“We walked across England!”
Our six-day walk on Hadrian’s Wall National Trail, West to East
The day finally arrived for our first long distance walk, west to east on Hadrian’s Wall National Trail in England. Hadrian’s Wall, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was built in 122 AD by Roman soldiers, under the orders of the Emperor Hadrian. The path follows this stone wall across England from coast to coast, so we could say “we walked across England!” This path seemed doable for our first walk – but still a challenge. Most walk Hadrian’s Wall east to west, but our route was west to east, so we would have the prevailing winds at our back. This was our route:
• Bowness-on-Solway • Carlisle • Banks • Old Repeater Station • Halton Red House • Newcastle-upon-Tyne • Wallsend •
According to my Hadrian’s Wall T-shirt, the trail is 136 km (84 miles), with 80 milecastles and six Roman forts. The actual length is probably a bit longer when you go off the path for accommodations, detours, food or fort visits. We decided to complete the walk in 6 days. If you are planning your own Hadrian’s Wall walk, see below for more specific tips and resources, and info about our hiking gear. Here’s how our walk went!
Day 1: Bowness-on-Solway to Carlisle
It was a perfect June morning to begin our walk, with blue sunny skies. We arrived in Carlisle a couple days earlier to have time to explore the city, and recover from jetlag. For the first section we had to take bus #93 to the path’s start at Bowness-on-Solway, then walk back to our Carlisle hotel for one more night.
Bowness-on-Solway is a peaceful village on the Solway Firth. The cute homes here don’t have addresses, but names like Silver Hill, and the White House. We saw the well-known local pub, The Kings Arms, but it doesn’t open until 4pm, which is too late for most west to east walkers.
The official start of Hadrian’s Wall Path is at a small shack along the Firth, which opens into the Irish Sea. At this point the firth is also the border between England and Scotland. The path begins fairly flat with a long stretch along the firth, and lots of birds.
Early on this first section there was an interesting man who had made a road sign, which he updated for each walker to mark the distance to their hometown.
On the first day, there was no actual wall to be seen…at least not in its original form. After the Romans left the wall was no longer in use, so people used stones from the wall for their own construction needs. An example of this is St Michael’s Church, in Burgh-by-Sands. This 12th century church was built on the foundation of a Roman Fort, with stones from the wall. In 1307 Edward I was brought here to lie in state after being killed during the uprising of Robert the Bruce. It is one of many churches and other attractions to see along the path.
Although we didn’t see remains of the actual wall, there was a lot to make this part of the walk interesting, from listening to birds in the wetlands, cute villages, wooded areas and pastures.
Walking into Carlisle we encountered a detour due to the devastating flood in early 2016. By the time we reached our hotel again we had walked 31 km, tired but happy to have completed our first leg. It’s worth spending a day in Carlisle to explore the small city and its castle.
Day 2: Carlisle to Banks
This morning we rejoined the path at the Eden Bridge, and for the first while the it followed the River Eden. The path leaving Carlisle was beautiful, down a long aisle of spring flowers.
After a couple of hours, we came across the “famous Stall-on-the-Wall”, which is an honesty box filled with assorted chocolate bars, chips and other treats to maintain your strength during the walk. There are a few of these fun stations along Hadrian’s Path, so if you go bring some small change or bills to enjoy them. One even had a small freezer with ice cream bars.
Much of Hadrian’s Wall path goes right through farmer’s fields, so we passed by lots of sheep, cattle and horses. We enjoyed seeing them, and most animals watched us with mild interest, but this cow right beside the path was a little intimidating. We went off the path to give it as much space as possible, and Darrell promised it he would cut back on beef.
Near the end of day two we came across the first substantial section of the wall. It was a fantastic day, but my feet began to protest and I got some nasty blisters. After the last steep hill we were both VERY happy to to reach the Quarryside B&B. After listening to our moans, our host, Elizabeth, asked how far we walked that day, then burst out laughing, “Is that all?”
Our ensuite room at Quarryside was lovely and spacious with a view of the country. After a short rest, the Elizabeth’s husband drove us to the Belted Will Inn for a pub dinner. I had a tasty fish pie and Darrell had steak pie, in spite of his promise to the cows earlier that day. After our delicious dinner the pub owner gave us a ride back to our B&B.
Day 3: Banks to Old Repeater Station
27 km (completed 14 km)
Day three started with an excellent breakfast at our B&B, including their own farm fresh eggs and local sausages. We also took Elizabeth up on her option of a packed lunch.
Before setting out, I doctored my feet with Second Skin, Compeed, and duct tape. With them fully covered they didn’t feel too bad. The weather had become misty with some rain, but we were prepared with rain coats and covers for our backpacks. The cooler temperatures were pleasant to walk in so we didn’t mind at all. This section of the path is hilly, very picturesque, and we were seeing a lot more of the wall.
After about an hour, we reached Birdoswald, one of the best preserved Roman forts on the wall and well worth a stop.
A short time later we arrived at these remains of the Roman Willowford Bridge, which originally crossed the River Irthing. Over time the course of the river changed so these remains are a distance apart from the current modern bridge.
Despite the beautiful scenery, my feet could only make it about 14 km. While walking to a bus stop, a couple of local ladies in an SUV stopped to ask if we needed a ride. They had noticed me hobbling, and we gladly accepted their ride to our next B&B.
At the Old Repeater Station B&B we had a nice welcome from our host, Les. The room was a small ensuite with a comfortable bed and cozy bedding. There is also a comfortable common lounge and dining room. Les made a delicious dinner for us and his other guests, served family style at his big table. I had steak pie and Darrell had lasagne, served with bowls of mashed potatoes, vegetables and bread.
Day 4: Old Repeater Station to Halton Red House
23 km (Instead, Housesteads Roman Fort to Carrawburgh Temple of Mithras: 10 km)
After another hearty full English breakfast (and a few more packages of Compeed and Second Skin) we were ready for day four.
The previous day we had cut the walk short and missed some of the most spectacular sections, so we took a bus back a few miles to begin our day at Housesteads, the most complete Roman fort in Britain. We were glad to see the fort, and the dramatic landscape in this section was a highlight of our walk.
The path follows the best preserved section of the wall up and down steep hills, with spectacular views. The ground here is steep and very uneven, but with our hiking boots and walking poles it was a pleasure. This was the busiest section of the path with a lot of day walkers, but not at all overly-crowded.
We were only able to make it 10 km, to Carrawburgh, Temple of Mithras, then I had to stop again because of my feet. So we took a bus to Chollerford, then a taxi to our next B&B, Halton Red House Farm. At this point we changed our goal to walk at least 100 km of the trail. My disappointment at cutting short another day’s walk was soon forgotten when we arrived at Halton Red House Farm, another lovely B&B. Our hostess Sheila drove us to a nearby pub where we had another excellent, hearty meal.
Day 5: Halton Red House to Newcastle
27 km (completed 17 km)
After a perfect English breakfast we set off again towards our next stop at Newcastle-upon-Tyne. On day five the rugged terrain was behind us, and the hills flattened to gently rolling farmland that looked beautiful even on this rainy day.
After about 5 km we came across the Robin Hood Inn, where we decided to stop in for an excellent scone with cream and jam.
We walked 17 km, then stopped at the Three Tuns pub at Heddon-on-the-Wall, then again because of my sad feet, took a taxi to our hotel in Newcastle.
Day 6: Newcastle to Wallsend
On our final day we hired an Uber driver to take us from Newcastle to Wallsend, which is the eastern terminus of Hadrian’s Wall path. We then walked west back to Newcastle. At Wallsend is the Segedunum Roman Fort and museum. We didn’t visit the museum, but we did go up their tower which looks over the former fort, and has a good video explaining the history of the site through the ages.
Then we walked the 8 km back to Newcastle, which is a very nice urban path once you get past the first bit at Wallsend. Coming into the city the path follows the River Tyne, with Newcastle’s interesting buildings and bridges.
So in the end, we walked 107 km of Hadrian’s Wall path, coast to coast, but with 36km skipped across days 3 to 5.
The only real discomfort was from blisters on my feet. In hindsight I think I caused this by having a pedicure a couple weeks before our walk, which may have made my feet look pretty, but also removed callouses that probably would have been a layer of protection for a long walk. Otherwise, we both felt good, and the hills even became easier as we went. It was a great experience as our first long distance walk, and I’m already thinking of where we could walk next.
The Hadrian’s Wall National Trail itself was fantastic, with a great variety of landscapes as well as the famous wall and Roman forts. It was a pleasure to get to know the area up close, walking through the many farms, villages or wilderness areas. There are more attractions than we had time for along the way, including Roman forts, and also churches, museums, and villages.
Planning your own Hadrian’s Wall walk
Two resources that helped immensely in planning our trip:
- The National Trail website: They have a map that was a great help in finding accommodations along the wall.
- Hadrian’s Wall Path guidebook, by Gordon Simm and Jacquetta Megarry, helped in planning the trip, and kept us on track during the walk.
- Check these links for more resources and tips for planning your own Hadrian’s Wall walk, and our gear list.
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