In the summer of 1999, while on a walking vacation with several adventurers of Cross Country International, Corp. in the north of England, I noted with interest an unusual amount of helicopter activity over and around several historic locations.
Day after day, as we made our way from east to west across England, it almost seemed as if the trucks were using GPS units to follow us. I decided to find out what was going on. What I learned was exciting. The helicopters contained photographers and researchers hired by Great Britain’s National Trust of Historic Monuments to photograph and study the entire length of Hadrian’s Wall with the intent of someday opening all 80 miles of the wall to walking tours.
For those unfamiliar with Hadrian’s Wall, you should know that more than 2,000 years ago, Roman emperor Hadrian decided to build a wall from east to west across the narrowest part of England. An engineering feat almost unparalleled for its time, it took six years to complete, and Hadrian’s Wall has long been considered the most important monument built by the Romans in all of Great Britain.
Hadrian’s Wall stretched from the banks of the River Tyne in the east to Solway Firth in the west. It followed the undulating contours of the land, crossed the Pennines and wended its way through and by some of the most beautiful and historic locations in all of Great Britain. Substantial portions of the wall remain, of course, and turrets, mile castles, forts and civilian settlements may still be seen.
Designated a World Heritage Site in 1987, Hadrian’s Wall has long attracted visitors from around the world who travel each year to Great Britain to see what remains. Few people have ever been able to walk its entire length, however, because no trespassing has been allowed on many of the private landholdings that contain portions of the wall.
Since I started offering walking vacations throughout the world five years ago, several of my clients expressed interest about walking all of Hadrian’s Wall. Therefore, I watched with interest the progress of the National Trust.
Well, it has taken almost four years, but I am happy to report that in May of 2003 the Trust will open the entire length of Hadrian’s Wall as a National Trail. Easements have been obtained from all landholders, signposts have been erected, pavement has been completed where necessary and walking tours are being encouraged.
I can hardly wait. In fact, I didn’t wait. As soon as I learned what was going on with Hadrian’s Wall I began making plans to offer a walk. I lined up a knowledgeable guide, contacted B&Bs, located restaurants and put together an adventure that will take place in June, just a couple of weeks after the designation as a National Trail.
Response has been so positive, I’ve added another 10-day walk in August, and there is a possibility more weeks will be added as demand dictates. This is so exciting because there is so much to see on this adventure. Walkers will pass Thirlwall Castle where Edward I (Edward Longshanks of the movie “Braveheart”) stayed in 1306 during his campaign against the Scots. They will also pass near Sewingshields where King Arthur is said to have hid Queen Guinevere, and visit the Museum of Antiquities in Newcastle to see jewelry and pottery reclaimed from areas along the wall. There is even Roman olive oil that was unearthed and displayed at the museum.
Truthfully, there’s so much to see on this walk it’s impossible to list it all here. In fact, while history buffs will be absolutely enthralled with this adventure, there’s really something for everyone to enjoy on this extraordinary walk through some of the most unspoiled and sparsely populated areas in all of Great Britain.
The people are friendly, warm and courteous and the countryside itself is spectacular. It’s dotted with lochs and valleys of unprecedented beauty, and walkers will make their way through towns, villages, farms, forests and parklands. There are plenty of museums and points of interest along the way, and there will always be time to pop into a local teashop, bookstore or antique shop.
I am excited and proud to be able to offer 15 adventurers the opportunity to be among the first people to actually walk the entire length of Hadrian’s Wall. I believe this unique walk is truly an adventure for the mind, body and spirit.