A Day Out to Hadrian's Wall
If you stay with us here at Beacon Hill Farm then we highly recommend that you make the effort to see Hadrian’s Wall, one of the most famous Roman frontiers and literally on our doorstep. From the farm it’s a leisurely drive of just over 30 miles and should take a little under an hour. The drive itself is very picturesque and you will travel through rolling countryside, passing Wallington Hall, a National Trust site worthy of a morning or afternoon of your time also.
Housesteads is one of the best places to experience what life may have been like in Roman times, set on an escarpment on Hadrian’s Wall itself with fantastic panoramic views. A bright sunny day is always preferable but sometimes cloudier, more moody conditions give an added sense of drama and one wonders what life must have been like for the average soldier living here all those years ago.
Roman Soldiers!Kids will love tramping around the fort and if you’ve already been to the visitor centre and shop then you may have already adorned them with the appropriate head-gear and armour. As you can see in the picture from some friends of ours, their two little Roman Soldiers were ready to take on any barbarians that happened their way!
There are plenty of places to sit and have a picnic if taking your own food but the visitor centre does have an indoor seating area and you can buy drinks and snacks.
If visiting Housesteads then you must also take the time to go and see one of the UK’s most famous trees, also situated right alongside the wall. We are referring of course to the iconic tree at Sycamore Gap, famously featured in the 1991 film Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. This fantastic specimen, perfectly located in a dramatic dip alongside the wall, was recently named as England’s Tree of The Year and went on to compete in a wider competition against trees from all over Europe. It came a respectable 5th from a field of 16 (no pun intended).
There is in fact a circular 8-mile walk starting at Housesteads fort and working westwards towards Steel Rigg car park. Sycamore Gap is about 1.5 miles if walking from Housesteads so most people should manage this easily, provided you’ve got appropriate footwear (there are some steep bits!). Alternatively, if you’re not visiting Housesteads, you can approach Sycamore Gap from Steel Rigg car park and walk eastwards along the well-marked route. From here it’s a little less than a mile with wonderful views of Crag Lough along the way.
If you really want to cram a lot of Roman activities into one day then you could also make the short hop along the road to Vindolanda, another Roman fort slightly to the south of Hadrian’s Wall but no less impressive. Here there is small but interesting Roman Army Museum and one of Britain’s Top Treasures, the Writing Tablets. Discovered on-site they are the oldest surviving handwritten documents in Britain!
There are ongoing excavations here and if the weather is good and the archeologists are working then you may get to watch them unearthing artefacts while you’re there. We’ve certainly heard of this happening and this would be a real treat, especially for kids, seeing something actually coming out of the ground. Similar to Housesteads, Vindolanda also has an on-site café and a little shop where kids (or adults) might want to spend some of their pocket money.
If you do plan to spend the day in the area then there are plenty of places to stop and refuel. One of our regular stop off’s is the Riverside Tea Rooms where you can refuel both the car (as it is a working garage) and your own engines with a hearty snack. On our visits the quiche has been particularly good.
Hexham is not far away and there is far more choice here for lunch or an evening meal. There are plenty of shops and supermarkets also and if keeping the kids entertained is the priority then a visit to the swimming pool at Wentworth Leisure centre might be the perfect end to an historic day!