Roman Roaming

With the recent opening of The Sill on Hadrian’s Wall, complete with its new Youth Hostel (open for individual and family booking for most weekends). I decided to put together a collection of day hikes which could be tackled from the hostel or the nearby accommodation. They incorporate some of the excellent Roman sites along the Northumbrian section of the wall, such as Housesteads, Vindolanda, Chesters and the Roman Army Museum. Check my other site links in the sidebar.

Hadrian’s Wall Path in its entirety, is an 85 mile national trail from Segedunum at Wallsend to Maia at Bowness-on-Solway.  Begun by Emperor Hadrian in AD122 the ancient Roman wall was designated as a World Heritage site in 1987. It is enormously varied, with urban stretches through Newcastle and Carlisle, a stunning central section through parts of Cumbria and Northumberland National Park, the soft rolling hills around Heddon on the wall and Lanercost, and the solitary beauty of the Solway Firth. There are also some fine Roman sites to visit along the route including forts, milecastles, turrets and temples, as well as museums and visitor centres. If you are interested in the complete Hadrian’s Wall National Trail, you can read about my Hadrian’s Wall Path walk here.

Hadrian's Wall
Hadrian’s Wall sites in Northumberland

Here are 3 moderate day hikes which vary in length between 5 and 10 miles, all of which are within Northumberland National Park and accessible from The Sill:

a/ Greenhead to Housesteads Roman Fort linear walk: 10 miles / 16km. Moderate
b/ Housesteads and Vindolanda circular walk: 7 miles / 11km. Moderate.
c/ Housesteads and Ridley Common Circular walk: 5 miles / 8km, Moderate

a/ Greenhead to Housesteads Roman Fort linear walk (10 miles / 16km). Moderate.

Greenhead to Housesteads
Greenhead to Housesteads linear route. Ordnance Survey ©

This is a fairly strenuous 10 mile linear walk from Greenheads near the border between Northumberland and Cumbria, to Housesteads Roman Fort. The route follows the Hadrian’s Wall Path and part of the Pennine Way westwards along the two overlapping National Trails. It is a great introduction to the Wall which incorporates some excellent and well known sites including Thirlwall Castle, Chesters Roman Fort, Steel Rigg, Sycamore Gap, the Pennine Way junction, the Roman Army Museum, and culminates at Housesteads Roman Fort owned by English Heritage.

Hadrian's Wall
Hadrian’s Wall Arch
Pennine Way junction
Pennine Way junction

The only refreshment stops between the start and the finish of the walk that I am aware of are at The Sill and the nearby pub at Twice Brewed, which are half a mile to the south of the route near Crag Lough. There are fairly regular buses which run along the route between March and September and which will return you to your starting point.

b/ Housesteads and Vindolanda circular walk: 7 miles / 11km. Moderate.

Housesteads to Vindolanda
Housesteads to Vindolanda circular. Ordnance Survey ©

This is a moderate 7 mile circular walk starting at Housesteads Roman fort information centre on Hadrian’s Wall. From here it heads southwards across the fields to East Crindledykes Farm, across Thorngrafton common and through Westwood cottages. From there the walk follows Chainley burn north to Vindolanda Roman fort and museum.

Hadrian's Wall
Hadrian’s Wall
Housesteads Roman Fort

Both Roman forts are open to the public with admission charges and various facilities including visitor centres and cafes. After this the walk heads northwards to rejoin Hadrians wall at Hotbank Farm where it turns eastwards back to Housesteads via Milecastle 37.

c/ Housesteads and Ridley Common Circular walk. 5 miles / 8km. Moderate.

Housesteads and RidleyCommon
Housesteads and Ridley Common circular. Ordnance Survey ©

This is a 5 mile / 8km circular walk which covers some of the most dramatic parts of the Hadrian’s wall national trail. It starts at Housesteads visitor centre in Northumberland which is accessible by car or public transport. This shortish routes head eastwards from Housesteads along the trail until you reach Kings wicket stile. Here you head north across Ridley common and along a track which crosses the Pennine Way as it heads north towards Bellingham. This track continues around to Hotbanks Farm where you turn left to rejoin Hadrian’s Wall heading eastwards back to your starting point.

Hadrian’s Wall gateway near Housesteads
Hadrian's Wall
Hadrian’s Wall

It should be noted that Ridley Common is pretty boggy so it is best avoided after heavy rain. The walk includes some short but steep climbs on the wall. Housesteads Fort, run by English Heritage, has refreshments and a visitor centre.