Hiking, Northumberland, Europe, Cumbria, England

10 Things Nobody Tells You About Walking Hadrian’s Wall

September 29, 2020

If you’re thinking about walking Hadrian’s Wall, then this post will provide you with some brutally honest information  (and practical advice) about the challenge, from someone who’s just completed it.  

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. All this means is that if you make a purchase through one of the links I have provided, I will earn a small commission as a result but the cost to you will remain exactly the same.

At the end of August, a friend and I set off to walk the entire length of the Hadrian’s Wall Path in northern England.  The trail runs for 84 miles (134 kilometres) between Bowness-on-Solway (on the west coast) and Wallsend (on the east).  As you would expect, we did our research beforehand – bought a Hadrian’s Wall guidebook, compared and contrasted various itineraries, read countless blog posts, examined a number of different accommodation options, and gave a considerable amount of thought to what we needed to pack.

However, nothing can fully prepare you for walking Hadrian’s Wall.   And what I mean by that is that there are some things you’ll only learn from the experience of actually completing the trail yourself.

But there are a few things that I wish somebody had told me about beforehand; things that, had I known about prior to walking Hadrian’s Wall, may have influenced the decisions  I made when preparing for the adventure.

So, in the spirit of helping you to prepare as thoroughly as possible, I thought I’d put a little post together about a few of the things that nobody tells you about walking Hadrian’s Wall.  I hope you find it useful 🙂

1 | A six-day hike is VERY different to completing six one-day hikes

In order to adequately train for walking Hadrian’s Wall, Jayne and I completed multiple long one-day hikes.   Every weekend, for around six weeks prior to our Hadrian’s Wall adventure, we would set off early on either the Saturday or Sunday and subsequently spend the best part of the day exploring parts of Shropshire that we’d never visited before.  We’d cover anywhere between 11 and 25 miles – the sort of daily distances we’d be up against on the Hadrian’s Wall trail.

And at the end of each hike?  Yes, our legs were tired and we could certainly tell we’d been on our feet all day, but we’d suffered no blisters, and no aches and pains.  So, we assumed all would be okay when we set out to do six consecutive days of the same.

We couldn’t have been more wrong!

Tunnel of Trees, Hadrian's Wall Path between Carlisle and Walton

What we hadn’t accounted for was the cumulative effect that a six-day hike has on your body – especially on your feet.   By the end of day three, the balls of our feet hurt so much that we found ourselves having to walk on the sides of our feet for the last mile or two.  And, whilst we felt fine when we set off every morning, our feet were becoming painful a lot sooner in the day  as time wore on.  It wasn’t an unbearable pain and we could walk through it, but it’s definitely something we hadn’t prepared for.

The problem is that if you work full-time (as we both do), it’s nigh on impossible to replicate the six-day hike in training – unless you want to walk through the night.

The only advice that I can give you is to take regular breaks, where you actually sit down and take the weight off your feet for a while.  We generally didn’t, because we weren’t sure we could afford the time to do so, but our feet definitely thanked us when we did!

2 | If you don’t NEED to carry all your stuff (i.e if you’re not camping) then don’t!

We fully intended to carry all of our stuff for the duration of the hike.  We’d even bought new Osprey packs specifically for this purpose.  We figured that we could pack pretty light, and that it wouldn’t matter what we looked like, as long as we were comfortable, clean and dry.  We even tested our fully-laden packs on the final day-hike we completed prior to walking Hadrian’s Wall.  It certainly made walking up hills that bit harder, but again, our packs had been comfortable to wear and we’d suffered no aches and pains.

Of course, when it came down to actually packing for real, we ended up with more in our packs than we’d carried on our day hike.  Not by much, but a few kilograms makes a lot of difference.

Section of the wall near Chollerford

It’s a bit difficult to weigh your pack on a pair of bathroom scales (as you have to hold it to prevent it from falling over), but I reckon mine weighed around 10 kilograms.  Considering they (the experts) reckon that you shouldn’t carry any more than a fifth of your body weight (preferably less), my pack was already the maximum weight I should be carrying.  And, I didn’t have anything that I didn’t need in there – except, possibly, an extra pair of leggings.

Bearing in mind that we didn’t need to carry all of our stuff for the first section of the trail from Bowness-on-Solway to Carlisle (we could leave a large chunk of it at our hotel in Carlisle, where we’d stopped the night before), the first day of experiencing what it’s like to do a long distance walk with a fifth of my body weight on my back was the second day – from Carlisle to Walton.  This was our shortest day  of walking, at just under 12 miles.  Yet it felt like at least 10 miles more by the end!

The descent down into Walton, Hadrian's Wall Path

Hiking with a fully laden 36-litre pack on your back is a very different experience to hiking with a 20-litre day pack!  I’ve never had any issues with my hip flexors in the past (and I do a lot of running!), but I did towards the end of the second section of the Hadrian’s Wall trail.  And this was almost definitely a result of the weight I was carrying for such an extended amount of time.

So, when we arrived at Walton, Jayne and I decided that – with the longest and hilliest stretch of the trail only a day ahead of us – it would probably not be a sensible idea to continue the hike while carrying such a significant amount of weight on our backs.  At the very least, it would take all the fun out of the experience of walking Hadrian’s Wall.  But, of course, the worst case scenario was that we’d sustain injuries that would leave us unable to complete the trail.  And we’d be absolutely gutted if it came to that.

Thirlwall Castle, Hadrian's Wall Path

Consequently, we immediately started Googling the names of some local baggage transfer companies.  For a small fee, these companies will collect your bags from point A and deliver them to point B in time for your arrival.   Hadrian’s Haul offered this service for the cheapest price AND had great reviews, so that’s who we ended up using.

Of course, because we’d not planned to get our baggage transferred, neither of us had brought a day pack with us.  Fortunately, though, we had brought a ultralight dry sack each (to use as a backpack liner in case of wet weather), so we transferred everything we didn’t need for the following day’s walk into our dry sacks – which meant that our actual packs were so much lighter!  And as a result, walking Hadrian’s Wall was so much more enjoyable.

3 | A good breakfast is the most important start to every day

Walking for up to eight hours a day burns a lot of calories.  Couple this with the fact that, once you get out of Carlisle, there aren’t a lot of options available for grabbing food.  The middle section in particular is very remote – so much so that even coffee was difficult to find.  For these reasons, fuelling up on a good, substantial breakfast before you set out is so important.

A full English breakfast

We made sure that the majority of places we stayed at included breakfast in their nightly rate.  And for those that didn’t, there was somewhere nearby where we could purchase breakfast from.

Although B&Bs are not a particularly cheap option (you’re looking at a minimum of £75 per room), you do generally get a massive breakfast included in the price.  We stayed at both Greenacres B&B in Walton and Chesters Bridge B&B in Chollerford and can 100% recommend both of these.

Update, April 2023:  Unfortunately, Chesters Bridge B&B is now closed.  But, more accommodation in and around Chollerfound can be found here.

4 | Although the middle part of the trail is incredibly scenic, the rest, unfortunately, is not

You know all those stunning photos you’ve seen online, of the wall snaking its way across the peaks of grass-covered crags for a seemingly infinite distance ahead?  Of the ruins of centuries old hill forts and castles, and of immense lakes and ancient copses? Well, I can pretty much guarantee you that they’re probably all scenes from the middle section of the trail, between Walton and Chollerford.

Hadrian's Wall between Once Brewed and Chollerford

Because the scenery on the rest of the trail – especially the last two days (if you’re walking from west to east) – is, well, really not that remarkable.  In fact, at times I’d even go so far as to say it’s boring as hell.

What’s more, with the exception of a few excavated pieces either side of the middle section, the wall is largely buried beneath a mound of grass.

If you’re not bothered about being able to say that you’ve walked the entire length of the Hadrian’s Wall trail then I would definitely recommend focussing your attention on the section between Walton and Chollerford, and perhaps skipping the section between Chollerford and Wallsend altogether.

5 | The last mile of every day will be the longest mile you’ve ever walked

A mile is a mile, right?  Not on the Hadrian’s Wall Path!

Jayne and I weren’t the only walkers who noticed that the accuracy of the signage along the route leaves a lot to be desired.  You’ll quite often see a sign pointing towards a village, say, two miles away, and then, when you’ve walked a mile further, another signpost indicating exactly the same distance to said village.

Signpost on the Hadrian's Wall Path

It also didn’t help matters that we couldn’t find a consistent distance recorded, either online or in print, for any of the sections on the route.  So, as we set off every morning, we really had no idea exactly how far we’d be walking.

Consequently, when you think you’re potentially covering the final mile of the day, you may well end up walking an additional two, three or even four miles. To add insult to injury, when you’re tired and your feet hurt, every mile will already feel like at least five.

You have been warned!

6 | Finding cheaper accommodation off the trail may sound good in theory, but it’s not so good in practice

Whilst we had no intentions of attempting to camp on the trail (we’d have the expense of buying all the equipment AND the hassle of having to carry it with us), we did initially plan to to complete the walk as inexpensively as possible – by staying at campsites and in bunkhouses.

However, as a result of COVID-19, many of these establishments either weren’t opening for the season, or they were opening with a reduced number of beds and facilities.  So, our choices were already somewhat limited.  And, in most cases, the cheapest options available to us were a few miles off the trail.

If you plan to walk to your accommodation at the end of the day and back from your accommodation at the start, you’re adding quite a few extra miles on to some already very long days.  If you decide to get a taxi to and from your accommodation, not only is that an additional cost that negates any savings you’ve made on accommodation, but you also have the difficulty of explaining to a local taxi firm exactly where to collect you from (large parts of the trail are very remote!).

Once Brewed, Hadrian's Wall Path

And of course, if your accommodation doesn’t serve food in the evenings, you also have to consider how far you’ll have to walk or how much a taxi will cost in order to find somewhere that does.

Consequently, we ultimately made the decision to place convenience over cost, and in hindsight that was absolutely the right decision to make.  All the places we stayed at along the trail (with the exception of our hotel in Carlisle) were literally right on the trail.  Trust me when I tell you that, when you’re actually walking Hadrian’s Wall and not simply drawing out plans to do so, staying as close to the trail as possible will be a much higher priority than saving a few pounds here and there.

7 | If you want to avoid walking into the prevailing winds, make sure you hike from west to east

For some reason still unbeknownst to me, most people seem to walk the wall from east to west.  Pretty much all the blog posts and articles I’d read prior to planning the hike were written by people who had done just that.

And I get it – Bowness-on-Solway is a much nicer location to finish the hike than Wallsend is.  Grabbing a celebratory pint or cup of coffee in a a pretty little seaside village with some scenic coastal views is a much more appealing prospect than simply posing for a photo next to a bronze statue in Newcastle’s industrial suburbs.

Bronze sculpture of a Roman Centurion, Segedunum

However, if you take the whole journey into consideration rather than just the destination, then it makes more sense (in my humble opinion) to walk the route from west to east.  The reason? The prevailing winds blow from west to east, so if you happen to be unlucky with the weather (this is the UK: rain is common, even in summer), you’ll be walking into the cold winds and rain if you start from the east.

8 | If you want to look around the Roman forts, you’ll need to book a timed appointment

First up, if you want to be able to have a proper look around the Roman forts (Birdoswald, Housesteads, Chesters and Vindolanda are the most interesting and best preserved), then you’ll need to make some very early starts.  Or be prepared for some very late arrivals at your destination.  Or both, if you’re a proper history buff.

Secondly, you need to book a timed appointment in order to enter the forts.

This presents a bit of an issue because, when you’re walking Hadrian’s Wall, you never really know what sort of time you’re going to arrive where.  This is partly as a result of the issues described in point 5, but largely because it’s difficult to judge how long it will take you to walk each and every mile you cover.  Factors such as the gradient and surface of the terrain, how tired you are and how many times you stop along the way (to take photographs, grab a coffee, appreciate the view or simply take the weight off your feet for a while) all play a part in determining how long it will take you to cover any given section of the trail.

Birdoswald Roman Fort, Hadrian's Wall

My only advice – in order to avoid a big rush or a long wait – is to wait until you’re reasonably close to the fort you wish to visit, and then to jump online and see if you can secure a place.  If you’d rather not risk there being no places available, just be aware that if you book in advance, you will lose your money if you cannot make it in time for the slot that you’ve reserved.

9 | You’ll pass through a lot of fields with cows in.  Cows can be dangerous, be careful!

Fortunately I was already aware of this prior to walking Hadrian’s Wall.  Jayne and I got chased by cows on one of our walks in Shropshire earlier on this summer.  It’s definitely up there among the most scary moments of my life.

You see, I’d always assumed that you had to do something to provoke them in order for cows to chase you – like getting between a mother and her calf or having a dog with you.  That is absolutely not the case!  When Jayne and I were chased, there was not a calf or dog in sight; just the two of us walking through a field a good 50-100 metres from where the herd of young bullocks were gathered, before they began to chase us.

Advice seems to be to ensure that you have an exit route figured out before you enter the field and to stick to the established path, if at all possible.  Running is not recommended, as it will spur the cows on.  However, Jayne and I ended up doing just that because when we stopped, the cows didn’t.  Hiking poles can be a useful weapon if they do get too close.

Cows in fields, Hadrian's Wall

Fortunately, all the cows we encountered on the Hadrian’s Wall trail seemed pretty disinterested in us, but I thought it was important to mention the dangers, in case you were completely oblivious to them – just as I was six months ago.  If you want to avoid walking through fields when cows have calves, then don’t walk the trail in spring or early summer.

10 | When you get to Wallsend, you’ll wish you had organised your days better so you could’ve made it all the way to Tynemouth

When Jayne and I initially planned this adventure, we didn’t even consider walking all the way to Tynemouth; walking Hadrian’s Wall (all 84 miles of it) sounded like enough of an achievement.

However, what we hadn’t anticipated, when we finally arrived at Segedunum (Wallsend),  was that the cafe, museum, parts of the wall and the Roman Baths would all be closed (as a result of COVID-19) – which made the whole experience feel like a bit of an anti-climax.  There was hardly anyone around; just a sculpture of a Roman centurion to congratulate us on our achievement.

Not wanting to simply catch the train straight back to Newcastle (where we were staying that night), we decided to hop on the metro to Tynemouth, in order to enjoy a celebratory coffee on the seafront.  There we met the couple we’d bumped into several times along the trail, who had been carrying all their camping gear with them.  They’d walked all the way to Tynemouth.  Coast to coast.

Tynemouth Castle, Northumberland

It was at that point that the idea of walking that final section immediately became so much more significant.  Yes, Jayne and I had achieved what we’d set out to do; we’d walked the entire length of the Hadrian’s Wall trail. Yet somehow we felt as though we’d failed, because we hadn’t walked the entire breadth of the country.

In our defense, we had covered A LOT of ground by the time we reached Segedunum.  Ok, so it may have only been a further 5.3 miles to Tynemouth, but when you’ve already walked 16.8 miles on a pair of incredibly tired feet, five miles is a long way!  The couple we’d spoke to had started their final day in Newburn, so they’d only walked 15 miles by the time they got to Tynemouth.  In retrospect, if I did it all over again, I’d organise my days better so that I could make it all the way to Tynemouth.

Walking Hadrian’s Wall | Further Reading

If you thought that walking 84 miles over six days was enough of a challenge, a blogger recently got in touch with me to tell me that he’d run the entire length of the Hadrian’s Wall Path in just three days!  He did it to raise money for St Leonard’s Hospice in York, who cared for his late wife.

Hadrian’s Wall appeared on my hikes in England wish list, that I published in January.  I hadn’t anticipated that I’d be able to tick it off that list quite so soon, but with foreign travel continuing to be an incredibly difficult and somewhat risky endeavor, I have taken the opportunity to explore my home country in more depth this year.  I’ll be publishing a lot more content based around UK travel in the upcoming months, so make sure you’re subscribed to my posts (scroll down to the very bottom of this one to do so) if you’d like to read them.

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  • Reply Andrew Scott October 1, 2020 at 2:23 PM

    Hi, I’m Andy. With my friend Margaret, I walked the Hadrian’s Wall path in 2017 west to east. Our Itinerary was Bowness to Carlisle, to Brampton, to Gilsland to Twice Brewed , to Chollerford, to Heddon on the Wall. We finished at Heddon as we only live 2 miles away and the line of the wall runs past my front door. I agree the run in to Wallsend is nothing special, but remember that’s where the Romans decided to stop. I see you stopped at Chesters Bridge B&B in Chollerford. Paul and Jane are a nice couple. Did you like my two paintings of the wall up in the bedrooms.? We are hoping to do it again next year. It was an enjoyable 6 days, and in my retired state, it gets me out of the house. Thanks for this blog, some useful info for the novice. Enjoy your travels. Andy.

    • Reply Kiara Gallop October 2, 2020 at 9:22 PM

      Yes! We actually complimented Paul and Jane on all their lovely Hadrian’s Wall paintings 🙂 They told us the story of a gentleman they’d met just before they opened the B&B, who was an artist and gave them a painting (or two?) to hang on the wall when they did so. Maybe that was you?

  • Reply MalcolmD October 2, 2020 at 4:22 PM

    Great article… tucked away for future reference!

  • Reply Deborah Patterson October 10, 2020 at 2:48 PM

    What a brilliantly comprehensive post, and what an experience. Really good tip to note that even being in generally good shape with regular day hikes doesn’t necessarily prepare you for walking six days on the trot.
    Deborah Patterson recently posted…Self-catering Holiday Meal PlannerMy Profile

    • Reply Kiara Gallop October 12, 2020 at 12:22 PM

      Ahh, thank you! Glad you enjoyed it 🙂 I think being in good shape does prepare you (and day hikes are an important part of training), but yes, it’s a completely different ball game walking six consecutive days!

      • Reply John Ashton December 10, 2023 at 9:00 PM

        Hi, it was great to read about your Hadrians Wall walk. We are planning to complete it Easter 2024.
        One question I have is did you drive to Solway and leave a car, if so then how did you get back to your car?

        • Reply Kiara Gallop December 20, 2023 at 1:28 PM

          Hi John, thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my post 🙂 No, we didn’t drive to Solway; we caught the train to Carlisle and then got a taxi to Solway to start the walk (there are buses but, from my recollection, they either left at 6am or not until around 9:30/10ish, which didn’t work for us). We then caught a train home from Newcastle Upon Tyne at the end of the walk.

  • Reply Emma October 10, 2020 at 6:20 PM

    What a great post. I’ve never walked the whole length of the wall but done so many parts of it. I really want to do this hike. I grew up here in Carlisle and have never done which I think needs to change. Great tips, and I agree, if you don’t need to carry your stuff then don’t. I would probably stay at some of the B&Bs or pub/hotels along the way as a better plan than camping, for me personally at least. Lovely pictures. I’m planning my trip right now!

    • Reply Kiara Gallop October 12, 2020 at 12:30 PM

      Yes, I can’t imagine how much of a grueling experience it would be to carry a load of camping gear every day! I guess it depends why you’re doing the walk – if you’re treating it as an endurance challenge then carrying all your gear is part of that, but we wanted to actually enjoy the experience. And as we’d been unable to travel overseas (damn COVID!), we had a little more flexibility in our budget to pay for comfortable B&Bs close to the trail 🙂

  • Reply Josy A October 11, 2020 at 12:35 AM

    This is such a good post! I would looove to do this…although I think you are right, it would be best to arrange luggage transfers, so that we wouldn’t have to lug everything around!

    We did a LOT of hiking this summer. I found that early in the summer, hiking for 4-5 days in a row was exhausting. But later, once I was a bit stronger, I really enjoyed hiking for multiple days. Part of it was just knowing that I can do it (if that makes sense…) I bet if the two of you did another walk now, it’d be easier.
    Josy A recently posted…Twin Falls (& Laughing Falls) – Yoho National ParkMy Profile

    • Reply Kiara Gallop October 12, 2020 at 12:34 PM

      Ahh, that’s good to hear that your body does get used to walking multiple days in a row, because I REALLY want to do the Camino Primitivo trail in northern Spain and that takes about 13 days!!

      • Reply Julie February 5, 2021 at 10:05 PM

        Hi Kiara, Many thanks for this really helpful post! Some great tips to take on board, my husband & I are hoping to do it later this year. Did you do a post about the actual trip too, ie we are particularly interested in where you stayed each night and also wondered if you could tell us the name of the guidebook you used. Oh and I completely agree about the cows! They are scary and not to be underestimated!!

        • Reply Kiara Gallop February 7, 2021 at 5:57 PM

          So pleased you found it helpful, Julie 🙂

          I am planning to write a comprehensive post about the trip. However, due to the pandemic and current travel restrictions in place, I didn’t think that now would be an appropriate time to publish it 🙁 Once things begin to open up again, I’ll make a start on it. So, keep your eyes peeled!

          The guidebook I used was the latest Trailblazer one, and I would thoroughly recommend it. Here is the link if you’d like to grab yourself a copy: https://amzn.to/3q2WC8o

      • Reply Martin Kriewaldt February 23, 2023 at 11:46 PM

        Hi Kiara
        I am a lot older (and heavier) than you. I agree the preparation to walk consecutive days is hard.
        For Camino or Francigena length walks, my tip is to start slowly 10-15 klms max on the first two days and around 10 but not much more on day 3. Repeat for the next 3.
        From then on the consecutive walking becomes very easy.
        I used to do a rest day but found that I spent much of it walking around anyway. Not an issue if you are in an interesting town, but difficult in a tiny village. The small distance provides a sense of achievement.

        • Reply Kiara Gallop March 2, 2023 at 10:49 AM

          Good advice Martin! Yes, I think we tried to do too much too quickly, because we’d given ourselves just six days to complete the trail. It is tricky planning an itinerary for multi-day hikes where large parts of the trail are quite remote and accommodation is limited, as my friend have I have recently discovered when organising a 10-day hike along Turkey’s Lycian Way! This time we have erred on the side of caution though and kept daily distances on the low side. We’re also carrying the absolute bare minimum and washing clothes as we go along. Fingers crossed it will work out better this way! It’s all a learning curve 🙂

  • Reply Shalzmojo October 11, 2020 at 2:15 AM

    Wow Kiara thats some strength and preserverance you guys had for this trail. I admire you for that and your practical tips are absolutely bang on. You seemed to have witnessed the world of pain first hand and consequently this post is so much heartfelt and a life saver for many who will attempt the trail after you. Loved the pics and scenery.

    • Reply Kiara Gallop October 12, 2020 at 12:37 PM

      Ahh, thank you 🙂 Yes, I wanted to make the post as useful as I could for potential Hadrian’s Wall walkers – the kind of post that I wish I’d read before attempting the hike. So I’m really pleased to hear that you think I succeeded 🙂

  • Reply Krista October 11, 2020 at 6:16 AM

    So good to know! It’s on my bucket list to walk Hadrian’s Wall but I haven’t managed it yet. Maybe I’ll just walk the middle, more scenic part instead!

    • Reply Kiara Gallop October 12, 2020 at 12:38 PM

      The middle section is definitely the best section 🙂 I quite enjoyed the section between Bowness-on-Solway and Walton as well, but the latter (eastern) end of the trail was soul destroying in parts!

  • Reply Angela January 25, 2021 at 6:04 PM

    We discovered Hadrian’s Wall on a trip to England in 2016 and knew we wanted to come back and hike it. Our plan is to do this hike after our daughter graduates from high school in 2022. This was a great post. I hope Covid will be a distant memory by then. How did it affect your trip? Did you use an app like All Trails?

    • Reply Kiara Gallop January 28, 2021 at 10:21 PM

      I hope so too! My friend and I were very lucky to have squeezed the walk in during the few months in which the lockdown restrictions were eased here in England last year. Unfortunately Covid meant that our accommodation options were somewhat limited (bunkhouses were either closed or operating with limited beds and facilities) but other than that, it didn’t really affect our trip. We did notice the trail was ridiculously quiet, but we didn’t mind that at all 🙂

      As regards All Trails, we didn’t actually end up using an app – simply because the trail was really well marked and the guidebook we’d purchased also had some great maps and directions in it. We recorded our daily routes and distances using our activity trackers (I’ve got a Fitbit Ionic), linked to Strava.

  • Reply Jeanie February 9, 2021 at 1:48 PM

    What kind of snacks did you take? And what about bathroom accommodations?

    • Reply Kiara Gallop February 10, 2021 at 1:40 PM

      We had an abundant supply of malt loaf (individually wrapped portions = great little energy boost) and cereal bars, but we rarely had to dip into our stash because we usually found somewhere to stop for coffee and cake en route. The exception being the middle section, which is a lot more remote. By ‘bathroom accommodations,’ I assume you mean toilet facilities?? 😀 Again, no problem when we could find a pub or coffee shop en route but otherwise we had to use nature’s bathroom – which normally involved hiding behind a tree in wooded areas or behind a hedge on the edge of a field!!

  • Reply Dave February 24, 2021 at 5:00 PM

    Kiara,really useful article. I’m planning on doing the Wall walk myself later on this year once things have all opened up again, and have the Trailblazer guide as a starting point. Also planning to do west to east. Some great photos hopefully the weather will enable me to do the same

  • Reply James April 15, 2021 at 11:03 PM

    Very useful insight, thank you for sharing. We are walking the wall this summer with friends (late July), we had originally planned to walk point to point and camp at sites alongthe way (campervans), but the problem of campsite availability soon became evident (the effect of coming out of lockdown ). Our revised plan because of this, is we have now booked a site about half way along -and will use public transport to get to and from the sections of the walk. It’ll add a bit more time to the process but it means we can leave our campers on site and have a pint whilst waiting for the bus/train. We’ll be walking 10~13 miles a day (approx) and carrying day sacks. My wife is training on the Shropshire Way at weekends. I know what you mean about cows, they are generally placid but can be quite curious. Rams also, plus they can be tricky to spot in a field of sheep! . Really looking forward to it.

    • Reply Kiara Gallop May 16, 2021 at 2:47 PM

      Thanks for reading, James! Glad you found it useful 🙂

      I think your idea about having a base and then walking sections from there could work well – I’m doing a similar thing when I’m walking part of the Wales Coast Path later this month. From what I’ve heard, public transport is pretty reliable along Hadrian’s Wall.

      Incidentally, the Shropshire Way is my neck of the woods. There’s some beautiful places along the trail, so I hope your wife has been enjoying her training 🙂

    • Reply Al July 27, 2022 at 2:42 PM

      Hi James – great idea about having a base!

      I’m curious about your experience; I’m planning to do the walk later this year and really like the idea – especially given the dearth of campsites at either end of the trail.

      Do you have any tips / resources that you would recommend regarding public transport? I’m thinking particularly for the early mornings.


  • Reply Jacs May 16, 2021 at 7:15 AM

    Kiera – thanks for this incredibly informative post. My husband and I and one dog will be walking the wall West to East in June. Having walked non-stop for the past year daily 8-9 miles, I think our feet are prepared and up to it, we’ve booked with Contours who will haul our stuff overnight! We’ve no intention of backpacking. I think you’ve covered most of my queries, particularly to do with loo pitstops, food and feet….thank you so much! So helpful.

    • Reply Kiara Gallop May 16, 2021 at 2:42 PM

      You’re very welcome, Jacs! Yes, you definitely sound like you’re well prepared for the distances, I think our mistake was attempting to carry all our staff when we didn’t need to! If we’d have walked just with day-size packs I think we’d have coped a lot better 🙂 Hey, you live and learn, don’t you! I hope you enjoy the walk and that the weather holds out for you 🙂

  • Reply Mark July 2, 2021 at 3:21 AM

    Loved this post – great photos, great writing, great advice! I must have read it three times over. Quite a few years ago, we ended a Lake District holiday by a car tour along most of Hadrian’s Wall starting from Carlisle and visited the Birdoswald and Vindolanda forts (didn’t have to pre-book tickets then – guess we were was lucky!), but I’ve always wanted to hike it. Years ago I did a hiking tour with Towpath Treks (been defunct for some time) that planned hikes along the canal towpaths, and arranged B&Bs and baggage transfer so you only had to carry a day pack. Do you know if there is something like that available for Wadrian’s Wall? It is sometimes hard to find the good ones from Canada.

    PS: sorry, don’t want to be that guy, but it’s “nigh on impossible” (not “nye”). I tried to resist, but .. could.. not…. (sorry, again)

    • Reply Kiara Gallop July 15, 2021 at 2:25 PM

      No, THANK YOU! I appreciate that 🙂 I hadn’t even noticed, how bad is that?? I’ll get it changed now.

      So glad you enjoyed the post 🙂 Yes, I think there are quite a few travel agencies who can organise everything for you (so, all you have to do is turn up!), but we wanted to do most of it independently – just gives us a bit more freedom and choice, and saves us money. I know Mac’s Adventure offer Hadrian’s Wall walking adventures, but I’ve never used them so unfortunately, I cannot comment on how good they are. They seem to get glowing reviews online though 🙂

  • Reply Sue August 2, 2021 at 3:34 PM

    Hi Kiara, Excellent post -thank you.Really useful to have this kind of information . So it that vein can I ask were midges an issue at all?
    I am considering walking it on my own in late September /October but the midges would ‘do’ for me as I react very badly when bitten.

    • Reply Kiara Gallop August 16, 2021 at 10:02 AM

      Hi Sue, I feel your pain – midges love me too! Recently spent a few days in the Lake District camping right on the shores of Derwentwater and came away with about 15 on my face (the rest of me was covered!). We didn’t have any problems with midges (or any other biting insects for that matter) on Hadrian’s Wall though, and we walked it at the end of August (which is midge season). The only reason I can think of as to why we didn’t is that we weren’t near water very much of the time and at night, we were staying in B&Bs/hotels/hostels rather than camping.

  • Reply Eileen August 27, 2021 at 3:05 PM

    After many years of “we must walk the wall” this year we finally managed it. But as we are getting on a bit “decrepit” we took our time, but the pleasure we got from achieving this was immense from the people we met on the way, the scenery and the sense of history. Each stage showed us different landscapes and every mile was worth it. I wouldn’t have said the east side was boring – just a bit different. We walked west to east also and agree the most dramatic parts are in the middle section but the whole walk was great.
    An excellent map that shows each mile, clear route, places of interest, pubs etc is – Hadrian’s Wall Path A-Z Adventure Atlas. Well worth getting – really good for planning.
    Loved reading your article.
    From a couple of “Wall Walkers”

  • Reply Sie January 8, 2022 at 9:16 AM

    Hi, thanks for the info. Is it a flat easy route, I have double vision so struggle with steps and definitely need a hand rail?

    • Reply Kiara Gallop January 16, 2022 at 9:26 PM

      Unfortunately, I think you may struggle with this trail then – although the beginning and the end bits are relatively flat, the middle section is not and I don’t recall seeing very many handrails to accompany the steps 🙁

  • Reply Simon FitzPatrick January 10, 2022 at 10:10 AM

    Good post and agree with key points! I’ve done the wall 4 times – most recently last Spring with friends and we did Lanercost to Chollerford, for reasons outlined above – it’s the most scenic bit and if you have limited time it’s a leisurely 4 day walk. Couple of other things:
    1. Most of the walk is on hard surfaces – walking trainers much more effective than old school boots
    2. There is a fair bit of stone pitching (steps) in the central section as the path undulates quote sharply up and down, so if you have slightly vulnerable knees, look out for alternative paths a few yards back from the Wall
    3. Make sure you have plenty of water – there is nothing much between Walltown and Housesteads or Housesteads to Chollerford
    4. Look out for ‘honesty’ boxes – usually contain water, biscuits. choc etc. – lifesavers!
    5. Baggage carriers essential, esp if you camp – my favourite is Hadrian Hauls but there are loads..
    6. Most B&Bs (and some campsites) will do you a packup lunch – worth every penny….
    6. Don’t treat it as a race – there is loads to see and do – make the most of it..!
    7. Just my opinion obvs…enjoy!!

    • Reply Kiara Gallop January 16, 2022 at 9:23 PM

      Those are really helpful tips Simon – thanks ever so much for sharing 🙂

  • Reply Peter L January 15, 2022 at 1:21 PM

    Great post – thank you. Thinking of doing this trek in March and definitely like the idea of coast to coast. Tip for bag transfer is great – thank you. In terms of flexibility would you recommend just calling up accommodation en route or pre-book?
    (followed you on Twitter)

    • Reply Kiara Gallop January 16, 2022 at 9:21 PM

      Ahh, thanks for the follow 🙂 I would definitely recommend pre-booking – especially if you want a private room rather than a bed in a bunkhouse. We found that accommodation options (particularly those actually on the trail or pretty close to it) were not that plentiful, and many of them are only small B&Bs with very few rooms available.

  • Reply Cindy Dreibelbis January 15, 2022 at 8:48 PM

    Quite a motivational take on the wall! We plan to come from the US…either mid May or September. Would love to view your revised itinerary thru to Tynemouth. Have you posted?

    • Reply Kiara Gallop January 16, 2022 at 9:17 PM

      Not yet, unfortunately – I completely lost my blogging mojo through lockdown :-/ I have recently found it again though, so I hope to publish it within the next few months (along with a load of other hiking guides too!) 🙂

  • Reply Roberto January 20, 2022 at 11:33 AM

    Thank you for your useful tips. I am planning to do this trip west to east and will probably try to reach Tynemouth on my last day on foot . I will take a hiking pole in case cows misbehave.

  • Reply Matt the Tasmaniac. February 16, 2022 at 2:27 AM

    Hi there. Just a tip on weighing your pack: simply weigh yourself while wearing it, then weigh yourself without it and minus the two. Great for weighing your pets, too.

    • Reply Kiara Gallop February 16, 2022 at 12:41 PM

      That’s a great idea actually – thanks! 🙂

  • Reply Sarah Lewis-Briggs March 29, 2022 at 8:40 AM

    Great post – you’re so right, the middle section is definitely the best. I live near Lanercost, so have a couple of running routes along the wall, but recently ran from Housesteads to Walltown Crags (there was an easterly wind that day), which was fab.

    • Reply Kiara Gallop March 30, 2022 at 12:09 PM

      What wonderful landscapes to run through! We did actually see a couple of runners along the trail when we were walking it, and I remember thinking if only I was that capable of running hills! I haven’t yet really ventured much into the realm of trail/fell running, but I’m determined I’ll get there! 🙂

  • Reply Brian Chapman April 25, 2022 at 5:00 PM

    Thanks for posting. I just did a similar distance on the Camino Frances so I hear you about the impact multiple days of walking can have. I did the baggage transfer there too, and I have to say that the ability to do that along Hadrians Wall and potentially go coast to coast is seriously tempting. Next year perhaps.

  • Reply Craig Sampson May 5, 2022 at 2:21 AM

    My wifePamela and I are leaving Melbourne,Australia this weekend and will be tackling the wall early June.Your article is interesting and contains lots of helpful tips.We have organised our 7 day walk through Mickledore Travel ,who have proved to be very helpful and professional.

    • Reply Kiara Gallop May 18, 2022 at 3:08 PM

      So pleased to hear you enjoyed my article Craig 🙂 I hope you enjoy the walk and that the weather is kind to you. I’ve heard that Mickledore Travel get good reviews, so hopefully they’ll look after you well 🙂

  • Reply Carolyn Wolfe June 14, 2022 at 12:39 AM

    Great post. I have wanted to do this for years and planned on Fall 2020. Oops. Is there cellphone reception along the wall? Did you just recharge at night or carry a power charger? All I need is someone to do it with me! I live in Boise, Idaho, USA

    • Reply Kiara Gallop June 14, 2022 at 4:16 PM

      Yes, I had lots of 2020 trips cancelled/postponed too 🙁 From what I can remember, we had cellphone reception along most of the trail, as we were using our phones to navigate the parts that weren’t particularly clearly marked. My friend and I both had our own power banks as well as recharging phones at night (due to it being in the midst of Covid-19, we stayed in private rooms so we had easy access to charging points) – we weren’t taking any risks! Fingers crossed you find someone to walk it with you 🙂

  • Reply Michael July 1, 2022 at 8:48 PM

    Just re reading your post after completing the hike. I was camping most of the way which gave me alot of flexibility. No problem finding campsites as I went along. Two things you mentioned that I wish I paid more attention to. First food was hard to find. Didn’t bring my cooking gear thinking I would just eat at pubs and cafes. That didn’t always work as many campsites had no food, or even worse no morning coffee! The second thing was COWS! I got chased twice! First time they ran in front of me and blocked my path. I slowly tried circling around them but they ran ahead of me. This continued until I got to the gate which I quickly jumped over. Always made sure I had an exit whenever I saw cows after that which came in handy the second time I was chased! But overall a wonderful trip. The middle section was spectacular!

    • Reply Kiara Gallop July 14, 2022 at 1:36 PM

      Yes, the middle section is amazing, isn’t it! I’d happily walk that bit all over again 🙂

      Jees, cows can be evil, can’t they? Were they young bullocks? As I think they just like playing with us! Glad you escaped unscathed!

      And yes, I’m with you on the morning coffee – I don’t function without it 🙂 I was hoping there would be more cafes/food trucks open along the trail, now that we’re coming out the other side of Covid (hopefully!), but it sounds like finding food is still a bit of a problem…I think we just learned to stop and eat/drink whenever we found somewhere (even if we weren’t hungry) and we did have plenty of emergency energy bars and malt loaf on us 🙂

  • Reply Michael (Different one) August 23, 2022 at 6:44 PM

    Hello Kiara,
    Really good article. My friend and I are planning to do this, initially this year but things get in the way.
    I’m an experienced walker and wild camper, he’s not! This will be effectively his first long daily (and probably even first day) hike.
    This will give him a lot to think about. Yes we could camp on the trail, but when you do that the weight begins to really go up. Three days wild romping across Dartmoor (only thing not carried is water – there’s really no point, there’s water everywhere), can comfortably touch 15–>17 kgs. He knows it has to be done gently. Well done.
    Hope your feet weren’t too sore.
    Regards, Michael.

    • Reply Kiara Gallop September 7, 2022 at 8:28 AM

      Hi Michael 🙂 Good on your friend for attempting this, when he’s not done a lot of hiking before! But, I think it’s probably a wise idea for him to at least do a long day hike beforehand – just to see how he gets on with all his gear and boots. And yes, I totally agree – the weight does really take it’s toll when you’re carrying it over these sorts of distances. I really admire all of those camping and carrying all their gear, but after hiking initially with around 10KG on my back (a fifth of my body weight!), I have no desire to do the same unless I absolutely have to. Good luck to you both!

  • Reply Constance Wood October 3, 2022 at 9:52 PM

    Just returned from hiking Hadrian’s Wall, Bowness to Wallsend and loved your article because we can agree on pretty much everything you have said, especially about the mileage and how tired one’s feet get. We put in an extra day in order to see Vindolanda. We also did the whole walk in 10 days. Four of the days I walked in regular walking shoes to give my feet a rest from the boots. We did B&B’s the whole way with a luggage transfer. I had a lot in my pack, but ended up being very happy to have all the clothing that I stuffed in there. I had a small thermos of soup every day, another way to get liquids in. Probably didn’t need two water bottles which added weight. thanks for the article – it was like reliving the trip again! If I did the trip again and wanted to complete the full mileage, I’d do from Wallsend to Chester’s Fort (in walking shoes), then get to Bowness and do the rest from there walking east. That way, I’d end with having just come through the best sections and not having three more days of slogging to Wallsend. Just my opinion.

    • Reply Kiara Gallop October 15, 2022 at 3:00 PM

      Ahh, so pleased you could relate to my experiences, Constance! Yeah, we were a bit gutted about not making it to Vindolanda to be honest, but we just couldn’t spare the extra time. Was it worth it? And yeah, totally agree with your opinion about how best to walk the wall, because it was a bit soul destroying seeing all the best bits in the first half, but at the same time we didn’t want to walk in the opposite direction due to the prevailing winds.

  • Reply James Derry December 27, 2022 at 5:34 PM

    Apparently it is also recommended to walk from West to the East so you avoid staring into the setting sun at day’s end of journey. And have the wind at your back.

  • Reply Nick Waite March 9, 2023 at 8:46 AM

    Kiara – Many thanks for taking the time and effort to collate your thoughts on the walk and put them out there in the public domain for us to benefit from. My wife and I are planning to do the wall in the Autumn of this year and your comments have gone a long way to assisting us in planning.

    • Reply Kiara Gallop March 29, 2023 at 2:47 PM

      So please to hear that, Nick! I really hope you enjoy the walk and that the weather is kind to you 🙂

  • Reply Wim van Gruisen April 18, 2023 at 12:52 PM

    Hi Kiara,
    Thanks for the info. I’ll be trekking along Hadrian’s Wall next month myself, so this information is good to know.
    In planning my trip, I decided to neglect all the advice and stubbornly walk East to West. The National Weather Service tells me that the prevailing winds blow not that hard in May, and I hope that they’re right. The reasons of walking East to West are twofold:
    – Those extra ten miles. I’ll be starting at South Shields and the Arbeia Roman fortress, so that I’ll be indeed walking coast to coast. By putting those extra few miles at the start, I’m making sure that I’ll actually be doing them, instead of calling it a day at Sededunum at the end of a six-day walk.
    – You mentioned it – the stretch between Wallsend and Chollerford looks to be very boring. I’d rather have such a stretch at the start of the route than at the end.

    And yeah, six day hikes can be exhausting. I’ve planned a day of rest in the middle, at Once Brewed, and may be visiting one or two fortresses there if the weather is nice.

    • Reply Kiara Gallop April 19, 2023 at 9:49 AM

      Sounds like you’ve got it all planned out really well 🙂 I must admit that, finishing those last miles was hard going, knowing that I’d already walked the best bits of the path. And, as you’ve read on the blog, finishing at Segedunum was really underwhelming. Bowness-on-Solway is a much nicer end point 🙂

  • Reply Dave Goldsmith August 7, 2023 at 5:49 PM

    my wife and I walked the wall in 2018, the month before my 65 birthday, we walked the scenic middle bit with an American we met, we are still friends. Like you we walked West to East, we looked at so many rain battered faces that convinced us we were walking the right way. We also walked a bit of the wall with people who were on their second time, the main reason is they did not allow themselves enough time to visit the best museums etc along the way. We night stopped at Twice brewed for two nights, spending our rest day at Vindolanda, still walking over seven miles. Having completed the walk we stayed at Whitley bay, And enjoying a walk into Tynemouth spending another day walking and enjoying Newcastle. We had some wet weather, we noted that some of the steeper climbs had foot holds that were better suited for people coming the other way. Another positive of West to East is you end up with much better and varied ways to get away from. it was also nice to chat with people who had just finished at Bowness-on-Solway, the night before we set off, there was a nice buzz in the pub, we also got some good pointers with the people we chatted to.

  • Reply Elizabeth Agnew November 27, 2023 at 6:58 PM

    This was such a lovely read. We walked the wall for our honeymoon in 2019 and I was feeling so nostalgic for it today that I stumbled upon this page.
    Since we wanted to make our trip more leisurely than challenging, we broke the walk down over 6 days with an extra day right in the middle at the Twice Brewed Inn, which let us book in to see Vindolanda on our rest day. What a great experience that ended up being, not just for the extra time to give our feet a good rest but to wake up looking at Sycamore Gap two days in a row! I loved Twice Brewed so very much.
    We also did the east-west route and I’m so glad we did, because in hindsight if we’d had to walk the last chunk on the hard cement of Newcastle, I might have just peaced out early, haha. We were lucky and only had one bad weather day, but I don’t remember it being too unpleasant.
    Remember that stretch of flat land between Carlisle and Bowness? We did that on our last day and it was full, I mean FULL, of cows mating. There were so many getting down to business I’d completely lost count, put my head down, and trudged through. What an experience that was. It made me really hope they were distracted enough not to notice us and we scooted right through.
    We plan on going back for our 10th anniversary to do the hike again and I’m sure I’ll be reading this page again when the time comes!

    • Reply Kiara Gallop January 3, 2024 at 8:25 PM

      Ahh, so glad you enjoyed my post 🙂 Your idea of breaking the walk into two parts and visiting Vindolanda in between sounds perfect. We would have considered doing the same too, had we had more time available. But, when you have to fit all your travels into a very limited amount of annual leave allocation, saving a day here and there means an extra trip later in the year 🙂 We loved Twice Brewed as well – and it was so nice having such a warm and welcoming pub in the middle of all those incredible landscapes!

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