Today, lots of sections of surviving wall are combined with stunning landscapes, to result in one of the most dramatic, exciting and challenging stretches of the Hadrian's Way walk.
The first part of the walk continues, like previous days, beside the Military Road, but you will notice the landscape beginning to change; from Chollerford there is a long section of uphill, after which the land assumes a more barren and wilder feel.
The Romans wanted their wall to be an insurmountable obstacle to would-be invaders, so looked for natural geographical features that could strengthen their position. Much of the trail teeters atop ridgelines, offering extensive views on either side – a pleasant fact for hikers, and a huge defensive advantage for the Romans, as it also negated the need for a ditch! From the high points of each ridgeline you can admire the way the wall unfurls neatly over the undulations – maybe I’m biased, but at times it looks every bit as impressive as the Great Wall of China!
With less human interference and development along this section, most of the wall and defences are retained, meaning your walk will be punctuated with milecastles, turrets, gatehouses, fortresses and temples. Some of these have been excavated and you can learn more from information boards and museums, such as at Chesters Roman Fort and Housesteads (see ‘Points of Interest’ section).
The Twice Brewed Inn in Once Brewed – that’s a tough sentence to say! – brew their own beer and cook some lovely food, making it a fantastic place to stop and celebrate this dramatic walk.
There are several stretches where you must walk on the road as there is no pavement or verge. Walk on the right side facing the oncoming traffic unless there is a right-hand turn, in which case you should cross to the outside edge to allow drivers the maximum chance to see you.
Some of the path is along rocky steps; be careful as these may be slippery, especially when wet.
This footpath frequently crosses the Military Road. This road is straight and therefore the cars travel fast, so take care to double-check it is safe before crossing.
There are some exposed edges; be sure to read instruction carefully, stick to the main path, and don’t wander too close to the edge.
Some of the fields may have cows in; they are not aggressive but take care not to startle them, and pass around them with a wide berth.
Such is the way of British hiking, that you need to be prepared for all seasons and weathers; sturdy hiking boots, warm clothes and a waterproof/wind-break layer are all required, as is plenty of sun-cream and a healthy respect for the sun.
Walking poles will be a big advantage on some of these ascents and descents.
Ensure your phone is fully charged; if you doubt the battery will last throughout the hike, it might be beneficial to bring a power bank.
This walk is isolated with limited opportunities to buy food or water so be sure to bring enough with you.
Points of Interest
Chesters Roman Fort
Chesters Roman Fort is one of Britain’s most complete and best-preserved Roman cavalry fort. You can wander around the baths and steam room, and officers’ quarters, and along the way you will discover an outstanding collection of artefacts, providing a more complete picture of life in Roman Britain. Your passport can be stamped here also!
More information available here: https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/chesters-roman-fort-and-museum-hadrians-wall/
Housesteads Roman Fort
The fort at Housesteads is one of the best-preserved anywhere along the wall and sometimes it feels like only the roofs are missing. If you want to get an insight into life in a Roman Fort, wandering between the buildings and walls and visiting the museum is a great way to do so. This fort could have housed 800 men, and to the south lay a large civilian settlement (Vicus). Don't forget to get your passport stamped here!
More information available here: https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/housesteads-roman-fort-hadrians-wall/
Knag Burn Gate
There were few passages through the wall, but Knag Burn Gate was one of them. It would have been heavily defended by Roman guards who controlled who was allowed to pass. Like any border, Hadrian’s Wall split people and communities; this gate could have allowed access for people to visit family, for trade, to tend livestock, and for military patrols north.
More information available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knag_Burn_Gateway
Temple of Mithras
This Roman Temple, built around 200AD, was dedicated to the God of Mithras, a religion which came from the east of the empire, possibly as far as Iran. In mythology Mithras killed a bull in a cave, and so temples were always small and secluded to physically represent that cave. Mithraism was a rival of early Christianity, and by the end of the 4th century, it had been suppressed and eliminated – and across the empire the temples (such as this one) fell to abandon.
More information available here: https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/temple-of-mithras-carrawburgh-hadrians-wall/
Food and Drink
There is nowhere to get food or drink along this walk, so be sure to bring enough provisions.
There is often a coffee truck at the Brocolitia Car Park, though be prepared that it may not be there!