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A complete guide to walking Hadrian's Wall

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Stretching 73 miles, coast-to-coast, across the north of England through the counties of Northumberland and Cumbria, Hadrian's Wall is an ancient Roman fortification dating from the 2nd century. The most significant Roman archaeological feature in England, the structure’s remaining stretches of stone-built wall dotted with ruined forts pass through unspoiled expanses of rolling hills and grasslands. 

Established as a National Trail in 2003, the 84-mile-long Hadrian's Wall Path follows the wall’s route. Walking along the entirety of Hadrian's Wall is one of the most popular long-distance  walks in the UK with travelers drawn from around the world to hike along its length. It's even possible to cycle along Hadrian's Wall.

Whether you're planning a complete thru-hike or would like to enjoy day walks along shorter sections of the wall, here's our guide to everything you need to know about walking Hadrian's Wall.

 

A brief history of Hadrian's Wall

Created as a frontier for the Roman Empire, construction on Hadrian's Wall began in AD 122 under the reign of Emperor Hadrian. This defensive barrier marked the border between Roman Britain and the unconquered region of Caledonia.

Today, Hadrian's Wall is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Walkers and hikers embark on this inspirational hiking tour to admire not only the extensive Roman remains but also the surrounding landscape of hills and sweeping moorland.

 

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

Starting in the town of Wallsend on the east coast and ending in the village of Bowness-on-Solway on the west coast, the entire trail usually takes between six to seven days to walk. Although the route passes through remote and rural locations, daily distances can be measured between towns along the way.

As the path passes through or near towns and villages on the route, such as Heddon-on-the-Wall, Hexham, and Brampton, walkers have the option to stay overnight in guesthouses and hotels or they can sleep under canvas at one of the many camping or glamping sites along the way.

How difficult is the Hadrian’s Wall long distance walk?

The Hadrian's Wall Path is considered to be the easiest of England's 16 National Trails, with a difficulty level of easy to moderate. Changes in elevation are gradual as the route moves over low mountains and hills, so most hikers in good health with a reasonable fitness level should have no issues tackling the terrain.

When is the best time to do the Hadrian's Wall Path?

On account of the fair weather and long days, May through October is considered the best time of year to hike along Hadrian's Wall. While it’s possible to complete the route throughout the year, wet weather in the fall, winter and early spring can cause the trail to become muddy or difficult to navigate.

However, since summer is the best time of year to walk the trail, that means it's also the most popular. It's a good idea to book accommodation well in advance if you plan on exploring the area during the summer months.

Do I have to walk the full Hadrian's Wall Path?

If you don't want to take on the full Hadrian's Wall Path, it's also possible to do shorter circular day hikes or visit particularly scenic stretches. Many of the best-preserved sections of wall and ancient forts are to be found in Northumberland, making it the best region for shorter walks and day trips.

The section of the wall near the Northumbrian village of Once Brewed offers leisurely walks, great ruins and incredible views all in one compact area. The Sycamore Gap natural landmark makes a great day hike, following a circular path along a well-preserved section of the wall that leads to Housesteads Roman Fort and the lone sycamore tree that stands in a dip between two hills. The nearby Vindolanda archaeological site and museum are also worth exploring. In the same area, you can also ascend the imposing crag Steel Rigg for a fine elevated view along a lengthy stretch of the wall.

Which direction should you walk Hadrian’s Wall Path?

Choosing which direction to hike along the Hadrian's Wall Path is entirely up to you. However, the most popular and classic version of the walk heads from east to west, following the same path as the builders of the wall did as they worked their way west.

 

A brief history of Hadrian's Wall

Whether you're planning to walk the complete route or to visit selected highlights, it's important to be prepared for your trip.
 

How to get there

If you plan on starting your walk at the eastern end of the wall, Newcastle upon Tyne is the nearest major city to Wallsend, with an international airport, a mainline train station, bus routes, and car rentals. If you're starting from the west coast, the nearest major city is Carlisle, which is served by train connections from many cities in the United Kingdom.
 

Where to stay when walking Hadrian’s Wall

Along its 84 miles, the Hadrian's Wall Path heads through numerous towns and villages, giving you ample options for places to stay. Choosing hotels or inns also depends on how far you plan on walking each day.

 

If your plan is to take day trips around the Northumberland section of the wall, the surrounding area offers a wide variety of accommodations. Options range from cozy, contemporary lodgings in properties including Hexham's County Hotel, to upscale rooms and suites in elegant establishments such as Walwick Hall set on a Georgian estate in Low Brunton.
 

What to bring

Of all the gear you need to bring for long distance hiking, a good pair of walking boots is arguably the most important. Having a comfortable, sturdy and worn-in pair of hiking shoes makes all the difference at the end of a long day walking and hill climbing.

In addition to good hiking boots, a backpack, layered clothing, water, snacks, sunscreen, a hat, and waterproof gear in case of bad weather are also recommended.

 

Discover Hadrian's Wall

With so many miles to explore, joining our Walk Northumberland small group tour is a great way to ensure you visit well-preserved highlights of Hadrian's Wall such as the Sycamore Gap, while also having all your lodgings and transportation requirements taken care of.

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