United Kingdom: Hadrian's Wall

Frontier of the Roman Empire
  |  Gorp.com

The Skinny
Listed as a cultural heritage site, Hadrian's Wall presents northern England at its most rugged and historic. Vistas over windswept moorland probably had the Roman cohorts yearning for the Amalfi Coast; modern day invaders simply return to their vehicles. Constructed in 122 AD, the wall was the brainchild of Emperor Hadrian, although was never intended to be impenetrable, merely a staging post for the northern frontier of the Roman Empire. Hadrian's Wall in its original splendor stretched 76 miles between Britain's east and west coasts, and sought to separate the barbarians from the enlightened Romans (and colonized Brits) on the other side.

It is quite possible to walk the entire length of the wall, although, unlike the pedestrian-friendly Great Wall of China, large segments are incomplete and little more than overgrown piles of weathered rubble—so don't expect to be always walking in the footsteps of legionnaires. The other shortcoming of the wall-walking approach is that some sections will involve dodging traffic on busy roads; however, the good news is that a Hadrian's Wall National Trail is due to open in summer 2003. For the time being, base yourself in the market town of Hexham and take day-trips out to excavated forts such as Corbridge and Chesters, or stretch your legs in Northumberland National Park, a swathe of desolate lowland that reaches up to the Scottish border.

The Short
When to Go: June through September (make your reservations early).
Other activities: There's always the pub if it rains.
Farther afield: Walk the Penine or Southern Upland Ways. Head west to the Lake District to see what caught Wordsworth's eye.
Best not to: Expect the trains to run on time.

Published: 22 Aug 2002 | Last Updated: 30 May 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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