A day on Hadrian’s Wall

After leaving Alston, it wasn’t too long before we crossed the county border into Northumberland. We arrived at our b & b in the small village of Newbrough late afternoon, in time to settle into our comfortable family suite and enjoy some time in the garden before heading across the road for dinner in the local pub. The following morning, after a hearty breakfast, we set off to explore Hadrian’s Wall.

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Hadrian’s Wall, built during the reign of Emperor Hadrian, marked the border of the Roman Empire, with modern day England and Wales to the south and unconquered Scotland to the north. Later, the Romans advanced north and built the Antonine Wall marking a new border. The current boundary between England and Scotland lies between the two.

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Our first port of call was Housesteads Roman Fort. On arrival, F was in her element. She darted about as if she was in a historical adventure playground. We pretended to wee in the Roman latrines, to disapproving looks from S. We explored other parts of the fort and despite it being summer, it was quite bracing in this exposed location, which we noticed when we settled down to listen to a talk from a Roman soldier – not a real one but an actor who told us what life was like in the army and extolled the virtues of the Roman Empire. It seemed the army was full of tradesmen who rarely did any fighting in this part of the world. It was soldiers who built the wall, which originally ran from the Solway Firth on the west coast to Newcastle, or more specifically Wallsend, on the east coast. According to the soldier, the wall was a marvellous thing which kept the locals safe from marauding barbarians to the north.

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A Celt followed him who gave a different story. The Romans had built the wall without consulting the local population. It ended up dividing farms and separating families. He had a few other gripes too.

After the history lessons, it was time to walk on up to the top of the fort to find the actual wall.

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It would have been a lot taller in its day, but it’s remarkable that so much has survived after 1900 years. We proceeded to walk a section of the wall heading west. The views around were expansive, which I suppose was the point of its location – raiders could be seen approaching many miles off.

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After an encounter with stinging nettles which upset F, we returned to the car and set off for the Roman Army Museum. Once there, F made for the costume section where she could dress up. Her mum enjoyed it too!

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We walked around an informative exhibition and went into a small cinema to see a 3D film on Roman history in the area. I don’t remember much about this because it was the embarrassing moment when F’s doll “exploded” leaving white powder everywhere! For those who’ve read my Keswick blog, this is the doll I mentioned that was bought at the Friars. After apologising profusely to staff, we made our exit and headed to another section of the Wall for a short walk.

Cawfields is one of the easiest parts of the Hadrian’s Wall to reach by car. After walking around a quarry lake, which took out a chunk of the Wall in times when heritage conservation was less valued, we arrived at a milecastle. These milecastles were placed along the wall roughly every mile (funnily enough) as gateways, usually guarded by 20-30 soldiers. There were 80 such castles along the route.

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We did some exploring but F was clearly wilting as pangs of hunger were setting in. It was time to call it a day and set off to find somewhere to eat.

Factfile:

Location

Newbrough is in Northumberland, England, UK, about 5 miles from the town of Hexham and 7 miles from Housesteads Roman Fort on Hadrian’s Wall

Transport

The village is close to the A69 trunk road. The nearest railway stations are Hexham and Haydon Bridge (4 miles) both of which are linked to it by bus.  It is easier to explore Hadrian’s Wall if you have a car, although the Newcastle – Carlisle railway line follows the route closely and the AD122 bus runs between Hexham and Haltwhistle via both Housesteads and the Roman Army Museum. The bus can also be used to enable one way walks along the wall. The nearest airport is Newcastle (24 miles), which is connected to Hexham by both bus and train

Accommodation

We stayed at Westfields B & B and ate at the Red Lion. For more accommodation options, click here

Information

Click on the links for more information on Housesteads Roman Fort, the Roman Army Museum and Hadrian’s Wall

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