Begin with an uphill climb to rejoin the Hadrian’s Wall Path, and then continue west beside the Military Road, discovering increasing evidence and more intact sections of the wall.
Shortly after leaving Corbridge you will pass the excavations of an old Roman Town. You can wander through the streets between houses and buildings marvelling at how they have been preserved while underground. Locals here would have rested safe in the knowledge that Hadrian’s Wall kept out invaders from the north.
The path rejoins the Military Road, sometimes walking with it on your left, meaning you are outside the historic Roman Empire, and sometimes on your right, meaning you are inside. Take a moment to picture yourself standing on the frontier of a vast empire stretching all the way south to the Mediterranean, and east to the edges of Turkey.
Today’s walk is punctuated with interesting stops and places to visit, such as Corbridge Roman Town, Planetrees and Portgate. I found Planetrees a particularly intriguing place; within this short stretch of wall you can see the Roman change of plan – they would begin building their wall 1.8 metres wide, instead of 3.
Be sure to visit the Corbridge Roman Town to understand how life would have been in the times of Hadrian’s Wall - not from a military perspective, but from that of an ordinary civilian.
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.
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
Corbridge Roman Town
Many of the sites along Hadrian’s Wall are military fortifications and garrisons, however Corbridge Roman Town gives an insight into a town where locals would once have lived and walked through the streets. You can wander through the streets, with open excavations on either side giving you an idea as to how it would once have looked. Corbridge remained a vibrant town until the collapse of the Romans in the 5th Century. There is also a museum onsite which provides further information.
More information available here: https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/corbridge-roman-town-hadrians-wall/
Only a short section of wall remains at Planetrees, but it is of great significance. Here we can see the junction where the Romans rethink their strategy and stop building ‘broad’ wall. The width of the wall changes from 3 metres wide to a (marginally!) more modest 1.8 metres. The foundations were still dug to the same width, but it is believed the Romans made this decision so as to save resources and speed up the wall-building efforts. In 1801 William Hutton was walking the wall and discovered a local farmers taking stone from the wall to build a barn; his intervention may have saved this section.
More information available here: https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/planetrees-roman-wall-hadrians-wall/
The nearby A68 is a busy road; quite remarkable considering its ancient heritage as a Roman road predating Hadrian’s Wall, by (most likely) around 50 years. When the wall came to be built, a grand gate was built which still allowed access to the north. The gate still lies underground between the nearby café and roundabout, perhaps one day it will be excavated again and who knows what historical treasures will be unearthed!
More information available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portgate
Food and Drink
The only opportunity to buy food or drink after leaving Corbridge comes after 7.5 kilometres in the form of The Errington Café. This café, previously a pub, sits beside the roundabout where there would once have been a large gate in Hadrian’s Wall, allowing access through and to the north.