gordon.dewis.ca - Random musings from Gordon


The start of a busy four days: Hadrian’s Wall

August 14, 2010 @ 23:35 By: gordon Category: Geocaching, Photography, Travelling, UK Trip 2010

Rob and I bid farewell to Scotland on the Tuesday after the Mega Scotland 2010 event and set out for Hexham in Northumberland. We followed the A68 most of the way. At one point, we headed off to try and find the Waterloo monument, which we saw from afar but never found the road to the parking lot for it. We did, however, see it in the distance from the end of a long farm road.


We paused at the Scotland-England border to take the obligatory border photos and find a geocache.

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From the border we continued on to Hexham. Checking in at the tourist information centre, we got some information about campgrounds in the area and then walked around the city for a bit before heading out to the Hadrian’s Wall Camping and Caravan Site & Bunk Barn, not too far from Haltwhistle. Setting up the tent, we headed in to Haltwhistle to buy some groceries and then had dinner at the Milecastle Inn.

Basically in the middle of nowhere, or at most down the road from it, the Milecastle Inn had a good selection of beers and an incredible menu. I was hoping to have the pheasant, but they were out so I had to settle for a very good steak instead.

After dinner, we followed the signs pointing towards Hadrian’s Wall. We really lucked out because this part of the wall was one of the best-preserved sections of the 84 mile long wall built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in AD 122, and included the Cawfields Quarry.

We parked and decided to explore the nearby Milecastle 42 and walk along the wall. When I started thinking about this trip a few months ago, I wanted to walk the length of Hadrian’s Wall. My knee has been bothering me for the last few months and when it came time to commit to the tour company who would look after organizing all the logisitics, I was leery of plonking down the money upfront because I didn’t know if my knee was up to it, so I didn’t. (It would have been quite costly and frustrating to find out after a day or two of walking that I couldn’t go any farther.)

image We had a nice view of Milecastle 42 and ended up walking most of a kilometre along the wall before heading back to the car. Along the way we encountered a bunch of cows who were in the field bounded along one edge by the 1900-year old wall.

imageIt’s a testament to the building skills of the Romans that after almost 2000 years, the wall they built to keep the Scots out of the Roman Empire is still more or less intact for much of its length. Even the vallum, basically a ditch that parallels the wall, can still be seen. If you look carefully at the panoramic photo above, you can see it at the right edge of the scene. (Hint: click the photo to see a larger version.)

image The next day we packed up the tent and started out to Cambridge with me at the wheel. We stopped at Vindolanda, a Roman fort and settlement that was built near the wall. Archaeologists have been working at the site for years and have uncovered the foundations of many of the buildings.

I took a number of overlapping photos from the top of a replica of part of a milecastle and stitched them together into a panorama of settlement outside the walls of the fort. The fort itself is at the right side of the photo. The settlement consisted of businesses that sprung up outside the fort. Some of the businesses would have been run by locals while others were run by retired soldiers who chose to settle here rather than return to wherever they’d come from. If you click the photo below, you’ll be taken to larger version of the photo, but be warned that it’s quite large.

From Vindolanda we headed down the road to the Roman Army Museum where there were more artifacts left behind by the Romans, presented in the context of the history of the expansion (and collapse) of the Roman Empire.

After having lunch in the cafeteria at the museum, we continued on to Cottenham, outside of Cambridge, where Rob and his family live.

2 Responses to “The start of a busy four days: Hadrian’s Wall”

  1. Paul Tomblin says:

    We didn’t get to the Roman Army Museum. After Chesters Fort and Vindolanda we’d figured it wasn’t going to be worth another 5 pounds or what ever to see something with 95% overlap to the ones we’d already seen. Was it any good?

    • gordon says:

      I found it interesting. Vindolanda had a lot of artifacts from the site, while the Roman Army Museum presented other artifacts with more context and also talked more about the history of the Wall in the bigger picture of the Roman Empire. We didn’t get to Chesters Fort, unfortunately. There was only so much we could do in the time we had and still make it back to Cottenham on schedule.

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