Recently, Gaurav and I set out to walk the entire length of Hadrian’s Wall. This trail is around 84 miles long, and runs from England’s west to east coast. Although we’ve done day hikes before, this was our very first time doing a multi-day hike. An exciting and daunting prospect!
Do you want to hike Hadrian’s Wall but aren’t sure what to expect or how to go about planning it? In the spirit of adventure, we’ve shared some of our experience hiking Hadrian’s Wall and tips on how to plan your coast-to-coast walk.
What is Hadrian’s Wall?
Hadrian’s Wall, or the Roman Wall, runs along the border between Scotland and England. Emperor Hadrian ordered it to be built in 122 A.D. and the Romans completed the wall in a mere six years. The wall’s purpose was to guard the Roman empires westernmost region from attacks from the north. Today, it’s a beautiful multi-day walk and you can actually hike the length of Hadrian’s Wall! The walk is around 84 miles long and can take on average 7 days to complete.
When is the best time to hike Hadrian’s Wall?
Peak season is between May and October, with the trail busiest during July and August. We walked it at the end of April, just when the season was getting started. This worked well for us because we avoided crowds (and it was easier to book places to stay). BUT it does come with some risk. The weather can be anywhere from really cold to very hot (and everything in between) in April.
If you’re familiar with weather in this part of the world, you know it can be temperamental. We got lucky with warm weather throughout our week hiking Hadrian’s Wall, but there are no guarantees. This is why it’s important to pack light layers and be prepared for rain or sun, no matter what time of year you do the hike.
Of course, there is a higher risk of bad weather early (April and May) and late (September and October) in the season. From November to March, the weather is too wet and cold. It can be also be dangerous to attempt hiking Hadrian’s Wall in the winter.
Which direction should I hike Hadrian’s Wall?
This is one of the major questions you’ll be asking early on in the planning stages for your Hadrian’s Wall walk. Should you walk east to west (Newcastle to Bowness-on-Solway)? Or west to east (Bowness-on-Solway to Newcastle)?
It all comes down to personal preference, as there are pros and cons to each. One of the major pros of hiking Hadrian’s Wall from west to east is that you’ll get the wind at your back. This can make the hike easier. However, you will finish the walk in the more urban setting of Newcastle, as opposed to the quiet and relaxing ambiance of Bowness-on-Solway.
We decided to risk having the wind in our faces and walk east to west, starting in Newcastle and ending in Bowness-on-Solway. We wanted to finish our hike surrounded by nature, and it just didn’t sound appealing to end in a major city like Newcastle. In our opinion, this definitely paid off!
Our first day hiking Hadrian’s Wall was a drag because we were walking through some very urban, crowded settings. I don’t think we would have enjoyed the overall walk as much if this had been our final day. The dreaded wind also wasn’t as bad as we expected. Of course, this could be down to our fitness levels, or simply that the wind happened to not be as strong as it usually is.
Do I have to be fit to hike Hadrian’s Wall?
Most walkers rate Hadrian’s Wall a relatively ‘easy’ hike. The greatest challenges are the crags, especially Steel Rigg. These happen on days three and four of the walk going east to west, and you’ll have to do a lot of climbing and descending. However, we don’t consider ourselves extremely fit people and we managed to walk anywhere from 10-15 miles a day without too much trouble.
We should say that, in the months leading up to the walk, we did do some physical preparation (think lots of leg workouts). We also experienced our fair share of aches and pains while hiking Hadrian’s Wall—especially in our feet. Our bodies did adjust as the hike progressed, but you should expect some soreness. However, as long as you are somewhat fit, you shouldn’t find hiking Hadrian’s Wall to be a huge challenge.
Booking your Hadrian’s Wall walk
There are various options for Hadrian’s Wall, depending on your budget. You can book BnBs along the way, camp out, or do a mix of both! You also have the option have paying to hire a ‘sherpa’. This is essentially a service that will transport your luggage from one location to the next. With a ‘sherpa’ you only have to worry about carrying a day pack each day.
Although wild camping isn’t allowed along Hadrian’s Wall, there are plenty of campsites, and pubs where you can rent a spot to set up your tent for the night. The Hadrian’s Wall Path guidebook is your best friend! It has everything you need to know for planning your hike. You’ll find tips on where to stay, costs, and important sites to see along the way.
You will want to book everything at least 2-3 months in advance. Hadrian’s Wall is an incredibly popular walk and BnBs and even campsites will get booked fast—especially for the peak summer months. We booked our hike in late January through Macs Adventures. They were fantastic and really took away the stress of having to plan out the entire walk ourselves.
If you don’t want to go through an adventure agency, it is very doable to call the BnBs yourself and book them on an individual basis. Again, the guidebook is your friend because it’s full of great suggestions on how to plan out each day’s walk as well as information for BnBs and pubs.
Hopefully these tips are helpful and will get you on track planning your Hadrian’s Wall hike! Stay tuned for upcoming posts with our daily itinerary, must-see sites, and tips on what to do along the trail.