July 03, 2022

    Hiking Hadrian’s Wall – our full seven day itinerary

    Back in May 2022, after a visit to Housesteads Roman fort the previous year, we were inspired to hike the entire Hadrian’s Wall Path. This historic route has so much to offer anyone who takes on the challenge, from gaining a real insight into Roman life, to the stunning scenery as you hike coast to coast through the British countryside. Walking the Wall path is one of the most demanding and rewarding physical challenges we’ve completed to date, beginning with four weeks of planning our trip and ending in blisters, aching bones and numb muscles… But also a real sense of accomplishment and pride in having completed such a behemoth endeavour.

    As we’ve mentioned in our previous post – Hiking the Hadrian’s Wall path, what you need to know – even with spending so much time organising our trip, we still had to change things around throughout the hike as days were taking longer than we’d planned for, not to mention the fact that seven days of hiking is so much more strenuous than taking on seven separate hikes. This is why we’ve chosen to share our itinerary – to give you an insight into what can be achieved and provide you with inspiration and guidance for planning your own hike along the Hadrian’s Wall path!

    We’d like to preface sharing our plans by saying this is by no means the ideal itinerary. We truly believe the best way to plan your hike is to by taking all things into consideration; from your fitness level, how long you want to spend at museums and ruins, whether you’ll camp or book BnBs, the availability of said camping sites or BnBs, the time of year etc. We’ve added our accommodation and food stops, as well a few things to see along the way that we discovered in the Henry Stedman guidebook (if you’ve read our previous post, we promise this is the last time we’ll bang on about the guidebook!). You may also like to read our highlights of hiking the Hadrian’s Wall blog post for our top sight-seeing recommendations, as well as information about the sites of interest that we just couldn’t make time for.

    DAY 1 (20km) Newcastle – Tyneside

    Sights to see:

    As we chose to hike the Wall from East to West, our day began in Newcastle at Long Sands beach. This is 12km before the beginning of the Hadrian’s Wall path at Segedunum fort, and we chose to start here simply because we wanted to be able to say we’d hiked the country coast to coast! After a good couple of hours trekking through the urban jungle of North Shields, we arrived at the Sentius Tectonicus Roman statue at Segedunum fort – the official start/finish point of the path. While we didn’t visit the fort itself, the statue gives a good opportunity to take a selfie and mark the official beginning of your hike. There are original Roman baths just a little further along the path that are well signposted and free to visit, and the path here is tarmac as it is shared with a cycle lane, making for a comfortable walk. Other than a couple of commemorative plaques in a Roman style, there wasn’t too much to see on our first day, though we did read about seal sightings at St. Peter’s Marina (sadly we didn’t spot any). Once you get to the Gateshead area, take a minute to walk onto the Millennium Bridge and look along the River Tyne.

    Food:

    You definitely won’t struggle for restaurant options at this stage in the hike – Newcastle is a busy city with all the well-known chains of eateries and bars. When looking for a tasty and fuss-free dinner stop we chose BrewDog for their Vegan Monday deal – two-for-one veggie and vegan pizzas!

    Accommodation:

    Anyone who has stayed in a Travelodge can attest it’s hardly a luxury stay, however we find the simplicity and consistency of the chain make it a reliable source for a good night’s sleep. Luckily for us, upon arriving at Travelodge Quayside we were given an accessible room meaning we had a large room tucked away at a quiet end of a corridor. We’d definitely recommend this hotel over others lining the river – while others are situated right on the main road, this Travelodge is just that bit further out from the bustling bars and constant traffic, but still close enough that it’s only a short walk to any restaurant. We enjoyed a peaceful night’s sleep from our river-view room, which was much appreciated in gearing up for day two of our hike.

    DAY 2 (27km) Tyneside – East Wallhouses

    Sights to see:

    The start of this day found us doing more urban hiking on pavements, though strolling through Tyne Riverside country park was pleasant on a quiet Tuesday morning. We were very excited to see our first wooden signpost for the Hadrian’s Wall path! The path is very flat at this point, until you arrive at the hill up to Heddon-on-the-Wall where you’ll be rewarded for your efforts with the first large piece of Wall on the path. We were totally in awe when we arrived – it really gives you an appreciation of how impressive the structure must have been when it was complete. Other than the beautiful British landscape, there’s not too much more to see along this part of the path. The unexcavated Vindobala fort at Harlow Hill – now a farm and field of sheep – has a couple of information boards about what the fort would have looked like in its day. Just before arriving in East Wallhouses there are picnic benches beside the bird hide at Whittledene Reservoir which are perfect for a little rest and spotting some wildlife.

    Food:

    Hedley’s Riverside Coffee Shop in Tyne Riverside Country Park provides a good stopping point for a toilet break and a cup of tea if needed, or a more substantial full breakfast, panini or sweet treat to keep you going. We also took advantage of being in the city at this point on the hike by popping into one of the many supermarkets to pick up provisions for the day before we set off.

    Further along the path at Heddon-on-the-Wall, you’ll find The Three Tuns pub as well as The Swan for a place to rest your feet after all that climbing. If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, do as we did and stop off at the Spar supermarket within the petrol station and enjoy picnicking in the small public park just behind it.

    For dinner options on this day of the hike, arriving at East Wallhouses there are two options. Our advice would be to try out the Vallum Restaurant, sadly closed for the day when we arrived, and as such we found ourselves eating at our stop for the night – The Robin Hood Inn. Being there the day before they changed over to a new menu, we had limited options for our dinner and found the service disorganised. As one of only two eateries at this point you may well find yourself stopping at the latter – we hope you have a better experience than we did!

    Accommodation:

    We chose to book the Robin Hood Inn for its location right on the Hadrian’s Wall path. This pub with rooms upstairs had really good reviews online, so we were surprised at how many issues we had during our stay – the aforementioned limited dinner menu, paired with a strange dilapidated kitchen upstairs next to the bedrooms, and the fact we were charged twice for our booking by the staff (though this was quickly rectified before we left). All this being said, the pub has somewhat of a monopoly on the area by being one of the the only options on the path at this stage. Issues aside, we can’t discount the Robin Hood Inn completely as the room itself was very comfortable, with an ensuite bathroom complete with a bath and complementary toiletries. After a long day of hiking, when you don’t want to deviate from the path and need to collapse into your bed, this place makes a great stop.

    DAY 3 (19km) East Wallhouses – Chollerford

    Sights to see:

    There’s a fantastic view of the deep Roman defensive Vallum at Halton Shields at this stage of the hike, as a gentle incline gives you a good overview of the land below. Just before Portgate you’ll walk through the unexcavated Halton Chesters fort, though it’s difficult to distinguish the outline. Our next point of interest came at St. Oswald’s Hill Head where we admired St. Oswald’s Church – a beautiful building and churchyard set within stone walls, surrounded by a blooming wildflower meadow in the Spring. Inside the church there’s a large Roman altar as well as information about the battle of Heavenfield that took place here. Nearing Chollerford, we took a couple of hundred metres detour from the Hadrian’s Wall path to check out Brunton Turret – said to be one of the finest turrets still in existence along the Wall. At eleven courses high in places, it’s not to be missed and is only a few minutes off the path. Arriving in Chollerford itself, we got to Chesters fort under an hour before closing time – from what we’ve read, you’ll need a good few hours here to truly appreciate the site and museum in their entirety. Instead we visited the ruins of the Roman bridge abutment just across the river, taking us around 800 metres off the path. There’s lots of information boards showing how the bridge would have looked, as well as Roman inscriptions on the ruins themselves.

    Food:

    The Robin Hood Inn redeemed itself slightly by serving us a good full English breakfast before we headed off for another day of hiking! This stage of the hike is not great for eateries, in fact the Errington Coffee House is the only one between Wallhouses and Chollerford. With one of our shorter hiking days ahead of us, we snacked on cereal bars from our backpacks and held out until we reached The River Kitchen cafe in Chollerford, where we enjoyed a large hot chocolate each and a couple of sweet treats from their ample selection. There was also an abundance of savoury meals and drinks available and a small gift shop at the back. For dinner, we walked ten minutes up the road to Humshaugh and The Crown Inn – a cosy pub with large portions and a proper English country pub vibe. If you have time to deviate from the path the following morning, the quaint Humshaugh village shop is well-stocked and we picked up a few snack supplies from there. The staff are super friendly too!

    Accommodation:

    Nestled right in the heart of Chollerford, we chose the George Hotel for its picturesque riverside location and proximity to the Wall path. While we did have a good night’s sleep here, we unfortunately don’t have many positive things to say about this hotel as everything about it is in real need of an update. (We’ve also come to realise that, after hours of hiking throughout the day, we can pretty much get a good night’s sleep anywhere…) In the interest of keeping this blog post focused on positive recommendations, we’ll leave it there, and instead advise you to check out the nearby Orchard B&B at Humshaugh.

    DAY 4 (32km) Chollerford – Haltwhistle

    Sights to see:

    Brocolitia fort is one of the first Roman points of interest on this day of the hike. While this is another unexcavated fort, there are also the excavated Mithras temple ruins here with copies of Roman altars in situ. It’s not a bad idea to rest here as the rolling hills on Sewingshields crags will give you a good workout! Though they do offer spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding landscape, and hiking along these crags leads to Housesteads fort. We’ve written more about Housesteads in our highlights blog post, but safe to say it’s well worth a visit. Ascending and descending the many crags, the next good stopping point is at the famous Sycamore Gap – again we’ve written more about this in previous posts, but it’s one of the places we spent a good chunk of time pausing from the hike to admire the beautiful scenery.

    Food:

    In high season, hikers will find the Corbridge Coffee Company hot drinks and snacks van in the car park at Brocolitia. There’s also a good cafe at Housesteads fort, and while it is a little pricey, it’s only around ten to fifteen minutes off the path and the cafe has ample indoor and outdoor seating. The Corbridge Coffee Company moves from Brocolitia in the morning to park up at Steel Rigg in the afternoon – great for a quick tea stop. At this point in the hike we took our longest detour off the path to walk forty-five minutes to our accommodation at Haltwhistle. As we were carrying all our own bags for our seven day hike, we tried to avoid deviating from the path as much as possible! However, by doing so to stay in Haltwhistle we were rewarded with a wider range of pubs to choose from for dinner, and supermarkets – we grabbed some snacks for the next day at the Sainsbury’s just around the corner from our BnB. Our stay in Haltwhistle coincided with the first day of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, so the town was more than a bit lively! Despite this we still enjoyed a great meal at the Manor House Inn, exhaustedly slumping at a corner table after our longest day on the hike so far!

    Accommodation:

    Choosing to detour off the path into Haltwhistle was a great decision, as our stay at The Old Schoolhouse was one of the best BnBs we stayed at during the entire week! The hosts were wonderfully accommodating as we arrived late in the evening after our mammoth day of hiking. Our comfortable room had all the usual tea-making facilities, as well as a mini-fridge to keep milk cold, and complementary chocolates and homemade brownies too! Breakfast the following morning was the best we had over the seven days and we’d highly recommend this place – the owners also offer to pick up / drop off hikers from the path (though we chose to tough it out!)

    DAY 5 (16km) Haltwhistle – Gilsland

    Sights to see:

    Our shortest day of the hike, the day began with the forty-five minute hike back onto the path. We definitely took this day slower as we were still aching from the previous day! Our first piece of Roman history on this day was at another unexcavated fort – Great Chesters – though a large inscribed altar here is the only one along the Wall that is still in its original standing place. Walltown crags are another undulating trek with a few turrets providing great viewpoints along the way. At the bottom of the crags, the disused Walltown quarry is now a lake with picnic benches and a visitor centre – the perfect place to put your aching feet up. Coming into Longbyre, we took a few minutes to detour from the path and admire the ruins of Thirlwall Castle. Approaching Gilsland you’ll find the well-preserved remains of Poltross Burn – Milecastle 48 – before you cross the train tracks to descend into the village.

    Food:

    For ease on this shorter day, we picked up a simple meal deal from the Sainsbury’s in Haltwhistle. We stopped for lunch at the picnic benches at Walltown quarry where you can also grab food from the small refreshments shop in the visitor centre. At our stop for the day in Gilsland, we booked The Samson Inn and enjoyed a good hearty meal in this quiet pub.

    Accommodation:

    Another BnB with fantastic hosts, Brookside Villa in Gilsland is a short walk out of the main part of the village and is very peaceful. There’s a small supplies shop in the dining room offering essentials for hikers (think blister plasters!) and a few complementary snacks too. The hosts also provide packed lunches for hikers for a small fee, which we chose to pick up the next day.

    DAY 6 (32km) Gilsland – Carlisle

    Sights to see:

    Our penultimate day of the hike was another colossal one, and featured more than a few small Roman points of interest along the way. There are many turrets still visible along this section of Wall, starting at Gilsland all the way along to Birdoswald fort. We passed by this one as we had such a long day ahead, though we’ve read it’s a great family-friendly place to visit with many interactive activities for children. The turrets continue at Banks, and you’ll see Pike Hill signal tower – the only one on the Wall. Newtown is a great place to rest as we sat by the weir and enjoyed our packed lunches, listening to the sound of the running water. It’s along this section that we encountered our first honesty boxes which made us smile! (More on those below). The higher ground at Haytongate Farm gives you a great view of the Pennines to the south, and the Lake District is vaguely visible too, as well as the tallest buildings in Carlisle (this gave us great joy when thinking we were almost there…)

    Food:

    If you don’t have a packed lunch like we did, there is a cafe at Birdoswald but after this you’ll be relying on honesty boxes. We’ve written more about honesty boxes in a [previous post], though in short they are small sheds and huts where local families stock snacks, drinks and meals for hikers in exchange for a small amount of money placed in a cash box. The three main honesty shops are Matthew’s, Haytongate Hut, and the well-stocked Newtown Snack Shed – the latter was our favourite simply because of the wide variety of items on offer! You can buy lots of things here from microwave meals (yes, some of the sheds have microwaves) to crisps, chocolate and cereal bars, as well as water, juice and most places have a kettle for making hot drinks. After another long slog of a day, the Roman points of interest dropping off and exhaustion setting in, it should come as no surprise that we only dragged our feet a few short steps to the Brewers Fayre pub next to our hotel for our evening meal, which was surprisingly good (though we may have been too tired to care!)

    Accommodation:

    In direct contrast to the majority of the Wall path, we spent an agonising amount of time choosing our accommodation in Carlisle simply as we were spoilt for choice. Knowing that we were staying in Carlisle on a Saturday night, we eventually chose the Carlisle Central Premier Inn – ironically named as we found it to be away from the hustle and bustle of the main parts of the city. Coming off the Wall path through gorgeous Rickerby park, the hotel is split into two buildings. Luckily for us, our room was in the building furthest back from the main road, and we enjoyed another good night’s sleep as we passed out when our heads hit the pillows!

    DAY 7 (27km) Carlisle – Bowness-on-Solway

    Sights to see:

    The majority of evidence of Roman life now behind us, we focused on pushing our aching legs to complete the last day of this incredible hike, and found ourselves relying on our notes for good places to rest more than any other day of the hike. At Beaumont there’s a couple of picnic benches with a great view over the river Eden beside the parish hall, where we chose to stop for a snack. As full time pet sitters it shouldn’t surprise anyone that one of the points of interest we chose to look out for on this day was the King Garth alpaca farm at Burgh by Sands! At this point in the hike you’ll either be walking on pavements through villages or grass on rugged marshland, with only a small Roman crest at Drumburgh castle or a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it altar in the brickwork at a house in Port Carlisle to look out for. The elation we felt upon clapping eyes on the shelter on Banks promenade cannot be overstated – this small structure marks the official Western end of the path, and therefore the final sight to see on our seven day challenge. We spent some time here posing with the Roman military hat that locals have placed on the bench inside, and took photos by the sign that reads ‘The end of the Hadrian’s Wall path’. Further down the road, a signpost points to Wallsend in Newcastle and Rome – though we chose to visit this the following morning, after a much-needed lie down!

    Food:

    Ending the penultimate day of our hike in Carlisle meant that we could visit the Tesco supermarket fifteen minutes away from our hotel to pick up breakfast and lunch supplies for the day ahead. If you don’t fancy carrying anything more in your backpack at this stage on the hike, there are a couple of honesty boxes – though they aren’t as large as the ones found on previous days. Grinsdale has a small cool box containing drinks, in Drumburgh you’ll find Laal Bite tuck shop, and the Hadrian’s Wall shop in Beaumont is a little plastic box with a few crisps and snacks inside. Once you reach Bowness-on-Solway, there’s a fair handful of cafes and tearooms as well as the Kings Arms Inn where we chose to have our last dinner to celebrate our achievement! The food is great and the staff are really friendly, and as Bowness-on-Solway is a tiny place, it was only a few minutes walk from there to our accommodation (thank goodness).

    Accommodation:

    We had every intention of hopping on the bus to Carlisle and getting a train back to Newcastle and our car on our last day of the hike. The night before, however, we chose to treat ourselves to one more night on the Wall path and booked in last minute to Wallsend guest house. These guys have five glamping pods as well as five beautiful rooms inside the guest house – we chose the latter for an extra bit of luxury and we were not disappointed! If you need somewhere to stay in Bowness-on-Solway, this peaceful place is the perfect way to end your hike. We booked a room that had a bath in the ensuite so we could soak our aching muscles and enjoy a relaxing end to our week of hiking.

    A footnote:

    With most evidence of Roman life dropping off substantially at either end of the Wall path, there will be a long slog at the beginning and end where the best parts of the hike will be the hike itself. The urban jungle of Newcastle in the East, and the long sprawling marshlands West of Carlisle will give you a LOT of time to simply admire the scenery, so make sure you appreciate all the Roman sites of interest as you hike the middle section! We definitely need to plan another trip to Hadrian’s Wall Country to visit all the sites off the path that we couldn’t make time for while completing the hike. If you’re like us and love to go for a hike just for the hike, you won’t be disappointed with any stage of the Wall path and we highly recommend it as a physical challenge and an interesting historical adventure!

    We hope you’ve found this blog post helpful! Check out our blog for more posts about hiking the Hadrian’s Wall path and our other adventures with travel and house sitting. You can also follow us on Instagram and Facebook, and contact us with any questions or just for a chat – we’d love to hear from you!