First thing's first - the basics
This is a suggested itinerary - way back in January 2010, I decided to walk Hadrian's Wall - it had been a long time coming; originally I had planned to do this epic trip in 2002, but Foot and Mouth disease had struck and closed a lot of the farms.
It's 86 miles long and you can do it either way - from East to West or West to East. The prevailing wind is said to be from West to East, so many walkers prefer to do the walk in that direction; however...if you do walk that way, you end up in very urban setting at the end of your 86 mile trek (albeit in the wonderful Segudunum Roman Fort - an excavated and partially reconstructed (notably the Bath House) Roman fort complex. Segedunum, by the way, has an excellent museum and restaurant - perfect for walkers starting off on their day's travels and a welcome end point for those ending their walk. Hearty food can be had by all.
But...if you walk from East to West, you start off in an urban setting at Wallsend with lots of places to park and great transport links (the Newcastle-upon-Tyne Metro system) and you end up in the wonderful Bowness-on-Solway with pubs (well, two pubs in total) serving Salmon fished right from the Solway, right on the coast with lovely views and exceptional peace and quiet (which to be frank is exactly what I wanted at the end of my trek); not forgetting the lovely wooden reception building built by the locals to welcome walkers at the end of their walk (and for you to collect your final Roman Wall stamp on your Hadrian's Wall passport card. Yes, there is a wall-walking loyalty scheme and I can proudly state that I collected all 6, including the new Housestead's stamp, which I gained in the pouring rain...
I stayed in B&Bs overnight for the whole of the walk. To be quite frank, I did not want to do 15+ miles of potentially hard walking only to end up in a soggy campsite only to have to spend half-an-hour or more fiddling with a tent and then having to cook my own food on a tiny stove with raindrops hitting the canvas and the nearest toilet half a mile away. Room service and the company of others is everything!
IMPORTANT: Some advice - do as much training as you can for this - get on the running machines in your local gym and do a bit of weights where possible - ask the fitness centre staff for advice on what you should do. You'll need to get your stamina up and build up your distance walking. The weight training will help strengthen your muscles, neck, shoulders and back for carrying a heavy rucksack 86 miles.
How long does/did it take to walk?
7 days from Wallsend to Bowness-on Solway, stopping each night at Bed & Breakfasts
What are the Stages?
Please note that for the accommodations stated below, all were bed & breakfast and all were of varying standards (that is some had television in rooms and some had baths rather than showers). The information is correct as of August 2010 - any walkers wishing to contribute further comments on these B&B can contact us HERE to let us know their experiences - we will publish a certain quantity of these on this page
In the notes for accommodation below, I've noted where B&B's had baths & shaver sockets in their rooms. It's amazing how few Bed & Breakfasts have baths in their rooms, but equally it's amazing how much you need one after a day's hard walking. Sometimes a shower just doesn't do it! Please check with each B&B for their latest tariffs and availability. Where a B&B has a website, I have linked the name to their web page.
Catch train to Newcastle, night time accommodation at the Dorset Arms Hotel, Dorset Avenue, Wallsend, Newcastle. NE28 8DX). Tel. 0191 209 9754, email: email@example.com. I paid up front for this night's stay and paid an additional small charge for a fabulous cooked breakfast the next morning.
It was clean, tidy and comfortable with shower and digital television and tea and coffee making facilities. I suspect that Hadrian's Wall walkers will not mind that it is about 15 minutes brisk walk from the centre of Wallsend! Had a shaver point (for recharging toothbrushes & electric razors!). My recommendation is that walkers staying in Wallsend overnight before setting out make their way via the Metro system out to Whitley Bay and that they effectively start their pilgrimage at the North Sea on the East Coast. There are plenty of places to eat there and a large beach to walk along to get your fresh North Sea and to stretch the legs in anticipation of the following day's walk.
Before you start off, don't forget to pick up your English Heritage Hadrian's Wall passport stamp from Segudunum Roman Fort and Museum. Out of hours, it may be found in the TOTAL Petrol Station, 120 metres east of Segedunum Roman Fort. GR NZ 301 661.
Day 1 - Wallsend (Segudunum Roman Fort) to Keelman's Lodge, Newburn. Stages 1-4 of Mark Richard's Hadrian's Wall Path: Two-Way National Trail Description book. Total 9.5 miles approximately
This part of the walk is very urban - you're really walking through Newcastle's suburbs and a little bit of its city centre. You cross over the A1M at one point and then some of it is along the Tyne River's north bank. There are plenty of places (pubs and restaurants) for the walker to get lunch at and places to shelter if it starts raining!
Night-time accommodation at the end of day 1 is at The Keelman's Lodge, Grange Road, Newburn, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE15 8NL Tel.: 0191 267 1689. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, next to The Keelman's Bar & Restaurant, Newburn. Tel. 0191 267 1689. Deposit Required
****The Keelman's Lodge is good clean, comfortable accommodation with a bath; and including shaver socket. The Keelman's restaurant and pub is spacious and with a large patio area with numerous tables; the food is tasty, hot and excellent and the beer divine (brewed on site)
Day 2 - Keelman's Lodge, Newburn to East Wallhouses; then 1.5 miles to Matfen HIgh House. Stages 5-7 of Mark Richard's Hadrian's Wall Path: Two-Way National Trail Description book. Total 9.05 miles approximately
This day's walking takes you from the north bank of the Tyne up onto the high ground just north of the river and you really feel like you're making a break away from the urban sprawl. The first town you come to is Heddon-on-the Wall, which has plenty of places in it to stop for lunch (if you feel hungry after your hearty breakfast) and it's shortly after you've left this settlement and enter the fields next to the A69 that you find the very first glimpses of Hadrian's Wall in the footings of the hedge on your right. This is a wonderful thing to see because a day and a half's walking in a very urban setting starts to make you question whether the wall actually exists. For me, this marked the real start of my walk, which was an exciting feeling.
Night-time accommodation at Matfen High House, next to Matfen Brewery, NE20 0RG. Tel. 01661 886592. Just after the Robin Hood Inn, there is a sign pointing the walker down a path alongside a field and through a wood to Matfen High House, which is a beautiful country house with farmyard and barns run by Jenny and Struan. If you get there early enough, the brewery does food; otherwise, there is The Robin Hood Inn. No deposit required.
***Matfen High House is lovely quiet, comfortable accommodation - one room has an ensuite bathroom; whilst the other has a shower and bath room next door to it with shaver socket. Television and tea and coffee-making facilities in the room and really peaceful at night (very dark too!) Breakfast - a whole range of foods was presented to me - cereals, fruit, freshly-baked bread and a full English breakfast. The BEST breakfast I've ever had in a B&B and two of the friendliest, most helpful hosts I've come across who ran me down to the pub and back from my meal. Excellent
The Robin Hood Inn is the 2nd of the English Heritage Hadrian's Wall Passport stamps, the stamp being in a little wooden box to the right of the entrance to the pub. GR NZ 050 684. Stamp available anytime - it is not dependent on opening hours of the pub
Day 3 - Matfen High House to Robin Hood Inn (1.5 miles); Then East Wallhouses to Greencarts Farm (B&B), NE46 4BW, and camping barn. Stages 8-13 of
Mark Richard's Hadrian's Wall Path: Two-Way National Trail Description book. Total 15.2 miles approximately
This is a lovely, green day's walking, mostly through fields, all the time Hadrian's Wall is becoming grander and larger in its ditches and embankment, dominating stretches of the landscape. A good lunch point is at The Errington Arms, NE45 5QB.
Tel. 01434 672250, which also offers accommodation. They're not always open on Mondays, but when I got there, the pub was "unofficially" open and serving plenty of walkers with lunches, teas and coffees, not forgetting lovely beer!
Night-time accommodation at Greencarts Farm (B&B and camping barn), Humshaugh, Northumberland, NE46 4BW, Tel. 01434 681320
You have to be careful not to miss the turn off for Greencarts - it's ever so easy to go straight over the road you need to turn down. The road you need is at the top of the reconstructed section of wall at Black Carts Turret (English Heritage) and it's about 1.5 miles from the wall down this road (you'll need to turn right about 1 mile down). Deposit required
***Greencarts Farm is a very welcoming farm and very well run. I was given a beer and offered food whilst I waited for the lady running the farm to come back from her rounds taking food and drink round to the campers and hikers. The room was exceptionally comfortable, en suite and had a little television in the corner, plus tea and coffee making facilities. Bed was comfortable and the night's sleep quiet. They also make dinners for those who want them and this was both a large and delicious dinner with an apple pie and custard for afters. As with the other accommodations mentioned, this is fully recommended and in a beautiful setting too. The shower was ensuite, and I recall that they did not have a shaver socket or bath. They're happy to provide both food and water to walkers setting off from the farm, so don't forget to check with them about getting a packed lunch. Note: mobile phone reception is a bit patchy at Greencarts
Chesters Roman Fort is the 3rd of the English Heritage Hadrian's Wall Passport stamps, the stamp being in a little wooden box either inside of the fort or outside, depending on the weather. Out of hours, it's in the outside box. GR NY 911 704
Day 4 - Greencarts Farm (B&B) back to Hadrian's Wall (1.5 miles); Then on to Cawfields Quarry and Burnhead B&B. Stages 13-17 of Mark Richard's Hadrian's Wall Path: Two-Way National Trail Description book. Total 11.8 miles
Day 4 is quite a hard day, particularly if it's wet or windy weather. Much of it is up on the ridge top of the Great Whin Sill, a tabular layer of igneous rock (colled magnum or lava), so it's quite exposed and it's very up and down, so taking walking sticks, a first-aid kit and a charged-up mobile is well-advised. In terms of stopping for lunch, Housesteads Roman Fort (English Heritage) is a great spot to stop at, but there were not a whole lot of lunchtime food or drink options from the museum shop, nor places to sit down.
Night-time accommodation at Burnhead B&B, Burnhead, Cawfields, Haltwhistle, Northumberland National Park, NE49 9PJ. Tel. +44 (0)1434 320841. E-mail: email@example.com. A deposit may be required.
***Burnhead B&B is right on Hadrian's Wall with walkers going past eastwards and westwards right in front of the B&B. I confess to having come out of the rain into this lovely and comfortable B&B only to flop on the bed and feel rather pleased that I wasn't one of the poor walkers still going past in the bad weather outside the window. In terms of getting an evening meal, once you are refreshed and actually feeling able to move your legs again, it is only a very short walk to the super Milecastle Inn, whose food and drink is perfect refreshment after a day's walking. It's in a rather beautiful exposed setting on the B6318 and it makes for a glorious scene eating and drinking whilst the sun is slowly setting over the landscape. The Milecastle Inn has self-catering cottages that walkers can use as a base for walking Hadrian's Wall
Burnhead's room had tea and coffee-making facilities, 2 single beds, an ensuite shower and a shaver socket that actually worked (phew!). The bed was comfortable and the night's sleep very quiet. Breakfast the following morning was a full English breakfast and they kindly made me a packed lunch for the day's walk ahead. Altogether wonderful - a delightful experience
Day 5 - Cawfields Quarry to Walton, and Sandysike B&B, Stages 18-22 of Mark Richard's Hadrian's Wall Path: Two-Way National Trail Description book. Total 14.4 miles
Like day 4, this day's walking is quite long and, in places, arduous and the early portion of it remains on the Great Whin Sill, where the walking is exposed to the weather - sun, wind and rain! After Gilsland, it's green and rolling farmland and field. Make sure to spend some time having a look at Aesica Roman fort, which you meet almost immediately after setting off from Cawfields Quarry. There is a good place to stop for coffee and food with picnic benches just after coming down from the ridge into the basin of a former quarry, called Walltown Crags (1938-1978), where they used to quarry basalt. It has toilet facilities, and a shop with souvenirs, sandwiches, crisps and drinks, including a coffee machine. Lunchtime falls easily at Gilsland where there is a small town and The Samson Inn pub, which was serving some rather nice ales and food when I visited. According to Mark Richard's Hadrian's Wall Path book, there are a couple of other public houses and a teashop there. For the rail enthusiast, there are two crossings of the Newcastle to Carlisle railway in stage 19 on unmanned crossings.
Night-time accommodation at Sandysike B&B, Sandysike House, Walton, Brampton, Cumbria CA8 2DU. Tel. 016977 2330. Email: Margaret Sutcliffe: firstname.lastname@example.org. Deposit required
***Sandysike B&B is perfectly placed (like Burnhead B&B) for Hadrian's Wall walkers, being almost directly on the Hadrian's Wall Path. It has a 10-bed bunkhouse and B&B rooms within the house. The room I had was on two levels - the upper part having the bed and bedside table, whilst the lower level of the room contained the ensuite bath and sink, which were very welcome. This is a working farmhouse and it was lovely to be welcomed so warmly into such a busy farm, where dinner was laid on (cottage pie), vegetables, gravy and all accompanied by a range of drinks from locally produced beer, to tea, coffee, water and juices (beer extra to the price of the stay). The evening meal is particularly necessary because there is nowhere else in Walton to eat of an evening since the pub closed down and turned into a tearoom. The family are friendly and welcoming and very accommodating and make an effort to bring all the walkers together and chatting round the large table in the spacious dining room. Extra entertainment was provided by some extremely cute puppies rolling around in one of the outbuildings carefully attended to by their labrador mother.
Birdoswald Roman Fort is the 4th of the English Heritage Hadrian's Wall Passport stamps, the stamp being inside the fort within the shop area; when the fort is closed, it's located in an outside box. GR NY 615 663.
Day 6 - Sandysike B&B, Walton to Knockupworth Hall B&B, Grinsdale, Stages 23-27 of Mark Richard's Hadrian's Wall Path: Two-Way National Trail Description book. Total 13.4 miles
A shorter and better (that is flatter and easier, if not greener and more sheltered) walk awaits you on Day 6, although you do end up having lunch later than normal unless you are a fast walker; and the weather holds up well. I took a mid-morning coffee break just after crossing the busy A689 on a small pedestrian bridge-there's an "honesty shack" here in an open shed complete with kettle, cups, milk, sugar and two refrigerators of drinks and ice-creams where you can shelter and make yourself tea or coffee, leaving the suggested monies in a pot in the shed. The walker is now entering the village of Crosby-on-Eden and there are a couple of walking facilities here - the Crosby Lodge Hotel welcomes walkers in for tea, and that's just a few yards on from here. The Eden part of the name comes from the River Eden, which is a prominent part of the walk on leaving the village and whose banks you walk along on several sections of the walk to come.
Lunch is at the excellent Sands Centre which marks a well-needed rest point (I spent a long time resting here!) - hot and cold meals and drinks are available here in a restaurant which boasts internal and external seating, so the weary walker can get their fill of relaxation! Don't forget to get your Roman Passport stamp here.
Night-time accommodation at Knockupworth Hall, Burgh Road, Carlisle, Cumbria, CA2 7RF. Tel. 01228-523531. E-mail: email@example.com. Knockupworth is quiet and comfortable with the B&B facilities in an outbuilding at the back of the main house. It has a separate shower room, digital television and tea and coffee-making facilities (please check all details with the owner prior to booking) . There was also an amazing array of wild birds outside the window including the common woodpecker. This is partly due, I'm sure to the close proximity of the River Eden and the woodlands, fields and grassland along the river banks.
The Sands Centre is the 5th of the English Heritage Hadrian's Wall Passport stamps, the stamp being inside the restaurant, GR NY 402 565. If the restaurant is locked, you may be able to gain access at the front of the building, but walkers should note that the stamp is only available during normal opening hours.
Day 7 - Knockupworth Hall B&B, Grinsdale, to the end of the Wall Walk in Bowness-on-Solway, Stages 28-32 of Mark Richard's Hadrian's Wall Path: Two-Way National Trail Description book. Total 11.7 miles
Despite the bittersweet happiness at having nearly completed the walk, this stretch of Hadrian's Wall is almost non-existent and there are few visible signs of it anywhere. The countryside is lush and green and there are plenty of spaces to sit and admire the view and at least two pubs to enjoy on the way to Bowness, where you can firstly refresh yourself and enjoy the cheesecake and coffee; and secondly have lunch and beer; and inadvertently a bit of a nap (you can see I enjoyed both pubs to the max).
When you come into Bowness-on-Solway, the place you need to head for is The Banks, which is signposted to the right down a small pathway diving between two buildings. It's opposite The Wesleyan Home Mission Chapel and just before the post office. On the shoreline, the local residents have built a splendid wooden reception building complete with mosaic on the floor and plaques on the ends of the building giving the mileage of the Hadrian's Wall route. It sits in a beautiful, tranquil spot overlooking the Solway Firth and stands above a well and garden.
Morning Coffee & Cheesecake - The Greyhound Inn, Brugh. Plenty of outside seating to enjoy your drinks and food in the good weather and some internal seating
Lunch: The Highland Laddie - lovely beers, sandwiches and hot food. It's a quiet and friendly public house in Glasson, stage 31 of Mark Richard's Hadrian's Wall Path book.
Evening meal: The King's Arms, Bowness-on-Solway, which has a lovely range of home-cooked meals and great beers. The salmon was fresh from the estuary and cooked beautifully. Bowness is a great place for meeting other walkers in the pub all celebrating the end of the walk and from all walks of life and many different nationalities, confirming that the Hadrian's Wall walk has won its place in the international walking calendar. You could also try the Hope and Anchor pub, which is very popular and sits slightly outside Bowness in Port Carlisle.
Night-time accommodation: at Shoregate House, Bowness-on-Solway, Wigton, Cumbria, CA7 5BH. Tel. 016973 51308; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Shoregate House is a wonderful, friendly Bed & Breakfast on the right of Bowness just as you enter the tiny town. It has rooms with views of the sea, and the wonderful sounds of birds and wildlife can be heard across the estuary night and day (not noisy in the least, rather comforting in all). My room had a shower only, but was lovely and clean and comfortable with digital television.
Out of interest, you'll probably meet lots of walkers at breakfast who are setting off to walk the wall from West-to-East. You will be the centre of attention for them and can relish your position of knowledge and experience. It will never again be at this level of potency...
Getting the sixth and final Hadrian's Wall Passport Stamp. The passport stamp used to be kept in the wooden reception building, but was stolen; walkers will now find the stamp either in the King's Arms or the Community Centre round the corner.
When at Bowness: See if you can spot the remains of the Solway Junction Railway and where it crossed the Solway Firth. The embankments should be visible in places and the sandstone blocks have fallen away to expose rusting steel pillars
Transport Links from Bowness-on-Solway to Carlisle: There is a bus that runs from Bowness to Carlisle and in 2010 this was the 93 bus, whose timetable you can find at the extremely useful website: http://www.hadrians-wall.org. There are few buses and the gaps between services can be quite large, so it is advisable to make absolutely sure when you need to be at the bus stop in Bowness. Otherwise you may end up walking back along Hadrian's Wall the other way...