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A complete guide to cycling Hadrian's Wall


 
With its picturesque landscapes of rolling hills, lush valleys, verdant forests, and breathtaking coastlines the United Kingdom is a wonderful country to discover on a cycling tour.

One of the best long-distance cycling routes in the country, the Hadrian's Wall Cycleway takes cyclists from coast to coast along the route of the famous 73-mile-long stone wall built by the Roman emperor Hadrian in 122 AD. Here's everything you need to know about undertaking this epic cycling journey spanning history, nature, and culture.

 

What is the Hadrian's Wall Cycleway?

A long-distance route running alongside the ancient stone fortification, Hadrian's Wall Cycle Cycleway is a 170-mile-long cycling path from the North Sea on the east coast to the UK’s western coast on the Irish Sea. The majority of the route is paved and around 30% follows mostly traffic-free, quiet roads. Officially, it's known as National Route 72 and is part of the National Cycle Network of routes that criss-cross the country. Following the same general path as the wall itself, the cycling route takes in sections of the ancient wall, Roman forts, quaint villages, and landscapes from rolling hills to peaceful river valleys and golden sandy beaches.

However, the Hadrian's Wall cycle route is different from the walking route. While the walking footpath runs from Wallsend in the east to Bowness-on-Solway on the west, the cycling route extends even further. Starting from South Shields on the east coast, it crosses the country and extends down the western coast as far as the coastal village of Ravenglass.

 

How difficult is it to cycle the Hadrian’s Wall Cycleway?

While there are some challenging uphill sections, the majority of the Hadrian's Wall Cycleway ranges from leisurely to moderate, allowing for a gentler ride that allows cyclists to more easily appreciate the outstanding natural beauty they are passing through.

While most cyclists in good physical condition should have no issues, undertaking this National Cycle Route is even easier if tackled on electric bikes, which can be requested at the time of booking for a small supplement.

 


 

How long does it take to complete Hadrian’s Wall Cycleway?

Cycling the route in its entirety can take anywhere from three to five days. Three days is the average amount of time it takes to complete the full route. But if you want to allow for more time to stop in market towns or explore the many historic sites along the way, four to five days may be better.

 

What are the highlights of Hadrian’s Wall Cycleway?

Cycling the Hadrian's Wall Cycleway offers the opportunity not only to fully explore a significant Roman archaeological feature, but also to discover the history of regions it passes through with visits to ruins, castles, forts and museums. The Roman Army Museum in Greenhead displays films, artifacts, and replicas depicting the lives of Roman soldiers who lived in the area. Ruins of ancient forts and towns dotting the landscape, such as the Birdoswald Roman Fort and the Vindolanda settlement, encompass fascinating ancient architectural remains revealing how life was in Roman times. In Ravenglass, the Glannaventa Roman Bath House is one of the best preserved Roman ruins in northern Britain with some surviving walls standing almost four meters high.

If you're interested in English history, you'll also enjoy plentiful historic British sites along the route such as 12th-century Carlisle Castle, a medieval fortress built during the reign of William II that now houses a regimental museum.

 

Do I have to do the full Cycleway?

While many cyclists like to tackle the Cycleway in its entirety, you don't have to complete the full route to appreciate its beauty and cultural significance. There are plenty of accessible and easy sections that can be cycled as day trips, like the section from Brampton to Haltwhistle which takes in the extensive remains at Birdoswald Roman Fort and the longest surviving section of the wall. The route from the Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to the city of Carlisle is another great stretch, encompassing lovely coastal scenery and medieval Carlisle Castle.

 

How to get there

While you can choose to cycle the route in either direction — from west to east or vice versa — many travelers prefer to complete the cycleway heading from east to west, as this was the direction in which the wall was originally built.

The eastern end of the route starts in South Shields, a coastal town on the North Sea. The nearest major city to South Shields is Newcastle upon Tyne, which can be reached either by flights to Newcastle International Airport on the city outskirts, by train to Newcastle Central Station, or by car. Flight times from London take roughly an hour and fifteen minutes.

 

Where to stay along Hadrian’s Wall Cycleway

With numerous towns and villages located along the cycleway route, it's easy to spend each night in a different location. Options range from traditional family-run establishments like the Howard Arms Hotel in Brampton to the refined, Victorian Beaumont Hotel in Hexham.

 

Tips for cycling Hadrian’s Wall Cycleway

Here are some important things to keep in mind while preparing for your Hadrian's Wall Cycleway adventure:

 

  • • Spring or summer is usually the best time of year for cycling this route for the best weather, the least rain, and the longest days
  • • Due to the relatively easy terrain along the route, a hybrid bike is the best choice for general-purpose cycling and comfort
  • • Your wearable gear is just as important to your safety and comfort as your bike, so pack essentials like a helmet, bike shoes, and breathable, moisture-wicking bike apparel
  • • Bring a backpack as well for daily essentials like water, sunscreen, and layered clothing in case of bad weather
  • • While the Cycleway makes for great solo exploring, undertaking the route as part of a guided trip like our Cycle Hadrian's Wall Tour enhances the experience with an expert guide and activities such as nature walks, as well as having all accommodations and transport arranged for you

 

Explore the English countryside by bike

Our cycling tours in England are not only a great way to get active and enjoy the countryside, but also provide an intimate experience of the landscapes, culture, and history of England.

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