Visiting one of Britain's most famous sites
Whether you are aware of Hadrian's Wall or not, it is a sight not to be missed if you plan on visiting Britain — particularly if you're staying 'up north'. The Roman frontier, Hadrian's Wall, was built under the reign of Emperor Hadrian in AD 122 and was patrolled by soldiers of the Roman Empire. In 1987 it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, entering it into the same category as the Great Barrier Reef and the Taj Mahal, so it's no wonder it is one of the most popular attractions of Britain. The 73 mile (120 kilometres) wall is a sight to behold as it is surrounded by natural beauty and history. With much of the wall still intact it is definitely worth a visit if you are interested in Roman history or enjoy rural rambling.
Hadrian's Wall National Trail Path
For tourists to enjoy the sites surrounding Hadrian's Wall, in 2003 a footpath was opened, spanning the northern countryside coast to coast from Segedenum Roman Fort at Wallsend to Bowness-on-Solway on the west coast of England. The 84-mile trail path (approximately 135 kilometres) takes walkers along the riverside in Tyneside and is signposted the whole way, taking approximately seven days to cover the whole trail. It meanders through beautiful countryside as well as the more vibrant cities of Newcastle and Carlisle, so there is a lot to see — especially at its highest point of 345 metres. As this trail also links to around 80 different walks you could also experience smaller trails off the main route.
History of Hadrian's Wall
The wall is dotted with Roman forts, mile castles and temples as well as archaeological sites that provide valuable insight into how the Romans lived about 2,000 years ago. There are sometimes re-enactments of battles held in the summer months to really give visitors an idea of what happened there hundreds of years ago. Hadrian's Wall was the first of two defences built across Britain, the second being the Antonine Wall further north (although, this is lesser known as its remains are less evident). A substantial portion of Hadrian's Wall still exists, particularly the mid-section, and for most of its length the wall can be followed on foot by Hadrian's Wall Path or by cycle on National Cycle Route 72.
Nature and wildlife
Not only is Hadrian's Wall surrounded by some of the beautiful British countryside, it is also in the vicinity of other amazing wildlife and natural elements. Take the World Owl Centre for example, or the fact that the area of Hadrian's Wall Country is home to the rare Natterjack toads and wild pansies. It is also home to an impressive bird population and red squirrels.
Of course, when visiting an historical site you should respect its importance and fragility. Each step you take along Hadrian's Wall is a piece of British heritage and is archeologically important so it is vital the remains are preserved. When visiting the wall, do not walk on the wall itself and try to walk side-by-side, rather than in single file, to prevent further wear of the foundations. Also, it is asked of visitors to only walk along the wall in summer months, so bear this in mind when planning your trip; you will only be granted your wall passport stamp between 1st May and the end of October. Also, remember to avoid any raised ground or ridges along the path — it may be tempting to want a better view by standing on higher ground, but you will be standing on important archaeological ruins. Closing gates behind you, not littering and refraining from picking wild flowers are obviously still golden rules.
Must-see stops along Hadrian's wall
Along Hadrian's Wall there are many Roman ruins such as the most complete Roman fort in Britain, as well as Carlisle's 900 year-old castle, barracks, museums, market towns, villages, gateways and even an old hospital. You can learn about Roman life and venture even into Scotland. Events in the past include a public event which illuminated Hadrian's Wall with 500 lit beacons, so be sure to research upcoming events when arranging your own trip. To get around the many sites the aptly named AD 122 bus runs from Carlisle all the way to Newcastle, stopping everywhere important — so you won't miss a thing.
Hadrian's wall top tips
Hadrian's Wall stretches for over 70 miles across the north of England so it would be extremely challenging to try and see it all in one go. Instead, many visitors break up the trail by staying over in the various villages and towns along the way. It is important that you book your accommodation before you arrive — many B&Bs, campsites and guesthouses will become fully booked during certain months so avoid disappointment by booking early.
It is advisable to carry cash with you as many of the smaller shops and cafés in villages along the way may not accept card payments. The walk is actually much more of a challenge than people think, so make sure you're prepared and take with you water, snacks, sunscreen and a hat in summer months as there is little shelter, and take some insect repellent. Most importantly, you will need appropriate footwear — blisters and achy ankles will make the walk much less enjoyable. Finally, remember a map and guidebook to help you navigate the route.