Hadrian’s Wall is a monumental testimony to Roman rule in England. After more than two thousand years, traces of this bygone era can still be found everywhere along what was once the border between England and Scotland.
Built on behalf of the Emperor Hadrian, the wall separates Scotland from England and connects the east and west coasts. Centuries later, one of the most beautiful hiking trails in Europe was created. Hadrian’s Wall Path runs along the remains of this huge ancient structure and allows visitors an unique insight into Roman history.
So if you are interested in following in the legionnaires’ footsteps, in this guide you will find everything you need to know to plan your hike on Hadrian’s Wall Path including the most frequently asked question, which is the best direction to walk the path?
Hiking Hadrian’s Wall
Profile: Hadrian’s Wall Path
Total length: 135 kilometers (84 miles)
Difficulty level: Moderate to Easy. The Hadrian’s Wall Path is considered by many to be the easiest of the 16 national long-distance hiking trails in England.
Duration: It generally takes between 6 and 10 walking days to complete the entire trail depending on fitness levels and interest in visiting the ruins.
Distinctions: The Hadrian’s Wall Path is one of the 16 Great National Trails. Hadrian’s Wall itself has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987.
Start and finish: Although the trail can be walked in both directions, it is generally agreed that it is best to start from Wallsend in Newcastle on the east coast and walk to Bowness-on-Solway on the west coast.
Total ascent: 1,600 meters in altitude
Highest point: Winshield Crags, at just 345 meters.
Geographical location: Hadrian’s Wall is still located near the present day border between England and Scotland.
Infrastructure: The infrastructure along Hadrian’s Wall Path is well developed. There are both regular overnight accommodation options and a bus service along the various stages of this long-distance hiking trail.
Cities and towns: The Hadrian’s Wall Path starts by walking through and out of the city of Newcastle. The inland stages mainly lead through rural areas and small villages and towns such as Chollerford, Once Brewed and Lanercost. Shortly before your final destination in Bowness-on-Solway, you will pass through the town of Carlisle.
Highlights: The highlights on Hadrian’s Wall primarily include traces of the Roman Empire, including forts such as Vindolanda and Housestead, museums, watchtowers and military camps. In addition, Sycamore Gap, the famous filming location of Robin Hood, is right on Hadrian’s Wall.
The best tips for planning your hike
1. Best time to visit
When is the best time to walk the Hadrian’s Wall Path?
The National Trails administration recommends hikers to walk the Hadrian’s Wall Path between the beginning of May and the end of October. During this period, the soil is drier and the thousands of hiking boots leave fewer traces of wear and tear.
However, most of the accommodation and luggage transfer companies along the trail operate from the start of March until the end of October.
In addition to the issues with most providers along the route being closed during the winter months, the fewer hours of daylight at this time of year also make these months an unfavorable choice for hiking this route.
2. Collect stamps
Only from May to October you can also buy the Hadrian’s Wall Path Passport and collect stamps along the hike. If you have completed the full trail and collected seven stamps by the end of your hike, you can acquire a certificate of completion. The proceeds from this go to the maintenance of the historical monuments along the trail. The Camino de Santiago is another famous trail where the collecting of stamps along the route has become very popular.
Hillwalk Tours supports the preservation of Hadrian’s Wall Path and provides official passports to anyone who has booked a self-guided hike that covers the full route.
3. Which direction to walk
An important decision when planning your hike on Hadrian’s Wall Path is which direction you want to walk it in as it can be walked both ways.
The classic route follows the construction of the wall from east to west. This offers several advantages. On the one hand, you can watch the landscape change from the urban hustle and bustle in Newcastle to the idyllic expanses of Northumberland to the final destination by the sea.
On the other hand, you follow the course of the sun and are rewarded with atmospheric sky colors and sunsets when the sky is clear. Walking in this director also also makes getting to the start of the walk easier due to the better transport connections to Newcastle.
However, there are also many hikers who walk Hadrian’s Wall Path from west to east. The main reason for this is so they will have the Atlantic wind normally behind them on their hike. Although this does make walking easier, Hadrian’s Wall Path is one of the gentlest and lowest lying national trails in the UK and therefore, this is not as important a factor as it is for other trails.
Ultimately, no matter which director you choose to walk Hadrian’s Wall Path, the scenery is just as stunning and the history just as fascinating.
4. How to get to Hadrian’s Wall Path
Arriving by plane
There are various ways to get to Hadrian’s Wall from mainland Europe. You can travel by plane directly to Newcastle Airport from Düsseldorf, Brussels and Amsterdam, among others. From other cities you can fly to Newcastle via London, or take an express train north from the metropolis (approx. 3 hours).
Even Manchester Airport is possibly a cheaper alternative for your arrival.
Arrival by ferry, bus and train
If you want to help climate protection, you may consider traveling to England by bus, train or ferry. Various routes are available here too, often via London. A direct ferry operates between Amsterdam and Newcastle. Even passengers without a car can get on board here and are at the port in Newcastle after sixteen hours.
From Newcastle to Hadrian’s Wall Path
To get to the starting point of Hadrian’s Wall Path in Wallsend, you can easily take the metro from Newcastle Airport or City Center . You will find further links here if you start your hike at a different stage.
5. Booking accommodation
On Hadrian’s Wall Path it is advisable to book your accommodation early. Due to the great popularity of this hiking trail, if you don’t, you run the risk of arriving to fully occupied accommodations, especially on weekends and during the summer holidays.
From hotels and B&Bs to campsites and so-called “bunk houses”, there are various options for different budgets. But also keep in mind that at the end of some sections, you will have to walk a few extra miles to get from Hadrian’s Wall Path to your accommodation. On the official homepage of the route you will find an interactive planner that will help you plan the stages, set your daily goal and look for accommodation.
Alternatively, you can commission a trusted tour operator like Hillwalk Tours to book all overnight stays in tried and tested B&Bs on a self-guided hike for you. This saves you the hassle of contacting all accommodations yourself. They will also arrange luggage transfer each day so you just need to bring a day pack with you on your hikes in addition to transfers to and from the trail if necessary to your overnight accommodation.
6. Where to eat along Hadrian’s Wall Path
You don’t have to worry about your tummy well-being along Hadrian’s Wall Path. In the many villages and towns there is no lack of cozy “inns” where you can not only enjoy the tasty ales, but also have a nutritious hearty meal served. The most popular pubs and restaurants include the Twice Brewed Inn in Bardon Mill and the Blackfriars Restaurant in Newcastle, where you can dine in what is believed to be the oldest dining room in Great Britain. In the tea room of the Lanercost Priory you can enjoy homemade cakes and local products amid the attractive architecture of the historic monastery.
Even operators of B&Bs will prepare food for you on request if there is no restaurant nearby. A filling breakfast is also included in the price. In hostels and bunkhouses, breakfast can normally be ordered for an additional charge of around five pounds.
Make sure you also bring enough provisions with you on your hike. High-calorie but light snacks, such as trail mix, energy bars, (dry) fruit and nuts are all great options.
7. Equipment for the Hadrian’s Wall Path
The equipment for your hike on Hadrian’s Wall Path should be prepared with one thing above all else in mind: changing weather! Here are a few tips for hiking luggage:
- Rainwear: A light rain jacket and pants are definitely a must in your hiking backpack. With different layers of T-shirts, fleece etc. you can ideally compensate for temperature fluctuations.
- Two pairs of shoes: Especially if you start your hike in Wallsend and around Newcastle, consider bringing a pair of light running shoes in addition to your hiking boots. The reason? It’s easy to run into blisters on the tarmac of the urban sections of Hadrian’s Wall Path.
- Water: Make sure you take enough water with you on the day’s stage (two liters are recommended). There are longer sections of the Hadrian’s Wall Path where you will not pass any water sources.
- Food, blister plasters and sunscreen are some of the other things you should have with you on every hike.
- For further information, check out our hiking equipment blog post
8. Plan extra days
Although professional ultra runners hike and run the Hadrian’s Wall Path in less and less time (the record is currently under 17 hours), it is not advisable to complete Hadrians Wall as quickly as possible. Outdoor professionals often aim for three days to hike the 135 kilometers, extremely fit hikers can do it in six to seven days. But why rush when you have the unique chance to visit first-class museums and marvel at the centuries-old Roman architecture?
If you have a keen interest in history, consider adding extra days. Last but not least, your feet will thank you.
9. The middle section
The best sections of the route for an extra day are inland, near the middle of Hadrian’s Wall Path. Here you will find the longest, fully preserved piece of the wall and highlights such as Birdoswald, Vindolanda, and the highest point Whinshield Crags.
After the flat sections at the beginning and end of the Hadrian’s Wall Path, most of the ascents and descents are also located in this middle section. So it’s the perfect time to take a break or slow your pace for multiple reasons.
10. Take the bus if necessary
Don’t panic if at one point on the hike your feet refuse to cooperate and insist on a break. Thanks to the good bus connection along Hadrian’s Wall Path, you can cover a stage by bus in an emergency. From Good Friday to the beginning of October, the AD122 bus runs between the main attractions on Hadrian’s Wall. You can find the bus timetable here.
11. Attend a festival
A special tip is to visit a Roman festival on your hike if possible. There are various associations in England that have set themselves the goal of preserving the Roman heritage. During these spectacle, they literally bring Roman times to life by slipping into historical clothes and recreating everyday garrison life, military exercises and even battles.
Don’t miss out on experiencing the history of Hadrian’s Wall up close. Check the websites of the “Roman Societies” and the Archeology Festival and plan your hike around them but remember to book well in advance as accommodation can also be difficult to find at these times.
Would you like to learn more about England in Roman times? Click here for our blog post about the history of Hadrian’s Wall.
12. Useful resources
Maps, useful websites and books are available to help you plan your hike on Hadrian’s Wall Path in detail. Here is an overview:
- Maps: The official land survey maps are called “Ordnance Survey Maps” in English-speaking countries. They contain valuable information about the terrain, settlements and even archaeological highlights. Here you will find a selection of printed and digital maps for the HWP.
- Websites: The Hadrian’s Wall Path, like all Great National Trails, has an official website . Here you will find useful information on all questions about hiking, as well as on maintaining the path.
- If you want to learn more about the fascinating area, current research and the traces of Roman life around Hadrian’s Wall, visit the UNESCO page on Hadrian’s Wall Country .
- Book: The Trailblazer Guide with its excellent maps is a good recommendation for hiking Hadrian’s Wall Path. When you book a self-guided walking tour along this ancient path with Hillwalk Tours, you will receive an exclusive guide with all the important facts about sights, local restaurants and museums, a waterproof map and map case, and their own bespoke route notes with turn-by-turn directions and information on local points of interest and history.
Hadrian’s Wall Path: Four Highlights
Housesteads is considered to be the best preserved Limes fort on Hadrian’s Wall. Due to its strategically favorable location above a slope, it offers wonderful views of the surrounding area. Among the ruins are the remains of a hospital, the command center, the barracks and even the communal toilets.
The interactive museum including mini-cinema offers vivid insights into the past. Children can take a tour around the fort with the “Roman” Felix.
A lush plane tree flanked by two round hills: this is one of the most popular photo motifs of Hadrian’s Wall. One of the reasons is certainly that a scene from Robin Hood – The Thief King with Kevin Costner was filmed here in the 1990s .
The Vindolanda Fort is one of the most important Roman archaeological sites in Europe. Numerous volunteers come here every year to help with archaeological work. Vindolanda was made famous, in particular, by the tablets that were found here. These report on everyday life in the garrison and give the soldiers’ lives a personal touch.
The Limes fort of Birdoswald is located near the longest intact section of the wall. Here you can admire a 3-D model of Hadrian’s Wall in the adjacent exhibition at the time it was built around 2,000 years ago.