Hadrian's Wall: a guide
Hadrian's Wall is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most iconic and historically significant landmarks in the United Kingdom. Running for over 70 miles across the northern border of England, the wall was built by the Roman Empire in the 2nd century AD to mark the northern limit of their territory and to protect the empire from barbarian invasions. Today, Hadrian's Wall is a popular tourist destination that offers you the opportunity to explore the rich history and culture of Roman Britain.
The wall and its forts, turrets, and milecastles offer a glimpse into the lives of the Roman soldiers who guarded the empire's northern frontier. You can explore the well-preserved remains of forts such as Housesteads and Vindolanda, and see the excavated artefacts that bring the past to life. The wall is also popular for hiking, with many trails and paths that offer stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
Whether you're a history buff, an outdoor enthusiast, or simply looking for a unique and fascinating day trip, Hadrian's Wall offers something for everyone and is a must-see UK destination.
How to get there
Hadrian’s Wall once ran coast to coast across northern England, from Wallsend in the east to Bowness-on-Solway on the west coast. This means that how to get to the wall really depends on what section or ruins you want to visit. The easternmost ruins on this list are around an hour’s drive down the A1 from Haven Haggerston Castle Holiday Park or an hour and fifteen minutes from Haven Berwick Holiday Park.
What to do
Hadrian’s Wall is a unique area where you can walk along sections of the wall and see the remains of Roman fortifications and structures. In addition to the wall itself, there are also several museums and visitor centres along the route that provide more information about the history and construction of the wall, as well as the daily lives of the Roman soldiers and civilians who lived along it. Listed below are some of the best museums and visitor centres along the extent of the wall.
Segedunum Roman Fort and Museum, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Address: Buddle St, Wallsend, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE28 6HR
Segedunum, located at the eastern section of the Hadrian's Wall UNESCO World Heritage Site, boasts the most extensive excavation of any Roman fort along the wall. It has preserved foundations of multiple buildings and a portion of the Wall.
There's a spacious interactive museum, a section of the Wall, and a towering 35-metre viewing platform that provides stunning views of Tyneside. The site also features rotating exhibitions and a seasonal schedule of events, including historical re-enactments with gladiators and artisans, as well as family-friendly activities during school holidays.
Corbridge Roman Town, Corbridge
Address: Corchester Ln, Corbridge NE45 5NT
Set apart from the fortified sections of Hadrian’s Wall, Corbridge was a bustling town and supply base where both Romans and civilians would purchase food and provisions. It continued to thrive as a community until the conclusion of Roman Britain during the early years of the 5th century.
Today, you can still stroll along what were once the town's streets and experience a time-capsule of Roman life. At the museum, you can also explore the Roman artefacts and trinkets found in the Corbridge Hoard. The hoard is considered one of the most significant discoveries in Roman history, providing us with valuable insight into the daily life of a soldier stationed on the wall. The museum is also home to the Corbridge Collection, which is the largest of all the Hadrian's Wall's collections.
Chesters Roman Fort and Museum, Chollerford
Address: B6318, Chollerford, Hexham NE46 4EU
Chesters Roman Fort is the most intact Roman cavalry fort in Britain. You can explore the remarkably well-preserved baths, steam room, and officers' quarters. Additionally, the Clayton Museum, which was relaunched in 2016, houses an impressive assortment of Roman artefacts and inscriptions. Once you’re done looking around, surrounded by the peaceful ambiance of English Heritage's most serene fort, you can sample delicious treats from Chesters Tearoom.
Housesteads Fort, Hexham
Address: Hexham NE47 6NN
Housesteads is one of the 16 permanent bases located along Hadrian's Wall. It is considered to be the most complete example of a Roman fort in Britain and offers an excellent opportunity to discover the original features of a Roman fort. You can explore the barracks and hospital, as well as glimpse into the oldest toilets you might ever see. Furthermore, the fortress provides breathtaking panoramic views that should not be missed, so why not pack a picnic and have a Roman adventure while taking in these stunning vistas?
The fort also offers tours led by knowledgeable volunteer guides during school holidays. English Heritage's interactive museum exhibits objects once belonging to Roman soldiers, and you can also enjoy a mini-cinema that takes you on a historical journey through time.
Roman Army Museum, Brampton
Address: Greenhead, Brampton CA8 7JB
The Roman Army Museum, situated at the Carvoran Roman Fort site in the stunning countryside beside a sweeping segment of Hadrian's Wall, offers an authentic and compelling tribute to Rome's remarkable military heritage in Britain. This museum in Greenhead gives an in-depth look at the life of Roman soldiers stationed on the front line of Emperor Hadrian's imposing British frontier. The museum features reconstructions, artefacts excavated along Hadrian's Wall, and the Vindolanda Trust's inspiring interpretations of army life, including the exclusive 3D Edge of Empire film, providing an unforgettable tribute to Rome's military achievements in Britain.
Address: Hexham NE47 7JN
This Roman fort and settlement has some of the best-preserved ruins along the wall. It boasts an excellent museum displaying artefacts found on site that is bound to be a hit with all ages.
The archaeological site was originally established in the 1st century AD and excavations at the site have uncovered a wealth of artefacts and information about Roman life in Britain, including letters and documents written on thin sheets of wood (known as "Vindolanda tablets") that provide valuable insight into the daily lives of the soldiers and civilians who lived there.
Birdoswald Roman Fort, Brampton
Address: Gilsland, Brampton CA8 7DD
Birdoswald Roman Fort in Cumbria is a charming and well-maintained site, making it an excellent starting point for exploring Hadrian's Wall on foot. You can observe all of the defining features of the Wall, including the longest remaining stretch that extends as far as the eye can see. You can also explore the ruins of the Roman fort, a turret, and milecastle. The visitor centre also offers a new exhibition that delves into the history of the most renowned Roman frontier, providing you with a fascinating glimpse into the past.
If you’ve got the time and fitness, then why not hike the full Hadrian's Wall Path? This 84-mile trail takes you along the length of the wall, offering great views and a chance to experience the history and natural beauty of the area. If, like most of us, you’re limited by time and/or money, then perhaps walking a section of the path is a better way to experience its charms. Take a look at our favourite circular Hadrian’s Wall walks for some inspiration.
Crag Lough and Hadrian’s Wall circular walk
Distance: 3.5 miles
Embark on a scenic loop trail near Haltwhistle, a popular destination for birdwatching, camping, and hiking, where you're likely to encounter other explorers along the way. Please note that while dogs are permitted, they must be kept on a leash.
During your walk, you'll be rewarded with breathtaking views of Hadrian's Wall and be surrounded by various flora, including wild chives, thyme, and mountain pansies. You'll also have the opportunity to spot numerous bird species, such as plovers, skylarks, and curlews, and if you're fortunate enough to undertake this hike at dusk, you may catch a glimpse of bats that dwell in the nearby farmhouses and barns.
Sill and Sycamore Gap circular walk
Distance: 1.5 miles
Enjoy this fantastic circular walk around Sycamore Gap, a picturesque location renowned for its scenic vistas and photo opportunities. The sycamore in question is also referred to as the Robin Hood Tree, having featured in the 1991 film, which grows from a dramatic dip in the landscape. This walk also provides a panoramic view of Hadrian's Wall in the distance. As a result of its prime location and Hollywood links, Sycamore Gap has gained notoriety as one of the most well-known and frequently walked routes near Hadrian’s Wall.
Hadrian's Wall: a guide - Housesteads circular walk
Distance: 7 miles
This outstanding seven-mile circular walking trail commences and concludes at Housesteads, encompassing some of the most exceptional sites of Hadrian's Wall while providing breathtaking views.
Although it's moderately challenging and requires around three hours to complete, the path offers an excellent opportunity to explore Northumberland's verdant scenery and take in the following wall highlights: the Housesteads Roman Fort, owned by the English Heritage and National Trust, the Roman Military Way, the Stanegate Roman Road towards Crindledykes, and the highly recommended Vindolanda.
Corbridge Roman Town circular walk
Distance: 6 miles
Experience Northumberland's stunning scenery, ancient towns, and historical sites with the Corbridge and Aydon Castle circular walk, regarded as one of the best walks in the area. This 6-mile route offers panoramic views and takes you through scenic lanes, allowing you to explore world-class historical sites. Allow 4-5 hours to visit the sites and enjoy the stunning scenery. The walk starts and ends in the charming village of Corbridge, where you can find excellent eateries and pubs.