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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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