launching ramp where the B&B was located behind the park’s parking lot. This ended the first day’s hike welcoming a rest and a very good meal at the pub next to the B&B.

DAY 3: Newburn to Portgate

Day two started off hiking back along the river with nice views to Wylam. The path leaves the river and joins the Wylam Wagonway. The Wagonway opened in 1748 and consisted of tracks used to haul coal and equipment in horse drawn wagons to Lemington, where the coal was loaded onto flat-bottom boats on the River Tyne. From there the coal was transferred to coal ships further down river.

The path leaves the Wagonway and passes between athletic fields and a golf course. On the other side of the athletic field is a steep hill that is terraced with lovely modern homes along the terraced roadways. Looking at it I was thinking “Glad I don’t have to hike up there!” Yes, I did have to hike up there; the path goes into a wooded area heading up the hill and connects to one of the terraced roadways.

Looking from the hill one sees the first expansive view of the English countryside. There are many more vistas to come; I am leaving the populated areas and going into rural England.

At the top of the hill the road connects to the Military Road. The Military Road was built with Hadrian’s Wall stones at the orders of General Wade in the eighteenth century to move troops rapidly to protect England from incursions by Bonnie Prince Charlie and his followers. At the intersection, the “Heddon on the Wall” sign greets hikers. Nearby is a section of the wall that is still intact. This is the first view of it hiking east to west. What makes this section of wall notable is its width. This is the width originally being built; further west the decision was made to make the wall narrower. After a short hike down the Military Road, the trail moves onto farmland.

For most of the next few days the trail sticks to fields and pastures with a few exceptions on back roads and small villages. Going from field to the next field there are three ways to get over stone walls and through fences:

• Stile – an arrangement of steps that allows people but not animals to climb over a fence or wall.
• Kissing gate – a U-shaped or V-shaped enclosure allowing only one person to pass through at a time but not livestock.
• Gate – a hinged barrier used to close an opening in a wall or fence with a latch.

The path follows through fields along the Military Road, eventually coming to the parking area of the Robin Hood Bar & Restaurant. This is where I had supper and then walked to the B&B, which was a little over a mile through a small forest and fields behind the Robin Hood Bar and Restaurant.

DAY 4: Corbridge to Chollerford

The first place of interest for today’s hike was Aydon Castle just outside Corbridge. Aydon Castle was originally built as a manor home by Robert de Raymes starting in 1205 but shortly had to be fortified when the Anglo-Scottish conflicts began. Construction was completed in 1315.

Leaving Aydon Castle to return to the Hadrian’s Wall Path, one walks down a narrow one-lane roadway with high hedges on each side. As I was walking I heard the clomp clomp clomp of a horse walking down a side road ahead of me. Around the corner came the horse and a woman riding. She stopped and we had an interesting conversation for a few minutes. I asked permission to photograph her and the horse so they posed for me which was a nice unexpected encounter.

Further down the road on the left was Halton Castle. The Castle ruins are not open to the public unless special arrangements are made. Then it was back on the path to hike once again through pastures. A small forest with ferns for ground cover was a pleasant break from walking in pastures.

Day Three ended at Chesters Roman Fort at Chollerford. The fort is the most complete Roman cavalry fort in Britain. It is best known for the 500 men of Asturian Cavalry from Spain who were based here for some time. The fort guarded the Chesters Bridge behind the wall carrying the Military Way Roman road across the North River Tyne.

The B&B for the night was six kilometers away with no nearby pub to eat. A phone call from the fort’s welcome center to the B&B alerted the B&B owner’s husband to come pick me up. The B&B owner, Margaret, prepared a delicious meal for supper.

DAY 5: Chollerford to Once Brewed

The photo to the left shows the Hadrian’s Wall, the ditch to the north of the wall, and the Military Highway to the south of the wall. The wall disappears near the top of the hill in the distance. In several places along the wall, the stones were used in the 1800’s to build the Military Highway.

After hiking for a while the next site I passed was Carrawburgh or Procolitia Fort. The fort has not been excavated and the north ramparts of the fort and Hadrian’s Wall were demolished by General Wade when building the Military Road in the early 18th century. Procolitia means “Hill above the Badger Set,” which could have been the Celtic name for the place.

The Hadrian’s Wall Path in this area passes through Northumbria National Park. The path now starts to go up and down through the Crags. From Sewingshields Crags the next few kilometers are among the best walking along the wall. Hadrian’s Wall along here is splendidly preserved. After more hiking I finally arrived at the best-preserved Roman Fort in Britain, “Housesteads”.

The tree at Sycamore Gap was made famous due to its use in the 1991 Kevin Costner movie “Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves”. The tree is also known as the “Robin Hood Tree”. The scene in the movie is based somewhere near Dover after Robin’s arrival in England, 300 miles from Hadrian’s Wall. This photo is courtesy of Will Cove, a fellow hiker I met on the trail.

 

DAY 6: Once Brewed to Gilsland

Once Brewed is on the Military Way. All that is there is a decent pub, one of Britain’s oldest hostels, a visitor center and a curious name linked to a legend. The story goes that General Wade, builder of the Military Way, once stayed at the inn and was displeased with the quality of the beer. He ordered the beer to be brewed again and since then the pub is named “Twice Brewed Inn” and the village “Once Brewed”.

The night I stayed at Once Brewed, a weather front passed through. Day 6 had gale force winds all day. The wind was so strong at times that standing up straight would cause one to be blown over. The good thing was, there was no rain coming down. Having rain driven into my face by the wind would have been really bad!

DAY 7: Gilsland to Newtown

Gilsland is down from the Crags and at this point all the rivers are flowing west. The turrets are small but when occupied by Roman Soldiers the turrets were two or possibly three stories tall with several soldiers stationed at each. The ground floor would have had a hearth for warmth and for cooking. The turrets were constructed first, and the wall built narrower and attached later.

I passed the remains of bridge abutments of three successive bridges built from AD 122-207. The first bridge was destroyed by a flood. The second bridge had sluices added to the abutments to allow flood waters to pass through. The last bridge was wider to allow the military road to pass over it. Over the centuries the river channel changed course leaving the remains of the abutments in a field. The modern hiking bridge over the river was placed as one section in 1999 by helicopter.

DAY 8: Newtown to Carlisle

After leaving the town of Newtown and heading back to hiking in fields, when entering another field there were two cows loitering on the path by the gate at the other end. The cows both saw me and immediately started walking towards me. In past experience with cows or sheep on the path they would watch and then move away when someone got close to them. These two cows did not do that and kept coming straight down the path towards me. All this time I kept walking towards them feeling like I was in a showdown in an old cowboy movie but with cows instead of bad guys. When it was apparent that they were not going to stop I was a gentleman and stepped aside to let them pass. After they passed, I went back on the path, looked behind me and the cows were still walking forward but were looking back at me. Wish I caught that with my camera. I still laugh about this experience as it will never happen again. Soon after this encounter the trail reaches civilization going through the town of Crosby-on-Eden. There was a bench near the church pictured below that was a comfortable resting place to have lunch.

After going through Crosby-on-Eden, Hadrian’s Wall Path follows the River Eden to Carlisle. The day ended hiking through Rickerby Park on the outskirts of Carlisle. The B&B was just beyond the park.

DAY 9: Carlisle to Bowness-on-Solway

The path at the end of the park crosses over the River Eden via the Eden Memorial Footbridge. The bridge was built in 1922. After crossing the bridge, the path turns right and follows along the west bank of the River Eden. Yesterday’s hike was along the east side. From this point until the end of the Hadrian’s Wall Path all the hiking is on the west side of the rivers.

The Path continues for several miles along the River Eden. Many gullies cut the bank of the river along the path where wooden bridges have been constructed across the gullies as part of the path along the riverbank. After this area, the path turns away from the river and passes through several towns.

I passed St. Mary’s Church in Beaumont which is built on the line of the Hadrian’s Wall and was originally constructed using predominately sandstone left from the Wall in the 13th century. The church is open daily.

Down the path a short distance is a statue of Edward I and the Greyhound Inn is a nice place to have some refreshments. After leaving the Greyhound Inn, I soon came to the marsh. The hike along the marsh area is about seven miles to get to Bowness-on-Solway. A bit of trivia as told to me by a local resident: across the Solway is Scotland and in olden times the small town of Gretna Green was like the local Las Vegas, famous for elopements, love, and runaway marriages. The age for marriage in England without parental consent was 18. Across the Solway in Scotland the age for marriage without parental consent was 16. It became common for underage couples to cross the Solway to get married, creating a thriving marriage business in the Scottish town.

It was low tide when I hiked along the Solway so you can see there is sand and also mud in places. There were walkways to get to the shore from the road and I saw folks walking their dogs there.

At the end of the Hadrian’s Wall Path is the gazebo pictured below. It is located behind some buildings overlooking the Solway Firth. It was an excellent feeling of accomplishment to get to the gazebo and read the sign welcoming hikers to the end of Hadrian’s Wall Path!

The B&B was nearby and was my next stop from the Gazebo. The late afternoon was a bit cold and raw. Lyn, the owner of the B&B, had a fire burning in a wood stove with a glass door to view the fire that was warm and toasty. I sat there for an hour drinking hot tea with her dog snoozing in front of the fire savoring the moment.

Day 10: Departure from Bowness-on-Solway

The next morning, Andy, Lyn’s husband, drove other guests and myself to Carlisle where I caught a train back to Newcastle. The train ride took two hours covering the distance that took me eight days to hike. From the Newcastle train station, I took the metro to the airport where I had an overnight stay at the airport hotel and finally a flight back to the USA the following morning ending a wonderful hike.

Thank you very much to our walker David for sharing his wonderful experiences of his self-guided walking tour along the Hadrian’s Wall Path.

Hillwalk Tours offer self-guided walking tours of Hadrian’s Wall Path at gentle, moderate and challenging levels from 4 days up to 11 days.

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