There are dozens of fantastic long-distance hiking trails that crisscross Great Britain, but walking Hadrian’s Wall Path National Trail in England must be among the best hiking trails. For starters, it is by far the most historically significant hike you can do. The path essentially follows Hadrian’s Wall Path, built by Roman emperor Hadrian in 122AD. The wall used to be the northernmost, as well as the most heavily fortified border of the entire empire. Emperor Hadrian ordered its construction after years of battles and clashes with the Scottish Picts. These people were invincible, even for Roman armies. Hadrian’s Wall Paths main purposes were border protection and border control.
It extended for 73 miles from Segedunum in the east – present-day Newcastle – to the Solway Firth in the west. At every mile the Romans built a so-called milecastle, which essentially was a border crossing and an old version of customs and immigration.
Walking Hadrian’s Wall Path National Trail
The Hadrian’s Wall Path National Trail basically follows the old wall for its entire length. The trail is 84 miles long and meanders along and sometimes even over the wall. Although the wall isn’t visible for many sections, when it is, it is spectacular. The hike starts in Wallsend in Newcastle and leads westwards through the suburbs and fields towards central Northumbria.
I did this fantastic six-day hike with my dad in 2012. The first day and a half we walked through rather boring centers of urbanity and soaking wet fields. On the afternoon of the second day we finally saw the landscapes opening up and felt the trail starting to run up and down. Day three and four were absolutely spectacular – I can’t phrase it differently – and walking Hadrian’s Wall Path National Trail took us through a magnificent section of English countryside.
The landscapes consisted of rocky hills, sheep-filled fields, bogs, patches of woodland and tiny villages with inns and pubs. These inns were our preferred type of accommodation, because they served great pub food and fine local ales, two things we both happen to love.
It rained quite a lot, too, but it wouldn’t be England if it didn’t. The terrain started to flatten out towards the end of the fifth day, as we made our way to the Irish Sea. Our last day was spent hiking from Carlisle to the Solway Firth, across coastal plains and estuaries.
I loved how varied the landscapes were. There were hills, fields, coastlines, cities, villages, castles, rivers and, of course, that nearly-2,000-year-old wall.
Although it took us six days to finish this brilliant walk, it must be remembered that you can do the same distance in less than two hours by car from Newcastle Airport. That, right there, is exactly why I love hiking so much. It slows you down dramatically and lets you take a closer look around, smell the air, soak up the rain, soak up the sunshine and hear the sound of the wind or the songs of birds.