synonymous rolling green hills approach the rugged landscapes of the far north,
, where hundreds of years of history are still yet to erode one of the biggest reminders of the Roman Empire’s impact.
Follow age-old paths up hill and down dale, rest your weary feet in quintessential English pubs, and enjoy it all the more by tracing its fascinating links to the past along the way.
Brief History of Hadrian’s Wall
Around AD 122, the Roman Empire’s hold on the UK was being challenged by raiders from the north. Those pesky Picts, who at that time occupied what we call Scotland today, were enough of a bother that after a visit by Emperor Hadrian, he decreed the wall to be built. Although it never reached more than 15 feet in height - much smaller than The Wall it inspired in George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones - by spanning 73 miles (117km) across the border it proved enough to prevent sudden invasion on horseback and gave small auxiliaries of soldiers enough time to bring in reinforcements.
Today, whilst many of the stones of the wall were pilfered for other uses following the fall of the Roman Empire, roughly 10 miles of it still stand intact, and many of the forts which manned the post along the way are incredibly well preserved too - so much so it became a UNESCO world heritage site in 1987. This, together with the fact it happens to be located in one of the most scenic parts of the UK, led to the formation of the Hadrian’s Wall Path in 2003.
About the Hadrian’s Wall Path
The path itself is longer than the original wall. At 84 miles (135km), with gentle ascent and descent along the way, it’s markedly shorter and a tad easier than many of the UK’s long-distance paths, ideal if you don’t fancy arduous mountain climbs or struggling through swathes of the infamous British bog you’ll find on most other routes. Plus, what it’s lacking in miles it more than makes up for in interest.
Most walkers take around 6 days to complete it comfortably, walking between 12 - 16 miles (19 - 25km) per day. It can be completed quicker, but it’s recommended you go the other way and add on a few days so you can enjoy the wealth of sights and sounds along the way. You’ll want to feel like you have time to follow your curiosity, exploring ruins as you come across them or enjoying an extra coffee or pint as you please.
The route is typically enjoyed east to west, which means you’ll not only finish amongst the dreamy coastal scenery of Bowness-on-Solway, but you’ll also be following the Romans, as this is the same way they built it. There are over 200 signs along the way which will make it difficult for you to lose the path too - at every junction, look for a little acorn, the comforting icon of the UK national trails which tells you you’re on the right way.
To begin the walk, the easiest way to get there is to jump on public transport to Newcastle, and from there on to Whitely Bay, where a train will take you the final few miles to the village of Wallsend (no guesses where they got the name from). Starting here, you’ll follow the wall, passing the Roman fort Segedunum, to Newcastle, where you’ll get to enjoy its bustling downtown atmosphere before breaking away to the quiet of the Northumberland countryside.
From there, the walk truly begins, and you can start to relax into miles of scenic pathways along the wall. Expect fields and pastures marked by crumbling dry stone walls, much less crumbly beautiful stone bridges, craggy outcrops and wild, windswept vistas. Keep going to make your way to the high point of the path, Whinfield Crags. History meets geology at these atmospheric dolerite cliffs, formed by lava which escaped through cracks in the English bedrock, which exemplify best along the route how a natural boundary made this the perfect place for Hadrian to build his wall.
After the wilds of the Northumberland National Park, the path uses Roman roads and riverside paths to take you into Carlisle, an intriguing small city with a fascinating history and plenty more ruins to discover. Take in its beautiful red sandstone architecture with a pint of local beer, before completing your final day of the walk, following the River Eden and marshland to head to the sea. With the peaks of the Lake District visible in the distance and the Solway Firth to greet you as you arrive at the Roman fort of Maia, it’s a fittingly beautiful end to your journey.
Highlights of Hadrian's Wall Path
This journey through the Northumberland National Park will demonstrate just what an underrated gem this part of the country is. It’s often easily overlooked in favour of its more famous neighbour, the Lake District, but those who choose to explore here instead will be richly rewarded with tumbling green upland, moors of purple heather, England’s cleanest rivers and incredible clear skies. This region is actually famous for its starry nights, home to a protected dark sky reserve which make for incredible stargazing opportunities. If the weather goes your way and you’re lucky enough to have a cloudless night, you’ll be able to see the Milky Way.
Ghosts of the past
From start to finish, the ruins of the Roman empire and evidence of those who lived on it are remarkably preserved on the Hadrian's Wall Path. Start your journey by visiting the museum at Segedunum
, which has an exhibit and 35-metre viewing tower, to learn all about the wall and the Romans that manned it, before heading out along the path to explore on your own.
You could make a small detour to visit the Corbridge Roman Town, to see what a garrison town would have looked like, and stop off at Chesters Roman Fort, where you can see Roman baths at one of the most intact archeological sites in the UK. At Housesteads, walls still stand over 10ft high, and at the museum at Vindolanda, you’ll be able to see artefacts found along the wall inside, to fully round off your insight into the past.
Back to the city
Linking Newcastle and Carlisle, for those that like to explore the urban as well as nature this route is ideal. Once you’ve finished, a great way to celebrate is to take a few days to soak up Newcastle’s vibrant atmosphere, where Victorian architecture meets industrial spirit in one of the north’s most exciting cities. The people are famously friendly, the bars and restaurants combine hearty northern appetites with international flavour and modern flair, and there’s plenty of art and culture to experience too with museums, contemporary galleries, music and theatre.
With everything you want to see within walking distance, it’s an incredible city to explore on foot. Cross the Tyne on one of Newcastle’s many iconic bridges, wander along the Quayside to pick from riverside restaurants or browse an incredible local market on Sundays, and explore beautiful buildings and independent shops as you dive into its buzzing city centre. You can even reach Newcastle Keep on foot, the mediaeval castle which gave the town its name.
As with most rural locations in the UK, there’s a host of cosy bed and breakfasts, guesthouses and town hotels to choose from, which will usually have a more rustic feel than staying in the cities and be run by locals from the area. The owners are used to greeting weary wayfarers, and you can expect to be quickly checked in, offered a place to dry your boots and be well on your way to a warm shower and plate of hot food in minutes.
Food & Drink
As you’d expect - and want - from a long-distance walk, supermarkets are not particularly common en route, so you’ll want to plan accordingly and stock up on your favourite snacks. Accommodation providers are well set up for wayfarers however, so your accommodation will have breakfast included, and then they’ll provide you with a tasty pack lunch to tuck into mid-walk too. In the evenings, expect some of the best big plates of pub grub you can find in the north, as well as options for more upscale dining if you wish, where kitchens combine traditional recipes with the best local produce. Think freshly-caught cod near the coast, or succulent roast lamb and beef from the farmer’s fields you walked by that day.
Recommended stop offs
We’ve picked a few choice restaurants, sights and experiences along the way.
Twice Brewed Brewhouse
This iconic brewery
is also a pub and inn, with casks brewed on site and cosy rooms for weary travellers. Our top tip for those who prefer a clearer head for hiking the next day is to take advantage of their excellent low-alcohol (2% ABV) pint. If you’re staying here or nearby, you can also book a stargazing session with telescopes and an expert guide.
An iconic viewpoint along the path, time your day with a stop here for lunch. One lonely sycamore tree sits perfectly in a drop in the hills of the wall - and you’d likely recognise it from the 1991 blockbuster Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, where they filmed scenes
at his very location with Morgan Freeman and Kevin Costner. Just try not to walk on the wall as the latter did in the film…
The UK’s National Landscape Discovery Centre can be found along the Hadrian’s Wall Path. A sleek and contemporary building houses unique temporary exhibitions on art which entwines with nature and the environment, as well as workshops and classes - check their website
to see what’s on before you go.
BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art
Perched on the banks of the Tyne in Newcastle, this impressive building is the biggest gallery of its kind in the world. Housed in an old industrial mill, it now hosts a diverse and constantly changing programme of cutting edge exhibitions from leading artists in their field - and best of all, it's completely free to go take a look. Learn more
Watch the Hadrian's Wall Path short film
It’s fair to say that the Hadrian's Wall Path simply has it all - stunning scenery, incredible insights into the past, and the chance to immerse yourself in England’s rural culture. A walk into history from which you’ll truly remember each and every step.
Hadrian's Wall Path active holidays
Discover the Hadrian's Wall Path on an affordable walking or cycling tour with UTracks.