dog on Hadrian's wall near Steel Rigg

If anybody was to ask me which is my favourite section of Hadrian’s Wall to walk then I would have to answer as Steel Rigg to Housesteads.

Hadrian’s wall, built in AD 122 as the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire. 73 miles across Britain from west coast to east coast coast, Bowness-on-Solway near Carlisle to Newcastle.

This small section is a great walk to capture the variety all in one, history and commanding incredible views that I always truly enjoy on every single step taken.

big view along hadrian's wall

The walk 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.

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

It can get really busy and over capacity especially at weekends. So my tip would be head off early or expect a walk to get to the start point.

walking along hadrians wall

From the car park the path leads down to the wall heading eastwards.

Once Brewed or Twice Brewed?

Yes, a place with 2 names. On the B6318 near the car park the name of the Hamlet will depend on the direction you are entering from.

It is a hamlet of 2 buildings. The old Twice Brewed Inn is over to the east and the Sill YHA youth hostel on the east. The old YHA hostel that was here used to call itself Once Brewed as a reference to the pub.

Down the ages it all seems to have stuck and if you enter the hamlet from the east the sign will say Once Brewed, and if you enter from the West it will say Twice Brewed.

Sycamore Gap

One of the first landmarks you will come across is the lonely tree at what is commonly known as Sycamore Gap. It is one of the iconic images along the whole length of the wall.

the tree at sycamore gap

A single sycamore 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.

sycamore gap tree used in Robin hood film

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.

sycamore gap tree and blue skies


As you walk along the wall you will soon get a sense of the terrain. Plenty of ups and downs, crags, views for miles and a taste of the history on offer.

You will also see how the Romans used the natural north facing crags to build the wall along to create even more of a height.

milecastle on hadrians wall

Every Roman mile you will see the remains of what is known as a milecastle. 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 the pleasure of seeing 3 of them.

roman fort on hadrians wall

The Lake of Crag Lough

After Sycamore Gap you get some fantastic views as you pass by the lake of Crag Lough that is situated just to the north.

lake crag lough by hadrians wall

Walking along the crag tops known as Whin Sill you can look in every direction and see for miles.

Crag Loch is a lake that was formed in the ice age and one of 4 along the length of the wall.

view along hadrians wall at steel rigg

The Wall Itself

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 creating of hadrian’s Wall.

hadrians wall from steel rigg

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 high in parts you can feel the undertaking and manpower that must have been involved.

looking along hadrians wall

The Wall Is 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.

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.

pennine way on hadrians wall

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.

Heading Into Housesteads

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

hadrians wall near Housesteads

Where the trees end is the great garrison fort of Housesteads. If you have time you can pay to go in and take a look at these vast ruins and what has been discovered there.

sycamore gap from above on the path

Return Walk

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. Parallel to the wall and a few hundred metres south is the old Roman military road. Follow the path back keeping the wall over to your right.

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  1. Paula Kuitenbrouwer says:

    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. Christian says:

    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. Eduardo@Andaremos says:

    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. Mary Gerdt says:

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

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