Hadrian’s Wall stretches for 73 miles and walking the entire length takes 5 to 7 days. But the highlights are all quite compact; here’s how to see the best of the Hadrian’s Wall Walk in one day.

Hadrian’s Wall stretches from coast to coast along undulating countryside in northern England. Built by the Romans to defend the furthest north-western edges of their empire, the defensive fortification consisted of a 10-foot wall with forts and turrets backed by a massive ditch.

Set amongst beautiful rolling hills, glacial lakes, and rocky crags, it’s one of the finest Roman remains in the country.

Walking the entire length of the Hadrian’s Wall path takes 5 to 7 days. But the best-preserved sections of wall, most dramatic viewpoints and the finest scenery are all found in a relatively compact central section. Therefore, you can collect all the highlights of the Hadrian’s Wall Walk in just one day, capturing some of the best experiences in Northumberland.

Our guide to the Hadrian’s Wall highlights includes a map of the best sections to walk, our favourite scenic spots and where to grab refreshments. If you have time to explore a little longer, we have some recommendations on where to stay in Northumberland.


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IN THIS GUIDE
HADRIAN’S WALL FACTS
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE HADRIAN’S WALL WALK
HOW TO SEE THE BEST SECTIONS
MAP
GETTING AROUND
WHERE TO STAY

HADRIAN’S WALL FACTS

Emperor Hadrian commanded the wall be built to defend the wild north-west frontier of the Roman Empire. Construction began in AD122, and it is thought to have taken only 10 years to complete.

The main defensive fortification was a 10-foot wall comprising 158 turrets, 80 guarded posts and 17 larger forts. The forts were built to station the local Roman legionaries who patrolled the border. The guarded posts (called milecastles with one built every Roman mile) allowed for the controlled movement of people across the wall. Between each milecastle, two turrets were positioned from where soldiers could spy any invading forces.

Today the wall, milecastles and forts lie in ruin. In some places, the wall has completely disappeared but in others, it rises to 5 feet or more as it undulates across the countryside. The forts and milecastles are in similar ruin but ancient floor plans of this once remarkable construction persist in a few locations.

HIGHLIGHTS OF HADRIAN’S WALL WALK

The Hadrian’s Wall Walk is a path stretching the length of the wall as it divides the countryside in the north of England between Wallsend in Newcastle upon Tyne and Bowness in Cumbria. There are plenty of highlights along the route, but here are our favourite sections.

BEST PRESERVED SECTION OF HADRIAN’S WALL

In many places along its near eighty-mile journey, the wall has completely disappeared, but in others, it is a solid ribbon of rock. Ominous and foreboding, it rises above bucolic countryside.

WALLTOWN CRAGS

In our opinion, the best section is on top of Walltown Crags. Here the wall has been restored, rising to around 8 feet high in places as it looms over the landscape and winds its way up and over rocky crests. This section is not particularly long, but it’s the most imposing fragment that gives the best representation of what the wall looked like in its prime. The scenery is also excellent.

CAWFIELD CRAGS

Another good section of wall is on Cawfield Crags. The wall is lower here, 4 to 5 feet high, but it is continuous and stretches for a mile or two along beautifully undulating hilltops.

Both Walltown and Cawfield Crags require a 15 to 20-minute walk from the nearest parking. If walking is not for you then there is also a well-preserved section of the wall just 100 metres from the carpark at Birdoswald.  

BEST SCENERY & PHOTOGRAPHY SPOTS ALONG THE HADRIAN’S WALL WALK

Walking Hadrian’s Wall, we were genuinely surprised by the scenery along the 15 to 20 miles from Greenhead to Chesters. You aren’t just hiking along fields, but up and down steeply rising crags, along rocky edges and past glacial lakes. The continuous up and down makes walking more difficult, but the rewards are stunning views making it one of the best places to visit in Northumberland.

In our opinion the best photos spots and iconic scenery are found in these locations.

SYCAMORE GAP

A lone sycamore tree in a gap in the wall, set between U-shaped hills, was made famous by Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. It’s one of the most picturesque locations along Hadrian’s Wall.

HOTBANK’S CRAG VIEW

This is the view of Hadrian’s Wall seen in most brochures with a long well-preserved section of the wall winding its way over hills and trailing off into the distance.

STEEL RIG

From any number of spots near Steel Rigg Car Park, the views to Peel and Highshields Crags, show just what a challenging route the Romans chose to build the wall.

SEWINGSHIELD’S CRAG

From nowhere else can you see such a long line of wall perched on top of breaking waves of hills disappearing into the never-ending horizon.

BEST PRESERVED FORT & MILECASTLE ALONG HADRIAN’S WALL WALK

Originally there were 17 forts and 80 milecastles built along the wall. Many are in disrepair but others allow you to get an idea of what life might have been like here. 

NUMBER 37

The best-preserved milecastle is number 37. Little more than a small square of low-lying wall, its northern gate still reveals the signs of an archway peering over the wild Northumberland landscape.

HOUSESTEADS

There are a few decent forts to explore from Birdoswald Roman Fort in the east to Chesters Roman Fort in the west, but the best preserved is Housesteads. Located amongst the finest scenery, you can still make out the purpose of some of the buildings. Checkout the columns rising from the floor of the granary, and the latrines where the Romans went about their business.

BEST ROMAN MUSEUM NEAR HADRIAN’S WALL

The better preserved Roman forts in Hadrian’s Wall have a small museum attached to them, with a few small objects on display. Housesteads has a small museum with a few remains on display and Chester’s has some well-preserved remnants and activities for the kids.

VINDOLANDA ROMAN MUSEUM

If you are in the area and interested in Roman History, the best museum is Vindolanda – a Roman fort that preceded Hadrian’s Wall by 40 years. Set a mile south of the wall, it has a less dramatic setting but the finds here have been remarkable. You can explore the fort and chat to the archaeologist team on weekdays.

The Vindolanda Trust also runs the Roman Army Museum at Walltown. It’s dedicated to military matters and is less of a museum and more an interactive space for kids with 3D films and mannequins.

HOW TO SEE THE BEST OF HADRIAN’S WALL IN ONE DAY

Although it takes 5 to 7 days to complete the entire Hadrian’s Wall Walk, the highlights are all located in a compact central section. So, if you plan carefully, you can see them all in one day.

We recommend 3 things to do at Hadrian’s Wall that will collect most of the highlights we have mentioned above, plus take you on a walk through excellent scenery.  You can complete them in any order, just make sure you are at the museums you want to visit during their opening hours.

Please check whether you need to book museum entrance in advance as COVID restrictions are continually changing.

1 – STEEL RIGG TO HOUSESTEADS SECTION OF HADRIAN’S WALL WALK

This excellent walk along the Hadrian’s Wall Path takes in many of the highlights. It starts at Steel Rigg car park with fine views over the crags. Next, it travels east over rocky Peel and Highshields crags, past Robin Hood’s Sycamore Gap and over Hotbanks Crags for the iconic brochure shot. The arch at Milecastle 37 is next, before heading onto Housesteads, the best-preserved fort.

From here you can take a short walk to the road and catch the bus back to where you started, but it’s much better to head a little further east and then walk back below the wall on the northern side. The scenery is excellent and staring up at the crags from below as the wall meanders along the summit gives and entirely new perspective.

The entire loop is about 12 kilometres and takes 3 hours and 30 minutes. But allow and extra hour if you intend to look round Housestead’s Fort and its small museum. The walk is constantly going up and down and can be quite tiring in totality, but each ascent is only short. The route is marked in red on the map below.

Finally, if you have the energy, take the short detour up Sewingshields Crags to see the wall disappearing over the marching row of hilltops.


Housesteads Fort / 10am – 5pm | Adults: £9 – Children: £5.40 – Free for English Heritage and National Trust Members | Facilities: museum, snacks, and toilets on site | Website: Housesteads Roman Fort

Steel Rigg Car Park / Open all day but no overnight parking | Cost: £3 for 3 hours, £2 every extra hour up to £10 for the day. Both contactless and cash payment accepted.

2 – HADRIANS WALL WALK – WALLTOWN CRAGS

The only downside to the above section of the Hadrian’s Wall Path is that the wall only reaches about 4 to 5 feet high. To see it at its most magnificent, head to Walltown.

The Walltown Quarry has destroyed the wall, but park in the Walltown Quarry Car Park and hike up the crags to the east and a magnificent stretch of wall lies at the top. Seven feet high in places its moody, menacing, and dark. Nowhere else quite suggests the defensive strength of the fortification than this short stretch running along the crest of hills.

It’s a brief but steep 20-minute walk from the car park, but well worth the effort.


Walltown Car Park / 10:00 – 17:00 | Cost: £1 for 1 hour, £5 for the day, accepts contactless and cash | Facilities: Toilets available 24 hours, information and some refreshments

3 – ROMAN VINDOLANDA MUSEUM

To learn about the Roman history in the area head to Vindolanda. Run privately by the Birley family, the site consists of the remains of a fort and the village that grew up outside it. It was first built around 85AD, lasted 400 years, but was significantly changed about nine times.

There’s a mock-up of a section of the original wooden wall and next to it a later stone version. Archaeologists are digging every weekday and you can ask them questions as you potter around.

The highlight in the museum is the Vindolanda tablets. Written on fragments of thin wooden-leaf tablets with carbon-based ink they date back to 1st or 2nd century AD and include official military matters as well as an invitation to a birthday party. Most of the tablets are now at the British Museum but some still reside at Vindolanda.

The same family also run the more interactive Roman Army Museum near Walltown. If you want to go to both buy a joint ticket and get a discount


Roman Vindolanda Museum / 10am – 5pm with last admission 16:00 | Prices: Adults £8.30 – Children £4.75 | Facilities: Toilets and café on-site, no pets allowed (except guide dogs) | Website: Roman Vindolanda Museum

HADRIAN’S WALL WALK MAP

Our Hadrian’s Wall walk map includes all the highlights in the area, the major museums and forts along the wall, where to stop for refreshments and the bus stops. If you intend to explore the area further make sure youcheckc out our complete guide to Northumberland.

To save this map to your device, click on the star which will save to Your Maps, in Google Maps.

HADRIAN’S WALL REFRESHMENTS

On a nice day there’s no better way to enjoy the Hadrian’s Wall Walk than having a picnic at one of its magnificent viewpoints, but if you fancy something more substantial there are three other good options.

The Sill is a sleek black metal and glass visitors centre that was completed in 2017. It has maps, information, toilets, shop and a nice café with indoor and outdoor seating and a good range of food. You do however have to pay for parking (£2 minimum, £5 for the day).

The Milecastle Inn is only 500 yards from the wall. Sip a pint from its beer garden, tuck into its pub classics and peer up at the ribbon of rock as it meanders over the hills.

Our pick in the area is the Twice Brewed Inn. This excellent pub has a sweeping beer garden with pods to shelter from the rain. It offers all the pub classics you would expect, and its home-brewed ales are served in pint glasses upon which Hadrian’s Wall is etched.

GETTING AROUND HADRIAN’S WALL

BY CAR

Driving is the easiest and most flexible way to explore the wall. You can park at different car parks dotted along the path, hop out for walks, or visit the forts and then head off to your next destination whether that be the Northumberland Coast or the many great places to visit in the Lake District.

BY PUBLIC TRANSPORT

The most convenient railway stations are at Hexham and Haltwhistle, from where helpful buses transport you to the finest sections of the wall.

The AD122 bus runs hourly every day from Easter to the end of October and then at weekends in November and December. Starting at Hexham, it passes Chesters Fort, Housesteads Fort, Once Brewed (for Steel Rigg), Vindolanda, Milecastle Inn (for Cawfield Crags), Walltown and Greenhead before ending at Haltwhistle Station.

For the Hadrians Wall Walk from Steel Rigg to Housesteads get off at Once Brewed and walk for 5 minutes up the road to the Steel Rigg car park. For Walltown Crags and Vindolanda the bus takes you directly there. We have marked the bus stops on the map below.

To get to Birdoswald take the 185 bus running from Haltwhistle Station via Walltown and Greenhead to Birdoswald. There’s only about three a day so plan ahead.

WHERE TO STAY NEAR HADRIAN’S WALL

Although you can visit all the highlights of the Hadrian’s Wall Walk in one day you may want to spend a little longer and explore a little deeper. Here are our recommendations on where to stay.

For more options in the area, read our guide to the best hotels in Northumberland.

FOURSTONES

CARRAW BED & BREAKFAST

Family run guest house sublimely situated on the foundations of Hadrian’s Wall overlooking the hills. Excellent breakfasts and pack lunches provided on request for the next day.


BARDON MILL

TWICE BREWED INN

Just 500m from the most scenic section of the Hadrian’s Wall Path, it doesn’t get much better located than this. On site brewed ales make for a merry night and the AD122 bus stops right outside.


WARK

BATTLESTEADS

18th century farmstead stylishly converted into a country inn, it retains the beamed ceilings and cosy wood burning stove. It’s received a Gold Award for it eco-credentials and the menu is based around the kitchen garden.

MORE READING FOR NORTHUMBERLAND

Northumberland is a scenic part of Britain that’s ideal for outdoor adventures, castle hunting and beautiful under-visited beaches. Here are some more guides to help you plan the perfect Northumberland getaway as well as some places nearby.

THE BEST NORTHUMBERLAND HOTELS FOR YOUR 2021 GETAWAY
COMPLETE GUIDE TO THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN NORTHUMBERLAND
EXPLORE THE NORTHUMBERLAND COAST ON THESE SEVEN EXCELLENT DAY WALKS
15 BEST LAKE DISTRICT WALKS FROM EASY STROLLS TO CHALLENGING WAINWRIGHTS
OUR FAVOURITE LAKELAND ACTIVITIES – BEST THINGS TO DO IN THE LAKE DISTRICT
ALL BRITAIN GUIDES

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