Hadrian’s Wall – Oh what a Wall:
Hadrian’s Wall was a Roman frontier built in the years AD122-30 by order of the Emperor Hadrian. Imagine this colossal ancient wall when it was in tact – 73 miles long, 15 feet high and 10 feet wide! Although some of it has fallen away, it still remains the largest ancient monument in northern Europe.
Hadrian’s Wall was built to protect Roman Britain from the Picts to the north. It ran from Wallsend-on-Tyne in the east to Bowness on the Solway Firth in the west and took 3 legions over 6 years to build.
Emperor Hadrian came to Britain in AD120 to order a stronger defence system. Troops were stationed at milecastles along the 73 miles-long Wall to which Roman forts and turrets were later added. At one stage, there were over 30 Roman forts on the frontier, including the original 16 on the line of the Wall, along with milecastles, turrets, a ditch to the north and the great Vallum earthwork to the south.
Locally-available materials were used to build Hadrian’s Wall. From the east, over a stretch of forty-five miles, the Wall was built of stone. The stone wall had two outer faces of dressed stone, containing a centre of rubble. The remaining thirty miles of the Wall in the west was built of turf. The turf wall, constructed from turf blocks, was built either from the prepared ground or upon a bed of cobbles.
From the numerous gateways or milecastles, it is believed that the Wall was not designed to prevent movement, but rather to control it. Although the Wall had a military function and enabled watching and patrolling, over time it attracted wider settlement and trade to its forts and garrisons. The Wall was abandoned in 383 as the Roman Empire crumbled.
Hadrian’s Wall Holidays
Today you can visit a string of amazing Roman forts and museums that stretch across the north of England, with the Wall itself visible at some major sites. The whole Hadrian’s Wall Country is a recreational area and this World Heritage Site can be explored on foot or cycle. There are many recommended itineraries put together by the Hadrian’s Wall Heritage people which you can do these at your own pace and take in the fantastic atmosphere of the bustling cities, the market towns and quaint villages you will find along the trail. There’s also the opportunity to try out the locally produced food and drink.
Hadrian’s Wall Path National Trail
For those who enjoy walking holidays, this long-distance Hadrian’s Wall walk runs through the World Heritage Site. There’s 84 miles of glorious walking trail through rugged moorland, rolling fields and dynamic urban landscape. For less ambitious walkers, there are circular walks and shorter trails for walkers of all abilities so that all types of people can enjoy the Wall walks.
The 174-mile Hadrian’s Cycleway goes through the entire World Heritage Site. This new cycleway (the final western section was opened in 2007) is a combination of existing shorter cycle routes, quiet roads and off-road tracks. The Cycleway is clearly signposted and takes cyclists near many major Roman sites, and there are other attractions just a short distance from the main route.
Other cycling routes include the Sea to Sea (C2C) and Reivers cycle routes both of which run from the Irish Sea to the North Sea. They go into Hadrian’s Wall Country and are a great way for cyclists to get a flavour of northern England. The Pennine Cycleway goes along the backbone of England straight through Haltwhistle, the charming National Byway meanders around Britain, passing through Hexham and the North Tyne valley.
The Hadrian’s Wall Country website has fantastic information on the Wall, walking holidays, cyling holidays and maps.