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Published: February 1st 2017
Last summer we hiked from the east coast to the west coast in England. We hiked along the Hadrian's Wall Path
Notes from a hiking vacation in Northern England
Last summer we hiked from the east coast to the west coast in England. This is a trip we for several years have been thinking of doing. We will soon begin to tell our story from the trail. But first we have a message to potential hikers. If you are planning on hiking all or parts of the Hadrian's Wall Path yourself we have for your benefit in the end of this blog entry added some travel information. You might learn one or two useful things there.
Almost 2,000 years ago the Romans ruled much of Europe. The Roman Empire had its northern borders in what today is northern Germany and northern England. In the year 122 CE the Roman emperor Hadrian decided to mark the northern boundary of the empire in the British Isles with a wall. The Romans were skilled builders and never slow in going from decision to action. So it only took them a few years to erect a wall from coast to coast in England, a wall today known as Hadrian's Wall.
Ake first heard of this wall in
In the village Heddon-on-the-Wall there is a good stretch of Hadrian's Wall preserved
the 1980-ies and he then thought it would be cool to hike along it. How he got that idea is a bit uncertain because back then there wasn't any trail going along Hadrian's Wall. You could visit the wall in various places and there were tourist facilities here and there and you could probably hike sections of the wall too. But there wasn't any trail available for those who wished to hike the entire length of the wall.
But apparently Ake was not the only one who thought it would be cool to hike along Hadrian's Wall because in 2003 the Hadrian's Wall Path was opened. It is a 135 km long trail following as closely as possible to where Hadrian's Wall runs, or where the wall used to be in the sections where the wall is no longer visible. Summer 2016 we spent part of our vacation on hiking the entire length of Hadrian's Wall - and we loved it!
Hadrian's Wall was built almost 1,900 years ago. When the Romans were forced to retire from northern England the wall no longer served any purpose. Some sections of it was simply abandoned and
Evenly spaced along Hadrian's Wall there were guard towers
fell into disrepair, other sections were for various reasons dismantled.
The Hadrian's Wall Path is 130 km from end to end. That is also the original length of Hadrian's Wall. We estimate that there today is less than 80 km left of the wall. We think so because the first day we hiked from Wallsend through central Newcastle and finished in Heddon-on-the-Wall, 18 km from where we started. We didn't see any trace of the wall until we reached the village Heddon-on-Wall, where a small section of the wall is preserved, making us think that the first 18 km of the wall no longer exists. The last day of the hike we walked 30 km. Just as the first day we didn't see any trace of the wall leading us to think that those 30 km are also gone forever.
The rest of the wall is fortunately enough better preserved. Much of it remains or is restored. Along the wall there were also guard towers and forts and bits and pieces of them also remains. So if you like Roman architecture and/or ruins the hike can be recommended. Also for nature lovers we recommend
Hadrian's Wall Path mostly runs through farming country. In some fields there are cows grazing
the hike. But we think "nature lovers" won't agree when we say that Hadrian's Wall Path is a good hike because they probably prefer to hike in the wild. Much of Hadrian's Wall Path goes through open country. But it is not wilderness, it is farming country. It felt like we more often than not walked through fields with grazing sheep or cows. If you are allergic to animal faeces or afraid of cows Hadrian's Wall Path is probably not the best choice of hike.
We started our hike at Wallsend in Newcastle where the eastern end of Hadrian’s Wall is. At Wallsend there is a museum and also the remains of a Roman fort. From Wallend the trail goes through central Newcastle, so the first day of hiking was very different from the rest. In the end of the first day we reached Heddon-on-the-Wall, a village which claim to fame is the first stretch of preserved Roman wall west of Newcastle.
We are not going to bore you with detailed information on each day of the hike. We are only going to describe it in very general terms
From the second day
Wallsend metro station
The information at Wallsend metro station is written in English, of course, but also in Latin as a kind of homage to Hadrian's Wall
and on we hiked through the landscape of Northern England.
The trail went through one other city than Newcastle, Carlisle. Other than that it was open country or small villages.
The first two days and the last two days of the hike were mainly flat. The further away from the coasts we came the hillier the trail was. But the hills were easily conquered.
Most of the landscape was open. There were trees here and there but only two or three forests, and they were small ones.
Along the trail there were several so called honesty boxes. We found these mostly in the western half of the trail. People put up boxes with drinks, sweets and chocolate. Hikers who wish to buy something are expected to pay according to a price list fixed to the box. It was nice to find those and we usually bought a drink or some sweets. But we understood that they have had problems with people stealing from them and that it just sad.
We have made a few hikes over the years but we would not by any means call ourselves experienced hikers. If we
In the eastern end Hadrian's Wall starts In Wallend. There is a museum and also the remains of a Roman fort.
would “rank” Hadrian’s Wall Path we would say it is a relatively easy hike. The trail is safe to walk, the hills you hade to climb up or scale down are low, there is no need to carry food or tent and even in the most remote sections of the wall you are never far away from a road or a private home. If you plan on hiking on your vacation we can recommend Hadrian's Wall Path.
Thanks for reading our story from our hike in northern England last summer. Here follows some travel information for those who are planning to hike Hadrian's Wall Path. If you don't think you will ever do that then there is no point in continue reading.
This is not a general travel information on this hike. There are several other good sources on the Internet if that is what you are looking for. This is more a list of things we learned, sometimes the hard way, and advice we wish to pass on.
Allow yourself time for the hike. We checked some sites on Internet and decided to plan on doing
Start of Hadrian's Wall
This is the beginning of Hadrian's Wall
it in seven days. In the end we decided to prolong one day's hike in the middle a bit and push ourselves a bit hard the last day and thereby ending up doing it in six days. We would not attempt to do the hike in less than six days.
Weather is unpredictable in northern England. Bring rain cover for your bag and something to shield yourself with. Also make sure you have time to stop in one place for a day or two if the weather turns nasty.
We had a map over Hadrian’s Wall Path with us. It was very helpful during the hike and we recommend everybody to bring a similar map.
It was relatively easy to find food and water along the trail. You need to have a water bottle with you of course but there is no need to bring any food. All you need is some cookies or some sweets.
Bring some cash for the honest boxes.
We are not superfit but we exercise regularly. It was no problem for us to carry our own bags. But we made
Hadrian's Wall Path
Hadrian's Wall Path follows the Roman Age Hadrian's Wall
sure to pack as few things as possible of course.
It is essential to make reservations for your accommodation in advance. There are few beds around to start with and they can be difficult to find. We did our hike in high season and we made sure to have at least the next night booked before we set off each morning. Often we also had the night after that booked. Having said that, we didn't find it necessary to plan ahead more than two days. We wanted to be able to adjust our plans a bit in case we wanted to slow down or speed up our pace and we wanted to be able to adjust our plans if there was a rainy day.
We went from east to west. We don't know which way is better. But if someone would ask us we would say it was a good choice. The boring section, through central Newcastle, is on the first day. It feels good to get that out of the way. Also, it is very easy to find the beginning of the wall in Newcastle. There is a metro station there called Wallsend.
World heritage site
Hadrian's Wall has by UNESCO been given the status of world heritage
This is all we had to say. Hope you enjoyed it.
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