Hadrian’s Wall – Steel Rigg to Housesteads

It was going to be a bright day so it was time to head out on one of those favourite walks on a whim. I had the urge to head back to Hadrian’s Wall and a favourite little section of it, Steel Rigg to Housesteads.

Hadrian’s wall, built in AD122 as the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire. 73 miles across Britain from coast to coast, Bowness-on-Solway near Carlisle to Newcastle.

This small section I did this day has so much variety, history and commanding incredible views that I always truly enjoy every single step taken.

sycamore gap and tree

The section from Steel Rigg to Housteads Fort is only 3 to 4 miles along, but a most scenic central section within Northumberland National Park, with points of interest seemingly at every turn.

Sycamore Gap

The lonely tree at Sycamore Gap is one of the iconic images along the whole length of the wall.

A single tree, perfectly situated and visually unique. It gained even more fame when used as a setting in ‘Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves’, where Kevin Costner as Robin rescued the boy from up ‘the’ tree.

The wall itself is used for great effect. The sycamore tree is also actually now known as ‘Robin Hood’s Tree’. Yes, I know, it is located a few hundred miles north of Nottingham..

robin hoods tree sycamore gap on hadrians wall

Milecastles

In the main image at the top of this post you will see the terrain for the miles. Ups, downs, crags, views for miles and a taste of the history on offer. In the bottom of that picture you will see what is known as milecastle 39.

The Roman’s built these fortlets at each ‘Roman mile’ between the major forts along the wall, a little garrison guarding the gates through the wall. On this walk you have of course then the pleasure of 3 of them.

Roman Wall Ruins

As you walk along the wall and over the crags that the wall follows you get a real sense of not only scale but also the logistic issues that must have been there in the building! On the high points you can see it snaking across the land for miles, no obstacle getting the way it seems.

Considering the wall you see today is a ruin and that originally it would have stood 3.5 to a great 6 metres in parts you can feel the undertaking and manpower that must have been involved.

looking along Hadrian's Wall
looking back to steel rigg along the wall

Above is a favourite spot to watch the world go by. The small hump in the background was the starting point at Steel Rigg car park.

Here you are about two thirds along the section. The crags on the left contain the milecastle, the body of water called Crag Lough comes into view.

view of crag lough from hadrians wall

It is here you get not just a higher vantage point but you have started losing all the day trippers that want to just ‘see the tree and go back’.

Onwards you go, many more sights to see yet.. Over the next top and as seen below. another great example of a milecastle, milecastle number 37.

milecastle 37 on Hadrian's wall

The walls here in parts stand still at 1 metre in height, and each side of the gateway through the wall shows the remains of a Roman Arch.

remains of roman arch on wall
Hadrian's Wall milecastle

The masses heading for the landmarks start to crowd around late mornings onwards. First thing in the day is best to walk it as you walk the wall seemingly away from all, just the odd person every hour or so.

Not The Scottish Border

A common misconception is that the wall is some kind of boundary with England and Scotland. Far from it. The structure was built long before the countries were born. It was simply as far as Roman Britannia went North.

Today the whole of it is very much within England, with its western end nearly 70 miles south of what is now Scotland.

hadrians wall ruins

It is also here in this section of the wall that another great pathway crosses, a pathway running from way way south heading northwards. The Pennine Way.

The views left and right do give rise to other wonderful areas of this land. South and West to Yorkshire Dales, the Northern Pennines and over to Cumbria. Northwards beyond the ridge is the expanse of Northumberland towards the Scottish Lowlands.

pennine way sign

The outward stretch for today is almost done. You suddenly head into the trees physically walking upon the wall itself.

Where the trees end is the great garrison fort of Housesteads…. and that is a post all to itself soon. Today was about enjoying the miles.

approaching Houseteads

Now then you can choose to go back the way you came, back along the great 3-4 miles. Or you can follow the wall back but from a new perspective. You can get to North of the wall where there is a path taking you all the way back to the car park you started at, The Pennine Way.

This time looking on via the formidable high crags the wall was erected on. Or a little South too via the old Roman military road. There are more historic treasures to be explored too.

Parking

The start point, Steel Rigg car park is just off the B6318 by a village called Once Brewed. The postcode for the car park is NE47 7AN.

Hadrian's Wall at dusk

Always a great time, no matter the weather, for all standards who don’t mind ‘little’ steep up and downs.

Fulfilling, a learning experience and truly memorable. Even I whom never always goes back to old walks with so many out there… yet here I was again, enjoying every step.

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18 Comments

  1. An enjoyable post with beautiful photos. It makes me long back for walking the Wall.
    Vindolanda is worth a visit too.

  2. Rogerio da Silva says:

    One of my favourites spots in UK. We just love it. Great walking memories there.

  3. Sophie @ Sophie's World says:

    I’ve wondered which parts to see of Hadrian’s Wall, and this seems a good option – not too short, not too long, and with several interesting things to see along the way .

    1. Paul Steele says:

      So much to see along the way yes Sophie.. This is by far my personal favourite for variety, views, nature and history 🙂

  4. Wonderful shots. Have been there myself last month. Great hike. Though I must say that I almost broke my neck on that last descent just before the Steel Rig car park (coming from the east).

    1. Paul Steele says:

      Thanks.. yes i love doing it again and again 🙂 Be careful out there!

  5. JOHN WOOD says:

    I am now to old even for this stroll but last did it 4 years ago. It is truly magnificent and can be done whilst wife is checking local history. I think you must have found the images in my file! Thanks for your post

  6. Tina Somberg-Buiks says:

    We did this walk last week during a group tour of photographers and non photographers. They loved it! The majority of photographers, however, did only part of it as they couldn’t stop click, click, clicking!

    1. Paul Steele says:

      I know that feeling Tina… I took a of of time on it due to wanting to click 🙂

  7. One of these days I’ll make the trip over and follow the footsteps of old and new. Some great information Paul.

    1. Paul Steele says:

      you must Aidan. Thanks

  8. Looks amazing. I really want to hike along the whole of the wall, but need to find a good week and one in good weather too! Looks like you had a really clear day when you were walking there!

    1. Paul Steele says:

      That area is great in all weathers to be honest. love it when moody up there

  9. I love this bit of the Wall, just wish it wasn’t quite so far from where I live. Love your pictures, too.

    1. Paul Steele says:

      A great great part of it isn’t it Anne? 🙂 Thank you

  10. Great images, Paul. Good open countryside. Looks like a great place to walk. The light is so soft and naturally saturated.

    1. Paul Steele says:

      It is a wonderful place whatever the weather I can assure you 🙂 Thanks Eduardo

  11. Thanks so much for virtual hike. Love the song by Joe Bonamassa, Battle for Hadrian’s wall…very good.

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