Hadrian’s Wall was used as a defensive structure and was built under the instruction of the Roman Emperor Hadrian between the years 122 and 133 A.D. Its purpose was to defend the conquered areas in Great Britain from Northern invaders (known as ‘picots’). These people were based in the region of Scotland and had arrived from Ireland. The Romans found it difficult to defend themselves against these particularly fierce warriors. This is where the idea to construct a defensive wall came in. In fact, the Romans referred to the area we now know as Scotland ‘Caledonia’- due to the immense Caledonian-pine forests in the region.
Be prepared: you will travel 2000 years back into history! Even if it first seems like a rough terrain, the Hadrian’s Wall trip offers a selection of different routes to choose from- this should suit every type of cyclist.
There is an abundance of information on the various travel routes available- from local tourist offices in the region, as well as from online tourist guides. On our online map, we choose one particular route- but feel free to go with your own preference. Our version is around 250km in length. The length of the wall itself is 117km from east to west. But we have featured-in many interesting stop-offs along the way. The length of your trip this depends on what you choose to include and what you choose to pass up for another time. Our estimation is that is should take from between five to ten days to do the trip at a relaxed speed.
We have included some links for you to view. The most useful of these is the official website of Hadrian’s Wall. This is an amazing site where you can access all the information you need on things such as accommodation, restaurants, and alternative cycle routes.
We recommend that you try this trip during the summer months. In spring and autumn there is a significant amount of rainfall and wind. It is important to be prepared form the start. Good raincoats (for you and for your luggage), and plastic sheets to cover any electrical equipment will be necessary. It is better to do the trip going from west to east- starting in Carlisle- as the wind will be in you favour. In winter, it is almost impossible to do this trip- due to the fact that there is so much snow.
We begin our trip here. Even though every guidebook will tell you to do the trip from east to west, we recommend the opposite. You will thank us when you have the wind at your back!
This town is made up of two villages: High Crosby and Low Crosby. We will pass through these on our way to Hadrian’s Wall when approaching Carlisle airport (also known as Lake District Airport), for those of you arriving by plane.
This village consists of 400 inhabitants and is located near the most amazing section of the wall. It is an obvious example of ‘border country’, placed between Scotland and England. This concept was popularised by the romantic writer Sir Walter Scott. Very near by is the beautiful scenery of Northumberland National Park.
Vindolanda is not exactly a town, but it is one of the highlights on our route. It was once a Roman fort that was used to keep watch on the Stanegate or ‘stone road’. This was an important route for the Romans in England- it stretches from Carlisle to Cordbridge, approximately speaking. Hadrian’s Wall based on this route when it was being constructed. Its significance derives from the creation of ‘Vindolanda Boards’ by the Romans- pieces of wood that were written on and used for correspondence. This method eventually came to be used throughout the Roman Empire.
Wallsend is located near the rear east point of Hadrian’s Wall and was also built by the Romans. Near the town we find the Segedunum fort- a must see.
Newcastle is located in an area that features spectacular scenery. It is at the banks of the river Tyne, near the entrance to the city. From here, you can get an impressive panoramic view of the area. It is from the Gateshead Millennium Bridge- with its peculiar flickering mechanism- and the Baltic Contemporary Art Centre, that this city derives its charm. Once it was at the centre of industrial innovation in the XIX century, and now is at the centre of technological innovation, leisure and culture. Newcastle is the most populated area in the whole area, with 250,000 inhabitants.
Since 1987, Hadrian’s Wall has been recognised as a World Heritage Site. Here is a list of museums and cultural sites we recommend that are dotted along the way. You can learn more about the historical significance of this outstanding structure by visiting these places.
Tullie House Museum and Art Gallerie: Apart from hosting expositions relating to the Wall, this museum goes into detail about life during the Roman era, as well as the history of the England/ Scotland border. It is located one kilometre from Carlisle.
Birdoswald Roman Fort: This is an interactive historical centre. It transports us back to the time that the Wall was built.
Roman Army Museum: This will help you get an idea of the daily lives of the Roman Soldiers. You can also get a birds eye view of the wall from here. The museum accommodates multiple language types.
Cawfields: There’s nothing better than to get a close look at the wall to appreciate it more deeply.
Once Brewed Northumberland Nacional Park Centre: This is well-worth visiting. Here we will learn about the wall as a World Heritage Site.
Vindolanda Fort and Museum: This features remains of this fort and settlement site dating from Roman times. Here we can see the wooden boards Romans used for writing- as well as diverse artefacts of historical importance.
Housesteads Roman Fort and Museum: This is the most fully intact version of a Roman fort in the United Kingdom. The amazing view alone makes this a place worth visiting.
Carrawburgh: remnants of a fort that features a temple- dedicated to the god Mitras- from the third century
Cordbridge Roman Site and Museum: This museum features amazing artefacts and sculptures.
Segedunum Roman Fort, Baths and Museum: This is a well-informed centre that provides a unique learning experience. It includes reproductions of ancient Roman Baths. Also, there is plenty of information on the original wall. It includes an excellent interactive museum.
The above list is a selection of sites we have chosen based on our route. We fully recommend a visit to history museums and centres. For more detailed information on any of them, click on the link buttons that you see on the right of this page. But Hadrian’s Wall is about much more than museums- it can be known only by cycling alongside it. Obviously, in some parts, its remains have disappeared- so the itinerary pays attention to passages where you can still see the wall. It is not always easy to get to the places we recommend. It may be necessary at time to park the bike and to hike a little. And never forget to lock your bike, even when you are in the countryside!