I love to hike and have done so on four continents. I have walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain, the Milford track in New Zealand, the Fitzroy range in Argentina and myriad trails in the western United States. One might say that I’m an adventurous traveler. But I’m really more of an adventur-ish traveler. You can read more about it here, but in short, I like adventure but I like my comforts too.
It’s for this reason that a hike on Hadrian’s Wall in England appealed so much to me. The trail is stuffed with interesting Ango-Roman history but it’s also well-trod, well-marked and dotted with B&Bs. There’s nothing like a 10 mile hike followed by dinner at a snug pub, a warm bed and the full English for breakfast. Comfort hiking at it’s best.
What follows is is a 4-day, 40 mile itinerary for the Hadrian’s Wall Walk. Consider it your ‘best of’ tour of the most well-preserved forts, most intact wall sections and the loveliest pastoral countryside on the trail. The practical advice that follows assumes that you are already interested in taking this great walk, but if you need some convincing, check out this visual tour of the history and beauty of the Hadrian’s Wall.
Tackling the Hadrian’s Wall Walk
Hadrian’s Wall is a UNESCO World Heritage site. So the development of a walking path along the wall was a delicate business. But in 2003 the full pathway was completed and the trail is now open to through walkers. The full path runs from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne to Bowness-on-Solway for a distance of 84 miles. The hiking in this 4-day Hadrian’s Wall walk passes through the middle section of the Hadrian’s Wall path. It transits pastoral countryside dotted with small towns and wall ruins.
Most of the trail is dirt and grass with occasional sidewalks and a few sections of walking in/along the road. The hiking isn’t technical although there are a few sections in days 2 and 3 of this itinerary with steep rocky paths which can be tricky when wet. And trust me, it will be wet.
The pathway is reasonably well marked but it helps to have a guidebook or map. I used “Hadrian’s Wall Path” by Henry Stedman and found it to be invaluable. It has very detailed maps, lodging suggestions and practical information for transportation, food and visiting the forts.
4-day Itinerary for Hadrian’s Wall Walk
Distance: 2 miles/3.2 kilometers (depends upon your sightseeing agenda)
The route: Arrive by train from London (2.75 hours) or Edinburgh (1.5 hours)
Sightseeing: Wander the lower quayside for lunch or dinner, cross the Millennium bridge, Visit the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary art and get a view of the city from the viewing platform, wander downtown and stroll the Grainger market
Accommodation: Jurys Inn (near the train station). It’s a practical choice and an easy walk from the train station. You can get reviews and book at Trip Advisor or Booking.com. Things get busy in Newcastle on the weekends so book early if you need a Friday or Saturday stay
Distance: 8 miles/13 kilometers
The route: Take the train to Hexam. They leave frequently and take 40 minutes or so. Using the Stedman guidebook maps, you’ll walk north out of Hexam, through Acomb and up to St Oswalds. This is described in the book as an alternative route and you won’t be on the actual Hadrian’s Wall Path until you get up to St. Oswalds. But I chose it because getting to Hexam was easy by train. However, I did find that the guidebook instructions for the trail were a weak on this segment and we got a bit lost. We found the wall path eventually but my advice is to check the map carefully and keep yourself pointed north/northwest. As an alternative, you could get a bus to Corbridge and then a taxi to the trail at Halton Fort. The distance is similar but the buses are less frequent than the trains and a cab will cost you. But this alternative allows you to start your hike on the wall proper.
Sightseeing: Chesters Fort. This is a well-preserved fort and there is informative signage throughout the fort. But we took a volunteer-led tour which we found very valuable
Distance: 14 miles/22.5 kilometers
The route: The wall path starts out as rolling countryside but as the day progresses you transition to rocky, hilly terrain. This part of the hike is graced with the most intact sections of wall and stunning scenery of Northumberland National Park to the north.
Sightseeing: Brocolitia is a small site but right on the trail and worth a short visit. Housesteads fort is another major archaeological excavation with well signposted information. They do not have a restaurant but they do have toilet facilities and light snacks. Vindolanda is also a major sight in the area but it is off the trail and a 2 miles walk from Twice Brewed. To visit it as a walker, you would need to get an early start on your 14 miles hike or go the next morning in order to get there when it’s open. The rain and our own exhaustion caused us to opt out.
Accommodation: Twice Brewed Inn, reviews and booking on Trip Advisor and Booking.com. They offer B&B, have an on-site restaurant, bar and laundry service. There are also several other inns and bunkhouses in the area that are a bit west down the road.
Distance: 9 miles/14.5 kilometers
The Route: More hilly terrain characterizes the first third of the day which then tapers off to rolling countryside. Transit Caw Gap and Walltown Crags. Walltown Quarry is a good spot to stop for lunch and a rest before proceeding to Gilsland
Sightseeing: The map mentioned “Great Chesters Fort” which I didn’t see and later learned that it is un-excavated. Nothing to see here…move along. But you can stop for a visit at Thirwall castle.
Accommodation: Brookside Villa B&B, reviews and booking at Trip Advisor. This was my favorite accommodation of the hike. It rained hard that day. I was wet, tired and ever so glad that I packed all of that Gore-Tex gear. But I was also glad for the the delicious dinner and interesting company provided by the proprietor.
Distance: 7miles /11 kilometers (4 of wall walking & 3 back in Newcastle)
The Route: After the hilly terrain of the past two days, the trail now flattens out with a return to rolling countryside. We opted to get off the trail at Banks. We called a cab and got a ride down to the train station where we then returned to Newcastle. Option 2 would be to walk 3 miles further on the path and perform the same maneuver at Walton. Option 3 would be to exit the trail at Banks and walk 1 mile down to Lanercost Priory.
Sightseeing: Birdoswald Fort offers a museum, cafe and rest stop. Lanercost Priory dates from 1166 and offers a visitors center and onsite B&B. Back in Newcastle we visited the Great North Museum. It’s a natural history museum with a large room dedicated to the history of the Wall. Alternatively, you could do the Great North on day 0 and spending more time at either Birdoswald or Lanercost.
Total distance: 40 miles/64 kilometers
Practical Considerations for your Hadrian’s Wall Walk
This suggested itinerary is by no means the only way to have a great hike on the Hadrian’s Wall path. You could use a car and do day hikes. You can hire an outfit like Macs Adventure to organize the whole thing for you (although it will cost you almost twice as much). Or you can start and end in different locations. Either way, here are some practical considerations for your trip:
- Pack carefully and be prepared for rain. Check out my Hadrian’s Wall packing list for a list of what to take. The list will not only support your hike, but covers all of the stuff that you need for other sightseeing while in the UK
- If you don’t want to carry it all on your back (this is comfort hiking after all), then use a portage service. I used Sherpa Van, but you can price shop with Hadrian’s Haul and others
- I targeted the mid-range for accommodation, but you can either go more luxe or save money by looking for places with bunkhouses, which are styled like a hostel
- Pay attention to distances both for your start/end for the day as well as the additional walking required to reach your accommodation
- Be prepared for long distances between food and toilet services and carry your own lunch
- Don’t forget the Stedman Guidebook, it will help you with plan your trip AND it’s detailed maps will keep you on the trail
- Get inspiration to do the walk now by checking out a this post on the history and beauty of the path
More Great Walks
Love walking? Then check out these posts on having a good long walk
- Walking the Camino de Santiago solo
- Walking the Embarcadero in San Francisco thru the city and over the golden Gate into Sausalito
- Advice for how to become a Flaneur…an urban walker
Your Parting Shot
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