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Places to visit when walking the Hadrians Wall Trail

3rd Mar 2016 by Jon Monks

When walking the Hadrian’s Wall Path there are some great Roman sites to stop off at and visit on Hadrian’s Wall.

This is not a comprehensive list of all the sites to visit on Hadrian’s Wall but these are some of my favourites that are certainly worth a visit when walking the Hadrian’s Wall Trail with Shepherds Walks.

Bowness on Solway

The start of the trail, not a lot to see but make sure you get your passport stamped and you make sure you get your photo taken before you start your 84 mile journey along the Hadrian’s Wall Trail.

Carlisle Castle

Not strictly Roman but large Roman fort is established on the site of the later castle. This became the nucleus for a prosperous town called Luguvalium, occupied by the Romans until the end of the 4th century

In 1092 William II advances north and defeats local warlord Dolfin. William takes Carlisle, makes the town a borough and builds the first castle on part of the Roman site.

Carlisle Castle occupies a triangular 1.6 hectare (4 acre) site on rising ground at the northern end of the historic city of Carlisle, from which it is separated by a modern dual carriageway. The castle is predominantly built of grey and red sandstone. The former tends to date from the first period of construction, in the mid- to late 12th century. The curtain walls, thought to be largely of the 12th century, enclose a large outer ward where several buildings are still in use. The oldest surviving parts are the outer gatehouse, the half-moon battery and the buildings of the inner ward.

Lanercost Abbey

A short walk off the trail but many of our walking holidays (all guided and self-guided except for our 5 and six day trips) will have an overnight stay at Lanercost right next to the Abbey

Standing close to Hadrian's Wall, it suffered frequent attacks during the long Anglo-Scottish wars, once by Robert Bruce in person. The mortally sick King Edward I rested here for five months in 1306-7, shortly before his death on his final campaign. Yet there is still much to see in this best-preserved of Cumbrian monasteries.

The east end of the noble 13th-century church survives to its full height, housing within its dramatic triple tier of arches some fine monuments.

Birdoswald Roman Fort

This is located directly on the trail and a great place to stop off on your Shepherds Walks Holiday and visit.

Birdoswald’s history began when a wooded spur was cleared for the building of Hadrian’s Wall in AD 122. The fort, added to the Wall shortly afterwards, was garrisoned by an infantry cohort of more than 800 men and remained in occupation throughout the Roman period. Outside the fort an extensive settlement (vicus) grew up. Archaeological investigation has shown that the garrison continued to be occupied into the 5th century – the so-called ‘Dark Ages’.

The fort was reoccupied in the Middle Ages and was the target of raids by border reivers in the 16th century.

First excavated in the 1850s, Birdoswald has produced more evidence for the phases of building of Hadrian's Wall than any other fort.

Thirlwall Castle

You pass this on the Hadrian’s Wall Trail, it stands as a ruin.

Thirlwall Castle is a 12th-century castle located on Hadrian’s Wall but also on the bank of the River Tipalt.

Thirlwall Castle was built in the 12th century, and later strengthened using stones from nearby Hadrian's Wall, but began to fall into disrepair in the 17th century.

Roman Army Museum – near to Greenhead

A two minute walk from the Hadrian’s Wall Trail, just leave before you enter Walltown Quarry. It’s certainly worth a visit.

The museum explored through reconstructions, objects excavated along Hadrian's Wall and the Vindolanda Trust’s inspiring interpretations of army life including the exclusive 3D Edge of Empire film, the museum pays unforgettable homage to Rome's military accomplishments in Britain.

When you enter Gallery 1 you walk straight into the role of the army in the Roman Empire. Watch the Empire expand and contract, learn more about the strength and variety of different types of soldier, look at real Roman artefacts from Vindolanda including the only Roman helmet crest ever to be discovered, listen to the recruiting officer and decide whether to join up.

In Gallery 2 you take time line walk of Hadrian’s Wall with a spectacular image banner of truly monumental proportions. A side room highlights the successful invasion and occupation of Britain by the Romans and leads to the 3D film theatre. The 3D film gives an aerial view of the Wall as it is today then transports you back nearly 2000 years to Roman times for a truly memorable time travel experience.

Roman Vindolanda

A great visit but it is a little way off route. To give you the best opportunity to visit this site (which will take a good half day) please add an extra day for your overnight stay at Steel Rigg.

Formerly a key military post on the northern frontier of Britain, Vindolanda is the home of Britain's 'Top Treasure' - the Vindolanda Writing Tablets - and is one Europe's most important Roman archaeological sites, with live excavations taking place every year.

The recently fully refurbished on site museum provides a breathtaking exploration of the Trust's ongoing discoveries and accounts of Roman life. There are no other places on earth where it is possible to experience Roman Britain, Hadrian's Wall and history coming to life before your very eyes all in one space! Come and explore it for yourself and find out why Vindolanda is treasured worldwide.

Sycamore Gap

Not a true Roman site on Hadrian’s Wall but a very famous tree located directly on the Hadrian’s Wall Trail

This is probably the most photographed spot on the Hadrian’s Wall National Trail. Here, a sycamore tree grows in a dramatic dip with Hadrian’s Wall rising up either side.

The 1991 film ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’, starring Kevin Costner, was filmed here. The tree has been known as The Robin Hood Tree ever since.

Housesteads Roman Fort

Located directly on the trail it is certainly worth a visit but you need to budget at least a couple of hours to take in this very popular Roman site on Hadrian’s Wall.

Housesteads is located high on a dramatic escarpment on Hadrian's Wall World Heritage Site, Housesteads Roman Fort takes you back to the Roman Empire.

You can wander around the remains of the barrack blocks and the hospital. Peer into the oldest toilets you'll ever see, and admire the stunning panoramic views from this ancient fortress.

A great site to visit on Hadrian’s Wall.

Temple of Mithras, Carrawburgh

Located directly on the trail and free to enter.

This fascinating temple to the god Mithras stands near Carrawburgh Roman Fort on Hadrian's Wall. Mithras was an eastern god who, according to legend, had captured and killed the primeval bull in a cave, which Mithraic temples, always small and gloomy, were intended to evoke.

The temple was probably built by soldiers based at the fort in about AD 200. The three altars found here (copies stand in the temple) were all dedicated by commanding officers of the unit stationed here, the First Cohort of Batavians from the Rhineland.

Located next to the Brocolitia car park

Chesters Roman Fort

Located directly on the Hadrian’s Wall Trail. The site deserves a morning visit but can be ‘quickly’ looked over in a couple of hours if you have a tight schedule on your walking holiday.

Chesters Roman Fort is the most complete Roman cavalry fort in Britain.

You can wander around the unusually well-preserved baths and steam room, and the officers' quarters. Discover an amazing collection of Roman objects and inscriptions in our museum, these were found at the fort and along Hadrian's Wall.

Make sure you make time for Chesters Tearoom.

St Oswald’s Church – Battlefield

Again not strictly Roman but it is on route and it may inspire you to walk St Oswald’s Way on your next visit to the region.

It was the site of the Battle of Heavenfield.

Northumbria was split between its constituent kingdoms of Bernicia and Deira. Oswald's brother Eanfrith became king of Bernicia, but he was killed by Cadwallon in 634 after attempting to negotiate peace.

Subsequently, Oswald, at the head of a small army met Cadwallon in battle at Heavenfield.

Before the battle, Oswald had a wooden cross erected; he knelt down, holding the cross in position until enough earth had been thrown in the hole to make it stand firm. He then prayed and asked his army to join in.


Located directly on the trail is was a very important gateway during Roman Times.

The Portgate was a fortified gateway, constructed as part of the Roman Hadrian's Wall (Dere Street preceded Hadrian's Wall by around 50 years).

It was built to control traffic along Dere Street as it passed through Hadrian's Wall.

The remains now exist beneath the Military Road to the south-west of the Stagshaw Roundabout.

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