Running from the banks of the River Tyne to the Solway Firth some 73 miles away, the iconic Hadrian’s Wall is the remains of stone fortifications built from AD122 during the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. It essentially marked the boundary between Roman Britain and Calendonia to the north. Taking six years to build and standing at around six meters high, the wall, with its milecastles, observation towers, and 17 forts, was truly an engineering feat. It stayed occupied until the Romans left Britain some 300 years later, since then people have been slowly pulling it down, using the stone to construct various other things. Luckily, parts of the wall are still visible today and it attracts many tourists and walkers alike. The largest Roman archaeological attribute in the UK, it was named a Unesco site in 1987.
Hadrian’s Wall Path is a long-distance footpath, running for 84 miles from Wallsend (east coast) to Bowness-on-Solway (west coast), and passing two cities, Newcastle and Carlisle en route. In 2003 the path became a National Trail and attracts up to 100,000 visitors a year with around 7,000 walking it. Classified as relatively easy, the hardest part of the route is the 23 mile section between Chollerford and Birdoswald where there are many short climbs. The path is well signed along its whole route and will take you through welcoming villages, the rolling English countryside and wild moorland of Northumbria and Cumbria. You can also learn about the Roman occupation of Britain along the way. Originally built from east to west, the path can be walked in either direction, although walking from west to east may be more pleasant; the prevailing wind will be behind you.
As to be expected, the weather in this part of the UK can be rather changeable and rain is frequent. In winter the trail can become rather wet and boggy; the best time to walk it is May through to October, although July and August are very popular months and it can feel a little crowded at times. Accommodation along the path is a mix of hotels, hostels, some pubs, B&Bs and campsites. The campsites may be a little off route however and be aware that there are ‘gaps’, so a hostel may be needed as wild camping is not permitted along the wall.
Other things worth noting are: if you want to properly investigate the Roman forts, the best preserved ones are Vindolanda, Chesters, Housteads and Birdoswald. You must pay to enter and in busy times you need to book a timed appointment. This makes visiting a little tricky as it is difficult to judge how long it will take to walk there. The middle part of the trail from Walton to Chollerford is the most scenic and generally regarded to be the best part of the path. Lastly, many people peg on an extra 5 miles, from Wallsend to Tynemouth (or the reverse if walking east to west) to achieve a coast to coaster.