Today’s route between Once Brewed and Gilsland includes the highest point of the Hadrian’s Wall Path and some of the more intact sections of Hadrian’s Wall, passing through a mixture of undulating hills and open farmland.
There is a reason this location was selected as the site of Hadrian’s Wall, and that is because of the natural defences and challenging terrain of this region that, when combined together helped keep the Roman Empire safe. Today you will walk atop ridgelines and navigate undulating hills; from these vantage points you can witness a dramatic landscape of steep grassy slopes and vertical cliff-faces of exposed rock.
Some of the most intact parts of Hadrian’s Wall are along this section, and it is impressive to marvel at the way the wall hugs the contours of the land and ripples over every bump and fold in the landscape. In addition to the wall, you can also see the ruins of watchtowers, such as Walltown Crag, that once kept guard every 2km along the wall.
Today much of the area surrounding Hadrian’s Wall is farmland and consequently you share the trail with sheep and cattle, and pass old farmhouses. This gives a glimpse into life in the countryside for those who live there.
I really enjoyed the section at Walltown Crag. You can see the remains of a watchtower, and on a nearby information board there is a computer-generated image of how the watchtower might have looked. The views from here are vast and sweeping, and the nearby stretch of Hadrian’s Wall is intact and mighty.
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.
You must cross railway tracks. Be sure to cross only when the light is green, and also check both directions to ensure it is safe to cross.
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;
Thirlwall Castle was built in the 14th century by the Thirlwall family, using stone from Hadrian’s Wall. This stone was again plundered in the 19th and 20th century which has resulted in its current state of disrepair. You can walk between the ruins and around the castle grounds.
Tall crags tower around hollow filled with water, the remains of a quarry. It is a perfect place for a picnic along today's walk.
The Sill Discovery Centre
Enter the remarkable architecture of the Sill Discovery Centre to learn more about the landscape. Their aim is to 'transform how people discover and explore the natural and cultural heritage of the landscape', which is does through exhibitions that include geological exhibits, artwork, scale models and interactive displays. The centre promises to 'ignite your curiosity about the environment.
More information available here: https://www.thesill.org.uk/
Food and drink
There are no opportunities to get food along the way today and only limited opportunities in Once Brewed. Be sure to arrange a packed lunch from your guesthouse the night before.