Hadrian’s Wall was a military barrier that established the northwest limit of the Roman Empire for more than three centuries. It was constructed at the northern edge of the Roman Empire in Great Britain on the orders of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. Hadrian’s Wall comprised a series of fortifications and a ditch, all of which were intended to deter invaders. In several locations, the remains of the wall may still be seen standing. But where can you see Hadrian’s Wall? Where are the best places to see Hadrian’s Wall? And what can you see at Hadrian’s Wall? Let’s find out!
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Where is Hadrian’s Wall?
Hadrian’s Wall is located near the Scottish-English border. It stretches 73 miles west from Wallsend and Newcastle on the Tyne on the east coast to Bowness-on-Solway on the Solway Firth in the west. Walking the entire length of Hadrian’s Wall is a popular long-distance trail. Housesteads is a well-preserved fort with a hospital, barracks, and flushable toilets. At Heddon-on-the-Wall, a large boundary section still survives, leading east towards Newcastle and the remnants of a Roman bridge span the River Irthing.
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A Short History of Hadrian’s Wall
Since AD 43, the Romans occupied Britain. By AD 85, they had pushed into Scotland, defeated Scottish clans, and established a state of emergency. The Scots, on the other hand, remained a cause of conflict for the Romans. When Emperor Hadrian assumed control in AD 117, he commissioned the building of a wall to fortify and safeguard the Empire’s northwest boundary. It is believed that three legions of infantrymen from the British army required around six years to complete the Wall in its present shape. Each battalion consisted of approximately 5,000 men. At its completion, Hadrian’s Wall featured 80 milecastles, many observation towers, and 17 larger defences. In addition, two more buildings were placed every third mile along the Wall between the mile castles.
A milecastle was a rectangular fort specific to the Roman Empire, they were built approximately one Roman mile apart along many of the Roman-built frontiers. A Roman mile was about 1,618 yards (1,479 m). Today’s mile is 1,760 yards (1,610 m).
The Best Places to see Hadrian’s Wall
There are several places around the North of England where you may see the remaining parts of Hadrian’s Wall. Many are centred on the remains of the Roman Forts and the Roman Army Museum. We’ll also cover walking Hadrian’s Wall and locations close to the wall where you can see Roman museums and towns, as well as cycling Hadrian’s Wall.
Exploring Hadrian’s Wall is a great day out in Northumberland, there’s more inspiration for Northumberland days out here.
See Hadrian’s Wall at Segedunum Roman Fort, Wallsend
Archaeological excavations a decade ago discovered the fascinating Segedunum Roman Fort, which had long been hidden below terraced buildings. Segendum means “Strong Fort” and this fort was built to guard the eastern end of the wall and to house 600 Roman soldiers.
Today, this is the most excavated Roman Fort on Hadrian’s Wall and you can see it at Segedunum Roman Fort, Buddle Street, Wallsend, NE28 6HR
At the site, an observation tower gives you a superb view of the well-defined original idea. The museum has been enhanced with a restored bathhouse and a portion of the wall. The on-site museum contains artefacts that offer a historical context for life on the then Rome’s northern frontier, such as a stone toilet seat that has seen a lot of activity over the millennia.
The fort was (and is) positioned on the banks of the River Tyne near the eastern end of Hadrian’s Wall, and it was the wall’s easternmost section at the time of its construction. It is the most badly devastated by time fort along the Wall, with just a few building foundations and a part of the Wall remaining.
In addition, full-scale replicas of a bathhouse and a section of the Wall may be viewed in this vast interactive museum complex. The 35-meter-tall observation tower provides panoramic views of the whole UNESCO World Heritage Site. The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 3 pm Adult tickets cost £5.95, while children aged 16 and under are free. There’s more information about special events, discounted tickets and a free audio guide here.
See Hadrian’s Wall at Arbeia South Shields Roman Fort
Arbeia was a large Roman fort at South Shields, Tyne & Wear, England, that has since been demolished but then partially reconstructed. It is today sited at Baring Street, South Shields, NE33 2BB.
The fort was first investigated in the 1870s. To make space for the excavation, all the contemporary buildings on the site were removed in the 1970s. The South Shields Transport Interchange is just a 10-minute walk from the excavated fort. It has the ruins of numerous granaries – supplies were brought along the border from neighbouring Arbeia. This is detailed in the little museum, which is today run by Tyne & Wear Museums. It features remarkable archaeological finds like altarpieces with inscriptions and jewels.
As you go into the partially reconstructed fort, you will be transported to the Roman period in the heart of South Shields. View one of the most comprehensive collections of Roman British artefacts ever assembled. Many of them were discovered in and around Arbeia. They examine the interiors of full-scale rebuilt Roman structures, including the West Gate, the Commanding Officer’s home, and a soldier’s barrack building. One of the best ways to explore is to download a free audio tour here. If you have a group, you can take a personal guided tour – you’ll need 10 people (it’s £4 per person, so the cost is £40), but they must be organized at least three weeks before the visit. From the end of March until the beginning of October the facilities are open from 11 am to 5 pm on weekdays, from 11 am to 4 pm on Saturdays and from 1 pm to 4 pm on Sundays.
See Hadrian’s Wall in Newcastle
Since the Norman conquest of England, the title “Newcastle” has been used to refer to the city originally known as Pons Aelius during Roman times. The town expanded during the Middle Ages because of its advantageous location on the River Tyne. It went on to play an essential part in the Industrial Revolution, receiving city status in 1882 after a period of fast expansion.
Pons Aelius was a Roman fort and town at the original eastern end of Hadrian’s Wall, now occupied by The Castle, Newcastle, until 17 AD when an earthquake devastated the town and fort.
Hadrian’s fort here was named after the bridge, which was named after Hadrian’s family members. Originally, the Wall was supposed to finish at Newcastle, providing a port for ships sailing up the Tyne to dock.
The Hadrian’s Wall Gallery is located on the ground floor of The Great North Museum: Hancock, one of Newcastle’s most visited attractions. The intriguing site, which, besides showing things unearthed along the wall, covers the construction and history of the border fortifications, is definitely worth a visit. The museum is open from 10 am to 5 pm on weekdays and from 11 am to 4 pm on weekends. The museum is free and open daily.
See Hadrian’s Wall at Chesters Roman Fort
Chesters Roman Fort, located north of Hexham, is Britain’s best-preserved ancient cavalry fort. The Romans knew it as Cilurnum and garrisoned it with 500 men. Cilurnum is often recognized as the most important Roman cavalry fortress along Hadrian’s Wall. English Heritage maintains the site today and it’s known as Chesters Roman Fort. Here you can explore the baths and steam chamber and the extremely well-preserved commanders’ quarters. There is an excellent museum featuring items found in the fort and other points along the wall on the grounds.
Chesters Roman Fort & Museum is open seven days a week from 10 am to 5 pm. The admission fee to the museum is £9.90 for adults and £6.00 for children aged 5 to 17. English Heritage Members get in for free – you can join here.
See Hadrian’s Wall at Housesteads Roman Fort
Housesteads Roman Fort is the site of the ruins of an auxiliary fort on Hadrian’s Wall, found in Housesteads, Northumberland, England, to the south of Broomlee Lough. The fort was erected of stone in AD 124 when the land was part of the Roman province of Britannia, not long after the wall was finished in AD 122. It was the region’s first fortress. Housesteads Roman Fort is set on an escarpment and flanked by dramatic stretches of Hadrian’s Wall. There are some incredible views here and as you tour the fort site, you can learn about life here as a Roman soldier. There are ruins of the barracks block, hospital, Commander’s House, granaries, and communal toilets. Once you head into the museum, though, you can see the fort brought to life in film with stunning recreations of the original Roman buildings. The museum also houses a collection of Roman finds. The Housesteads trail lets you explore some of the glorious parts of Northumberland National Park. Younger (or older, we’re not judging) visitors can also dig into the dressing up box and act out what it was like for the Roman soldiers here. Buy your ticket to Housesteads Roman Fort here.
Housesteads is one of Hadrian’s Wall’s sixteen permanent military posts. It is the most preserved example of a Roman barrier in Britain and the best place to see Hadrian’s Wall’s original features.
In the museum at Housesteads’s collection, you can see Roman shrines, dedication stones, jewellery, tableware, and weapons, which provide an insight into life 2,000 years ago. Children of all ages can dress up as Roman soldiers when visiting the site’s museum. The museum is open from 10 am to 5 pm daily and tickets are £9 for adults and £5.40 for children. English Heritage members get in for free.
See Hadrian’s Wall at Sycamore Gap
Sycamore Gap, also known as the Robin Hood Tree, is located in a gap between Hadrian’s Wall and Crag Lough in Northumberland, England. It is located in a stunning part of the landscape of Hadrian’s Wall. It is a very popular photographic subject, with National Geographic calling it “one of the most photographed trees in the nation.” And is owned and managed by the National Trust. Aside from the Sycamore tree, the National Trust oversees six miles of Hadrian’s Wall.
This area was utilized for filming Kevin Costner’s 1991 film “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.” Since that time, the tree has been dubbed “The Robin Hood Tree.” The Sycamore Gap is open all year and is entirely free to visit.
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To get to the Sycamore Tree by car take the A1 to the A69. Turn onto Park Lane, which becomes Military Road at the Once Brewed junction. You’ll find Sycamore Gap just to the east of Milecastle 39.
To get to Sycamore Gap by bus take the Hadrian’s Wall bus to Steel Rigg Car Park and then it’s a 15-minute walk from there.
Hadrian’s Wall at Willowford near Gilsland
Willowford is the most easterly spot on the Birdoswald Roman Trail and one of the most attractive. This trail follows the Romans’ footsteps, taking you through some of the most spectacular sections of Hadrian’s Wall. Willowford is linked to Birdoswald Roman Fort by a bridge with a tea restaurant and restrooms. Both Poltross Burn Milecastle and Wall and Harrow’s Scar Milecastle and Wall are within a mile. Willowford is managed by English Heritage, but entrance here is free.
Willowford is considered to have had a community since the time of the Romans. Nonetheless, the existing buildings were built about 1830, most likely utilizing stone from Hadrian’s Wall. The farm here has been a cattle farm for some time now. One of the stone byres was rebuilt in 2007 into five suite bedrooms, which are currently offered as bed and breakfast accommodation.
See Hadrian’s Wall at Harrows Scar Milecastle and Wall
Harrow’s Scar Milecastle and Wall, built in the first century AD, is the wall’s longest remaining section, which can be seen on each side of Birdoswald Roman Fort. The milecastle, located immediately west of the River Irthing, is part of a stretch of stone fortifications built in the late second century AD. The westernmost section of Hadrian’s Wall is thought to have been made of raised turf block banks, explaining why there are so few stone relics in the Solway Firth. As one of the defences that stood between forts, Harrows Scar has a great view of the surrounding fields from its hilltop location.
It is close to Birdoswald Roman Fort, and the section of Hadrian’s Wall connecting the two is one of the most visited sections of the Roman Empire’s Great Wall. The nearby Lanercost Priory is well worth a visit. Its calm beauty conceals its complex history, which witnessed many invasions throughout the Anglo-Scottish Wars (14th-16th centuries). Visitors may now tour the relics, including magnificent cloisters and reused Roman brickwork. You can see the wall for free, but entrance to Lanercost Priory (open 10 am to 5 pm) is £6.50 for adults and £3.80 for children – join English Heritage to get free entry.
Corbridge Roman Town on Hadrian’s Wall
Corbridge took 350 years to evolve from a military supply point for Roman legions to a thriving civil community. People from all around the Roman Empire came together here to live, work, and trade. Corbridge was formerly a bustling town and supply depot, where Romans and locals could get food and other necessities. It was a thriving town until the downfall of Roman Britain in the early 5th century AD. Today, you can walk through the town’s streets and go back in time to witness Roman life as it was thousands of years ago. Roman armour and trinkets discovered with the Corbridge Hoard are also displayed at the museum.
The Corbridge Hoard was a significant Roman artefact, providing an unusual glimpse into life as a Wall soldier. The Corbridge Collection is the largest collection on Hadrian’s Wall. Booking ahead of time online offers the best cost and guaranteed entry. Weekend hours are 10 am to 4 pm, and weekday hours are 10 am to 6 pm Adults’ admission is £7.90, with child, family, concession, and Overseas Visitors Pass and seasons passes give free entry here.
See Birdoswald Roman Fort on Hadrian’s Wall
The longest uninterrupted piece of the Roman Wall remaining is at Birdoswald Roman Fort. This was known as Banna in Roman times. The fort’s outer defensive wall is the best kept of any along the wall. It surrounds the whole fort area, including granaries and five of the fort’s original gatehouses, all of which are still standing. This site produced some of the most convincing archaeological evidence concerning what happened to Hadrian’s Wall when the Romans left the area in AD 146. Among the attractions is a new exhibition that takes visitors on a journey through the life of a Roman soldier and a café, a shop, and an activity area for children and families.
The tourist centre at Birdoswald now includes a new exhibit with various hands-on activities and the exhibition is a great way to learn about Hadrian’s Wall and the history of Birdoswald Roman Fort. The facilities are open seven days a week from 10 am to 4 pm It costs £9.90 to enter as an adult and £6.00 to enter as a child aged 5 to 17. English Heritage members, as ever, get in for free!
Roman Vindolanda and Roman Army Museum
Among the most prominent sights in the area are Roman Vindolanda and the Roman Army Museum. Vindolanda is an ongoing archaeological dig, teaching centre, and family attraction not far from the wall. This pre-Wall Hadrian garrison village, remained active until the 9th century, 400 years after Hadrian’s Wall was abandoned. Vindolanda served as a base and staging place for the soldiers and workmen who built Hadrian’s Wall.
Vindolanda includes 3D movies, a holographic classroom, and three galleries to help bring the Roman era to life. The museum, built on the Magna Roman Fort site, is near one of the best-preserved sections of Hadrian’s Wall in the world. The museum is now open seven days a week, Monday through Friday, from 10 am to 5 pm Adult entrance is £9.25 and children’s ticket costs £5.50.
See Hadrian’s Wall at Brunton Turret
Brunton Turret is another English Heritage site, located about a quarter-mile south of the Hamlet of Low Brunton on the A6079, near Chesters Roman Fort. It’s one of the few remaining turret components on the Wall, 2.5 meters tall. It was built by soldiers from the Twentieth Legion, who was also in charge of the Wall’s construction. A 70-yard-long piece of Hadrian’s Wall with one of the best-preserved towers along the wall. Brunton Turret, built by Twentieth Legion troops, is a landmark on the battlefield.
English Heritage oversees Brunton Turret. It is open as a free historical attraction. The turret is open for visits every day of the year.
Top Things to See and Do at Hadrian’s Wall
Hadrian’s Wall is one of the most stunning ancient monuments in the United Kingdom and I think that Hadrian’s Wall should be seen by everyone! Even if the structure is just a shell of its former glory, it is nonetheless impressive, and for me, a must-see in Northumberland.
Take a Walk – a short walk along Hadrian’s Wall
The BEST way to see Hadrian’s Wall is to take a short walk along it. It’s even better with a local guide to explain the history and really bring it to life. This EASY two hour walk is a fabulous, but short explainer, and a great way to get into the park. It often sells out, so you’ll want to book your tickets early.
The Birdoswald Trail on Hadrian’s Wall
Birdoswald is home to the longest intact section of Hadrian’s Wall and substantial remains of a Roman fortress. The museum includes a full-scale model of the Wall and a fascinating presentation of both the fort’s history and the surrounding terrain. While walking or cycling the Hadrian’s Wall National Trail, there’s a tea room here where you can rest your weary legs and take in the scenery.
Housesteads Roman Trail on Hadrian’s Wall
The central section of Hadrian’s Wall features some of the most breathtaking vistas of the whole 73-mile route of the wall. A long stretch of Roman turrets, the massive milecastle at Cawfields, and a remarkable collection of Roman antiquities at Housesteads Roman Fort highlight this walk, which takes you through some of the quietest areas of Northumberland National Park. Explore the barracks and the hospital on your own. Take in the spectacular panoramic views of this UNESCO World Heritage Site and its surroundings from the medieval fortress’s antique public Roman toilets. The interactive museum, run by English Heritage, showcases objects formerly possessed by Roman warriors. The mini-cinema will transport you to ancient Rome.
Chester’s Roman Trail on Hadrian’s Wall
Chesters Roman Fort is Britain’s greatest preserved Roman cavalry fort, dating back to the first century AD. Here, you can get a feel of what life could have been like 2,000 years ago today at one of the Empire’s northern boundaries. You can also explore an outstanding collection of Roman artefacts and inscriptions uncovered here and along the Wall. The Clayton Museum, which reopened in 2016, contains a stunning collection of Roman artefacts and inscriptions that will take your breath away. Today, you can see the four major gates, the headquarters building and courtyard, the hall, and the regimental shrine.
Corbridge Roman Trail on Hadrian’s Wall
This section of Hadrian’s Wall runs through Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The eastern section of Hadrian’s Wall is a fascinating history trail with a rural and urban mix of remains. Continue east from Corbridge Roman Town into Heddon-on-the-Wall, a two-meter-thick section of Hadrian’s Wall. It is the longest intact wall at its intended and original length. The current village was formerly a Roman milecastle. There’s also the Denton Hall Turret. The Wall and turret foundations are visible from the A69, the primary route into Hadrian’s Wall Country. The remarkable remnants of a small temple to the local god Antenociticus may be seen in the vicus (civilian settlement) outside Benwell Fort. A stone causeway next to the temple crosses the Vallum earthwork, leading to Benwell Fort.
See the Corbridge Roman Hoard
The Corbridge Hoard is one of the twentieth century’s most remarkable Roman discoveries. It is on display at the Corbridge Roman Town. The armour, uncovered during the 1964 excavations, has since influenced Roman historians’ perceptions of the period’s armour. This fantastic piece of history was discovered buried in the mud in a steel, leather-covered wooden box. It revealed a lot about our Roman forefathers’ lives. A collection of Roman armour and other equipment and the stone Corbridge Lion, whose image is used to lead youngsters through the museum, are among the museum’s most spectacular treasures. During the summer, activities are held in the open area of the old forum building.
Walking Hadrian’s Wall
In 1987, the construction known as Hadrian’s Wall was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can walk, bike, or drive to many of the wall’s attractions, visit fascinating museums and ancient digs, or even take the Hadrian’s Wall bus, along the route.
The Hadrian’s Wall Path National Trail runs the whole length of the Wall, all 73 miles. It is best attempted in good weather and during the spring, summer and early autumn months. During the winter months, the pathways may become deteriorated and impossible to use; as a result, different routes that tour the museums and neighbouring locations are recommended.
Cycling Hadrian’s Wall
Although it is a relatively new addition, Hadrian’s Cycleway has quickly established itself as one of the top long-distance cycling paths worldwide in the United Kingdom. It starts at South Shields’ Roman Fort of Arberia. It travels 174 miles through Northumberland before concluding at Ravenglass on the Cumbrian coast. Because it is not a mountain bike trail, it does not follow the wall through harsh natural terrain. Instead, it makes use of nearby paved roads and small traffic-free motorways. If you want to see the wall up and personal, you’ll have to park your bike and walk there.
How to Get to Hadrian’s Wall
- By Bus – A regular Arriva bus route connects Newcastle and Carlisle, including stops at Hexham, Haydon Bridge, Bardon Mill, Haltwhistle, Greenhead, and Gilsland. The Hadrian’s Wall Country bus also serves a large portion of the region around Hexham.
- By Car – Hexham and Hadrian’s Wall are conveniently accessible by car since they are close to the A69, which runs from Newcastle to Carlisle via Hadrian’s Wall Country. The B6318, often known as the Military Road, runs almost parallel to the A69. This road travels parallel to Hadrian’s Wall from Heddon on the Wall to Greenhead in the west.
Travel Tips for Exploring Northumberland
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Final Words on Visiting Hadrian’s Wall
Hadrian’s Wall is an ancient barrier in northeast England built on the instructions of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. It is well-known for its defensive construction, which served as the Roman Empire’s northwest boundary for nearly three centuries. Seeing Hadrian’s Wall is one of the top things to do in Northumberland. However you decide to visit Hadrian’s Wall you’ll discover incredible history, amazing views and a stunning part of the world – I truly hope you enjoy visiting, it is a glorious thing to see.