How to Spend a Day in Hadrian’s Wall – 11 Top Things to Do + Walk

hadrians wall

Hadrian’s Wall is a UNESCO World Heritage site – a must-visit place while you are in northern England. In AD 122, during the reign of Roman Emperor – Hadrian, the construction started to build this 73-mile long Roman fortification. This coast-to-coast frontier stretched from Wallsend (about 4 miles east of Newcastle) to Bowness-on-Solway, west of Carlisle. It took almost 6 years to build Hadrian’s Wall by almost 15,000 men.

Some key landmarks on this vast stretch include Segedunum, Housesteads Roman Fort & Museum, Roman Army Museum, Corbridge Roman Town, Roman Vindolanda and the iconic Sycamore Gap. 

If would like to walk the entire stretch, it would take around 10 days depending on your fitness level. Arguably, the most scenic part of Hadrian’s Wall is from Hexham to Haltwhistle which would take about 5 – 6 hours to walk.

countryside view from hadrians wall

How to get to Hadrian’s Wall:

By Public transport: Hexham and Haltwhistle on the Hadrian’s Wall are the two places that have good connectivity with other cities in the UK via Carlisle and Newcastle. Bus AD122 runs hourly between Haltwhistle and Hexham stopping at the main attractions between this stretch.

  • Haltwhistle:

Haltwhistle is located about 22 miles east of Carlisle – around half an hour by Northern Rail and about 45 minutes by Stagecoach Bus 685. By Car, it takes typically 35 minutes.

Carlisle is well connected by train with big cities in the UK like London, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

  • Hexham:

Hexham lies almost 23 miles west of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. It takes about 40 minutes by Northern Rail and about an hour by Stagecoach Bus 685. By car, it’s about 30 – 40 minutes depending upon the traffic.

There are frequent train services from Newcastle to other major cities in the UK

Start of the Hadrian’s Wall walk:

We visited Hadrian’s Wall on a day trip from Edinburgh. We hopped on the train to Haltwhistle via a break at the border city, Carlisle. It took us almost 2 hours to reach Haltwhistle, a small market town in Northumberland. From there, we took the bus, AD 122 to reach Housesteads Visitor Centre. The name of the bus is really clever. It takes you back to AD 122 when Hadrian’s Wall was created.

We walked the 8.5 mile stretch from Housesteads Roman Fort to the Roman Army Museum. It would take about 4.5 – 5.5 hours considering you would spend some time in the museum and would stop at places to take in the gorgeous view. There are many ups and downs throughout this scenic path. So, sturdy walking shoes are definitely recommended.

Housesteads Roman Fort to The Roman Army Museum:

Length of the Stretch: 8.5 miles (approx.)

Time: 4.5 – 5.5 hours 

Max elevation: 595 meters

🇬🇧 11 Incredible Things to do on Hadrian's Wall

1. Housesteads Roman Fort - a must visit attraction on Hadrian's Wall

Housesteads roman fort hadrians wall

Bus AD 122 dropped us at the Housestead Visitor Centre. From there, Housestead Roman Fort is about 10 mintues walk.

Housesteads Roman Fort is one of the best-preserved ruined forts on the Hadrian’s Wall. This stone fort was built in AD 124, soon after the construction started for Hadrian Wall in AD 122. This 2.2-hectare huge fort was a garrison stronghold of 800 auxiliary soldiers of the Roman Army in Britain. 

You will get to see the ruins of house of the commanding officers, impressive gates, barracks of the soldiers, granaries (horreum), bakehouses (pistrinae), hospital. Plus, You will know a great deal of information about the life of the soldiers who used to live there.

Housesteads roman fort hadrians wall

There was a civilian settlement (vici) as well around this fort which had shops, inns, pleasure houses. You will get an amazing view of the vast stretch of the Hadrian’s wall and the surrounding countryside.

Pop into their indoor museum as well which displays some historical artefacts curated from the excavation of this 2000 year old site.

Later in the 1600s, it was the home of the infamous Border Reivers who raided the villages on both sides of the Anglo-Scottish border.  

Opening Hours: Open all year round 10am – 5pm. Winter times 10am-4pm.

Entrance fees: Per adult £9.00 (Without donation)/ £9.90 (With donation)

2. Milecastle 37

milecastle 37 from hadrians wall

A short walk to the west of Housesteads Roman Fort, you would come across Milecastle 37 on the Hadrian’s Wall path. Milecastles are small forts built at every Roman Mile and housed about 20 – 30 auxiliary soldiers. 

There were 80 Milecastles along the entire stretch of the Hadrian’s Wall. Usually, two turrets were placed between milecastles at about one-third and two-third distances. Those served as watch towers on the Roman Frontiers. 

3. Sycamore Gap Tree - Most photographed site on Hadrian's Wall

sycamore gap hadrians wall

Sycamore Gap Tree is one of the most photographed trees in the UK. This iconic tree is located on a dramatic dip just near Milecastle 39. After the feature in the 1991 Kevin Costner film, ‘Robin Hood – Prince of Thieves’, Sycamore Gap Tree is also commonly known as the Robin Hood Tree.

This scenic sycamore tree is a few hundred years old and has won ‘The Tree of the Year’ award in 2016. Sycamore Gap is a great spot to sit and relax for the weary legs and enjoy a picnic with a view.

sycamore gap tree
sycamore gap hadrians wall from above the hill

Here, Moumita was almost bitten by a snake (a very small in size though) when she was trying to get a nice vantage point wading through the long grasses. We didn’t have the slightest idea before that snakes could exist in the British climate. So be Careful.

4. Milecastle 39

milecastle 42 hadrians wall

Just to the west of the Sycamore Gap, lies Milecastle 39. This Milecaslte is also known as Castle Nick because it’s located just above the nick where the Sycamore Tree stands. From here, you would get a gorgeous view of the Sycamore Gap and the surrounding countryside. Later in the 18th century, Milecastle 39 was used as a milking parlour.

5. The Sill - Landscape Discovery Centre

view from hadrians wall milcastle 39

Named after the Great Whin Sill – a prominent geological feature of North East England, the Sill is located about 1.5 miles walk from the Sycamore Gap. Visit this National Landscape Discovery Centre at the heart of Hadrian’s wall and learn about the landscape, culture and history of the Northumberland.

The most interesting part of the building is the Grassland roof which replicates the dramatic landscape of the Whin Sill. Plus, they host a range of interesting exhibits and events throughout the year. If you want to grab a bite or drink, pop into their café, Once Brewed. They have a very good selection of sandwiches and cakes. 

You can stay here as well at their YHA. In fact, this landscape discovery centre was built as a collaboration between YHA and Northumberland National Park.

Opening Hours: The Sill – Landscape Discovery Centre is open everyday 10am – 5pm.

Entrance fees: free

6. Vindolanda

It would probably be hard to squeeze in Housesteads Roman Fort, Roman Army Museum and Vindolanda on a single day. Housesteads is a must-see attraction. If you are not visiting the Roman Army Museum, would recommend visiting Vindolanda. The museum displays some rare collection of 2000 year old artifacts, most notably the writing tablets. Excavations take place every year in summer. If you want to take part in the excavation, visit their website for more details.

Opening Hours: Open all year round 10am – 5pm.

Entrance fees: £8.30 per adult, 5% discount on tickets booked online.

Alternatively you can get a saver ticket for £12.15 per adult, which allows you to visit two sites in Hadrian’s Wall –  Vindolanda and Roman army museum.

7. Walltown Crags - Most dramatic view of Hadrian's Wall

hadrians wall milecastle 45

Walltown Crags is one of the most scenic places on the Hadrian’s Wall. This part of the Hadrian Wall makes several twists and turns along the ridge of the Whin Sill. You will get a stunning view over to the long stretch of the wall and the surrounding landscape- simply breath taking! on this stretch of the walk, you would come across probably thousands of sheep grazing around. On your way to the Roman museum from here, you will come across Walltown County Park, where a whinstone quarry was there. 

Opening Hours: Any reasonable time during daylight hours.

Entrance fees: free

8. Milecastle 45

walltown crags hadrians wall

Milecastle 45 is located on the Walltown Crags. The walls of this milecastle were completely robbed and not much remains today except the trenches and the mound. You can see the ruins of associated turret 45A though which is situated about 100 yards east of Milecastle 45.

9. Roman Army Museum

roman army museum hadrians wall

Roman Army Museum is located near the Walltown Quarry Car Park. Visit this museum and get an experience of the daily life of a Roman soldier. You would get to learn a lot of information about their army structure, training regimes and get to witness their recruitment tent, Hadrian Room. The highlight of your visit would be the 3D film which take you back to the 2000 years ago in the Roman Britain.

Opening Hours: Open all year round 10am – 5pm.

Entrance fees: £6.89 per adult, 5% discount on tickets booked online.

Alternatively you can get a saver ticket for £12.15 per adult, which allows you to visit two sites in Hadrian’s Wall –  Vindolanda and Roman army museum.

Two cities at two ends of Hadrian’s Wall:

10. A quick stop in Carlisle

carlisle castle
carlisle cathedral

Nicknamed as The Great Border City, Carlisle lies very close to the Scottish Border. This city at the west end of the Hadrian Wall has Roman connection even before Hadrian’s time. Known as Luguvalium to the Romans, they built a fort around AD72 on the site where the current Carlisle Castle is located. Take a ramble around the city and visit Tullie House Museum and Art gallery, Carlisle Castle and Cathedral. 

Carlisle is just 30 minutes by train from Haltwhistle. We took a quick stroll in this city on our way to Haltwhistle. But if you want, you can spend a full day in Carlisle. There are a number of things to see and do here.

11. Extend your trip to Newcastle

Newcastle swing bridge

Newcastle is the city of seven bridges and the party capital of North England. This bustling city has been voted as the third best nightlife destination in Europe. Newcastle has its historic Grainger Town, an amazing waterfront, a Chinatown, a medieval castle. Not only that, some of the best beaches in the country are also not too far from Newcastle. With so many things to do and see, you could easily spend a few days (even a week) in Newcastle.

Hadrian’s Wall Path goes via Newcastle. You can take a train from Hexham and reach Newcastle just in 40 minutes.

Planing a Trip to England?

Best Time to Visit Hadrian’s Wall:

April – October is the best time to visit Hadrian’s Wall. Better to avoid the winter when weather can be very harsh.  

Where to Eat in Hadrian’s Wall:

On this stretch there are not too many options to eat. There are cafes at the Sill Discovery centre, Vindolanda. Better to carry some snacks. Sycamore Gap is a nice spot to have a picnic. 

Where to Stay in Hadrian’s Wall:

We came here on a day trip. But if you would like a stay overnight, there are a number of Hotels and B&Bs available along the stretch. The Sill discovery centre has a Youth hostel as well. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *