July 2022

Hiking (and Camping) along Hadrian's Wall, UK

Segedunum to Bowness-on-Solway, 84 mi

I've been interested in hiking along Hadrian's Wall for many years. After two summers of quarantine, I had the opportunity to do so this year.


I used Henry Stedman's Hadrian's Wall Path to plan my hike. Complete with maps of the course, the book was truly invaluable—not just for planning, but also for hiking. I would be traveling with my younger brother (a little less accustomed to such adventures than I), so I opted for the book-recommended six day moderate itinerary. I also determined to hike the wall from east to west, in the more historically guided fashion (the wall was built starting from Wallsend in the east, and the design of the wall was modified even as construction progressed westward). This would have us staying in:
This plan would not remain unchanged by the end of our hike (foreshadowing!), but it gave us a good foundation to plan the surrounding logistics. In search of the most "authentic" Wall-walking experience, I was set on backpacking and camping along the way.

So, after turning in my final end-of-the-year school project, I got to packing. Less than a week later, we were flying to Edinburgh to begin our trip. After a fraught connection in Toronto and very little sleep, we landed in Edinburgh and caught a train down to Newcastle, whence we would begin our hike early the next day.

In Summary

Hiking along Hadrian's Wall was an incredible experience, and one that I would gladly repeat. The hike is certainly a tantalizing introduction to England's hiking trails—the path was clear and well-maintained, and we constantly saw other hikers on the way. Everybody to whom we spoke, whether a fellow hiker or a shopkeeper on the path, was welcoming and kind.

I would absolutely do the hike again, though with some changes:
1) I would not carry a camping stove/food. Although I was happy to have snacks at points along the journey, I never needed to prepare a meal for myself (packaged flapjacks got me through some longer days, though!).
2) Relatedly, I would ensure that I carried as little as possible. The wall path does not lead through complete wilderness, so I did not have to pack for every eventuality.
3) I carried a little journal with me, but fell several days behind in updating it. Next time, I would focus on just keeping it up to date, rather than "finishing" each day (honestly, this is probably a life lesson as well).

That's all? Really, this was a great thing to do and I would hike the wall again in a heartbeat.

DAY 0: June 4, 2022
Segedunum -> Newcastle (5 mi)

Today was unplanned. After flying in to Edinburgh and taking the train to Newcastle, we decided to visit the museum at Segedunum in order to see the sights and get passports for the Wall. (The museum opens at 10, and we wanted to head off before then. Spoiler alert from future Rupert, writing this camped in East Wallhouses on the 5th: we properly started at 9:55.) After visiting Segedunum (which, unfortunately, felt rather underwhelming: the impression I got was one of an underfunded and aging institution), the clerk suggested that we take the opportunity to walk back to our hotel in Newcastle. This was not the most enjoyable stretch, but we saw many other walkers heading in the other direction, to finish up their trip in Segedunum. However, the path was often dirty and the area whrough which we passed distinctly industrial.

DAY 1: June 5, 2022
Newcastle -> East Wallhouses (16 mi)

Maldron Hotel, Newcastle | Three Tuns, Heddon-on-the-Wall | Robin Hood Inn, East Wallhouses (campsite)

We started off bright and early today, hitting the path (after a hearty English breakfast) at... 9:55. The path took us first on an airy and wide avenue beside the River Tyne, moving away for a while and bringing us back around Newburn—probably the first highlight of the trip. The site of a 1640 battle between the Scots and the English (the Scots won), Newburn marked our entry into the countryside from the more urban paths through Newcastle and Lemington. We soon turned off into a field to ascend to Heddon, where we ate lunch and decided to push on to end the day in East Wallhouses. After stumbling upon the remains of the Roman Fort of Vindobala (today, used as a sheep field) and taking a hard-earned break in a bird hide on a reservoir, we arrived at the Robin Hood Inn with just enough time to order dinner. Although we questioned the decision to push ahead from Heddon while en route, once reaching the Robin Hood Inn we did not regret it.

DAY 2: June 6, 2022
East Wallhouses -> Chollerford (9 mi)

Robin Hood Inn, East Wallhouses (campsite) | Errington Coffee House, Corbridge | Riverside Campsite, Chollerford

After a satisfying breakfast at The Robin Hood Inn, we set off for Chollerford at... just after 10. Ugh, I'm starting to see a pattern here. However, we knew that today would be less painful than yesterday—due to the unplanned extension of our day to East Wallhouses, we only had 9 miles to cover to Chollerford. Still, by the time we reached Chollerford, I was ready for the reprieve, and took the chance to visit Chesters Roman Fort, just a 10 minute walk from my campsite. I was able to jump into the final tour of the day, which, amazingly enough, was led by the tour guide I remembered from 2018!

DAY 3: June 7, 2022
Chollerford -> Steel Rigg (13 mi)

Riverside Campsite, Chollerford | Packed Lunch (Riverside Kitchen, Chollerford) | Winshields Campsite, Steel Rigg

This day was arguably the highlight of the entire trip. Leaving Chollerford, we passed by Chesters Roman Fort and steadily climbed upwards, finding panoramic views along the way. Indeed, we spent lots of time—and phone battery charge—on taking images. Every stile over which we climbed yielded newly impressive views into the valley behind us.

DAY 4: June 8, 2022
Steel Rigg -> Walton (15 mi)

Winshields Campsite, Steel Rigg | Birdoswald Roman Fort | Florries on the Wall, Walton (camping by request)

Although Day 3 set the bar high, Day 4 did not disappoint as we climbed from Steel Rigg to the highest point on the wall. Unfortunately, we were shrouded in a deep fog for that portion, and so our anticipated sights did not quite materialize. Indeed, inclement weather would follow us on this leg: soon after reaching the Walltown quarry, the skies opened and rain seemed to pelt us from every direction. At the beginning of our journey, we had packed rain pants, which I thought seemed somewhat excessive. However, in this downpour, I saw their utility (unfortunately, I didn't get wise to the severity of the rain until after I was too soaked to don the extra layer). We decided to push through the rain to reach a lunch stop, but realized too late that our planned lunch stop was closed. Ultimately, we had to push on to Birdoswald Roman Fort.

DAY 5: June 9, 2022
Walton -> Beaumont (17 mi)

Florries on the Wall, Walton (camping by request) | Roman Wall Lodges, Monkhill

The end of our journey was in sight as we set off from Walton, but I had an ambitious day ahead of me yet. After hiking over panoramic landscape and well-preserved sections of wall during days 3 and 4, I found this stretch to be a meditative one: I concentrated on my walking, and paid less attention to the natural landscapes around me. I was unsure about planning a 17-mile-long day, but if I hoped to achieve my goals of eschewing modern creature comforts, I had to add the 5 miles past Carlisle to reach the nearest campsite.

DAY 6: June 10, 2022
Beaumont -> Bowness-on-Solway (9 mi)

A leisurely, downhill walk finally brought me to Bowness. It feels bittersweet to complete the journey—this has been an incredible experience and has added nuance and color to my understanding of the Roman frontier. I'm sure I'll have to return, sooner or later.