The Ultimate Guide to Hiking Hadrian’s Wall

Hadrians Wall Path Guide

So you’re thinking of hiking Hadrian’s Wall? That’s awesome. Hadrian’s Wall is not only an important part of Anglo-Roman history, but it’s also a wonderful walk that crosses some of England’s most beautiful countryside. And yes, it did inspire The Wall in Game of Thrones.

Hadrian’s Wall Path is a dream for history buffs. Only 84 miles long, the trail is relatively short but packs in a lot of sites: quaint English towns, medieval castles, and, obviously, tons of Roman ruins.

I loved hiking Hadrian’s Wall Path because it’s a hike with creature comforts built-in; you can hike all day, and then retire to a cozy B&B in the evening. There’s nothing better than enjoying a warm meal and a pint after walking all day.

Hadrian’s Wall is not a wilderness trail — which is why I loved it.

Hadrian’s Wall Path

Length: 84 miles

Number of Days: 7

Country: England

Region: Northern England

Difficulty level: Easy

When to walk: April to October

Type: National Trail

I walked Hadrian’s Wall solo in May 2018. I had a fantastic experience, and want to help you do the same.

In this guide, I’ve included everything you need to know about Hadrian’s Wall Path: information on the terrain, suggested itineraries, accommodation, and more.

This post is divided into several sections, so if you’re only interested in a specific part, you can jump straight to it.

A quick overview of Hadrian’s Wall

Hadrian's Wall guide

What is Hadrian’s Wall and where is it located?

Hadrian’s Wall is a defensive fortification built by the Romans. After visiting England in 122 AD, Emperor Hadrian ordered the construction of the wall to keep out the Picts of Scotland (source).

Hadrian’s Wall Path is much newer. Opened in 2003, Hadrian’s Wall Path is an 84-mile trail that stretches across Northern England and follows Hadrian’s Wall as closely as possible.

The path is located in the far north of England; at some points, the path is less than a mile from the Scottish border.

Hadrian's Wall Path Guide
Hadrian’s Wall’s militaristic origins are still visible today. The wall is punctuated by lots of forts, turrets, and milecastles, which are square Roman forts spaced a mile apart from one another (the image above is of a milecastle).

Where does the walk start and end?

The path officially starts in Wallsend, a town five miles east of Newcastle. You can also start the trail in Newcastle, which is what I did.

The walk ends in Bowness-upon-Solway, a small seaside town east of Carlisle. If you follow the whole trail, you’ll literally walk from coast-to-coast.

My Hadrian’s Wall route! I walked west to east, from Newcastle to Carlisle. This took me six days.

Which direction should you walk?

Most people walk Hadrian’s Wall from East to West. The Roman milecastles are numbered from East to West, as that is the direction in which the Romans built the wall (source). The scenery also improves as you go west.

One benefit of walking the other way, from West to East, is that the wind will be blowing at your back, rather than into your face.

The direction you walk is up to you. Personally, I liked walking from East to West for the social aspect; it was easier to meet walking companions, as most walkers I met were going that direction.

How long does the walk take?

The walk takes most people 6-8 days. However, you can divide up the 84 miles however you wish, or just walk a section of it.

How much of Hadrian’s Wall is still left?

At its height, the wall was huge; around 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Now it’s less than half that size, and only 10 miles of the actual wall remain.

Warning – please don’t damage the wall! Because the wall is so old and fragile, it’s important to take precautions with it. NEVER WALK ON THE WALL. And please don’t take a piece of it home with you.

Hadrian's Wall Guide
One of the more intact sections of the wall.

Hadrian’s Wall Walk Difficulty

Hadrian’s Wall trail is fairly easy, and is widely considered to be the easiest of the UK National Trails.

The trail crosses diverse terrain, including moorland, forests, and fields. That being said, the vast majority of the terrain is flat and grassy. This is because the path goes through private farms, so you’re literally walking in pastures next to lambs and sheep.

This is a HUGE benefit for walkers because grass is easy on the knees and back.

At its worst, the terrain was muddy or boggy. There were also some steeper sections, with moderate elevation gains and losses.

See this elevation profile of the trail:

An elevation profile of Hadrian’s Wall. Image source: Hill Walk Tours

Is the trail well-marked?

Very! See the sign below with the white acorn? All you have to do is follow those.

Because the trail is so well-marked, it’s hard to get lost. I only got lost once in six days.

(Extremely dorky) tip – If you ever lose sight of the wall, think of where the Romans would have built it. The wall will always be in the most logical place to keep a lookout, like on the crest of a hill.

Doing the Hadrian's Wall Hike: Everything You Need to Know

Do you need a guidebook?

I definitely recommend bringing a guidebook, particularly the Hadrian’s Wall Path Guide by Trailblazer. It has hand-drawn maps and useful information about prices, accommodation, and itineraries for all types of walkers.

What’s the best way to get there?

To begin your walk, you can fly directly to Newcastle. If you can’t fly to Newcastle directly, fly to London, Manchester, or Edinburgh. I find Skyscanner usually finds the best flights.

Then, once you’re in the UK, you can take a train or bus to get to Newcastle. For train travel in the UK, I like thetrainline.com. For bus travel, I recommend Megabus.

Newcastle, where you’ll most likely start your walk. It’s a cool city so definitely set aside some time to explore it.

Hadrian’s wall walk suggested itinerary: 7 days

On Hadrian’s Wall, it’s important to pace yourself; you don’t want to push yourself too hard and have to end your walk early.

This is why I recommend walking Hadrian’s wall in seven days, which will be feasible for most walkers.

I also recommend doing a “pre-walk”. By that, I mean arriving in Newcastle, and then taking the train from Newcastle to Wallsend, the official start of the trail, and walking back to Newcastle. The pre-walk is only five miles, making it the perfect warm-up.

Here’s my Hadrian’s Wall route (distances are estimates):

Day 1: Arrive in Newcastle and take the train to Wallsend, then walk back to the city, 5 miles (8 km)
Day 2: Newcastle City Center to Heddon-on-the-Wall, 12.5 miles (20km)
Day 3: Heddon-on-the-Wall to Chollerford, 15 miles (24km)
Day 4: Chollerford to Once Brewed, 13.5 miles (22km)
Day 5: Once Brewed to Gilsland, 10 miles (16km)
Day 6: Gilsland to Carlisle, 18 miles (29km)
Day 7: Carlisle to Bowness-upon-Solway, 14.5 miles (23.4 km)

What’s the best time of year to walk Hadrian’s Wall Path?

April – October is the best time to do a Hadrian’s Wall trek. You don’t want to walk it in the winter – the North of England can get cold and rainy in the winter months.

Personally, I loved walking Hadrian’s Wall in early May. While it was windy and muddy, I loved the spring flowers and lambs. Did you know lambs wag their tails like puppies? It’s so cute.

Plus, I got lucky – it didn’t rain once!

Doing the Hadrian's Wall Hike: Everything You Need to Know

What are some of the highlights of the walk?

I’m glad you asked! Here are some sites on the trail that you can’t miss:

  • The best-preserved section of the wall runs from Chollerford to Steel.
  • Housesteads Roman Fort is a museum that shows you what life was like for the Roman soldiers who lived on a wall. I loved walking around the ruins outside, which was free.
  • Sycamore Gap is one of the most famous sites on Hadrian’s Wall Path. It’s literally just a sycamore tree, made famous by the 1994 movie “Robin Hood”, which also features Kevin Costner’s startlingly bad British accent.
Don’t miss Sycamore Gap!
Thirlwall Castle, one of the castle ruins you’ll see on the hike.
Hadrian's Wall Path: A Complete Guide
The ancient Roman granary at Housesteads Roman Fort. These pillars held up the granary’s floor.

What about the food on Hadrian’s Wall?

A typical breakfast on Hadrian's Wall Path
A typical breakfast on Hadrian’s Wall.

The food on Hadrian’s Wall is delicious and filling. For breakfast, most pubs and B&Bs serve a full English breakfast (also called a “fry-up”) which includes eggs, beans, mushrooms, bacon, sausages, black pudding, and a grilled tomato. Needless to say, it’s amazing.

Lunch on Hadrian’s Wall can be hard to come by. Many pubs are closed when they say they’ll be open, or spaced far apart on the trail. That’s why I advise packing lots of protein-filled snacks such as jerky, cheese, and RXBARs.

For dinner, I usually had dinner at my pub or hotel. Most nights, I had a hearty, protein-filled meal such as steak, lamb or shepherd’s pie served with local vegetables.

I also had a lot of shortbread cookies on my hike. They’re at every hotel and pub.

Doing the Hadrian's Wall Hike: Everything You Need to Know

What should you pack?

It’s important to pack clothes for rain or shine as the weather can be rainy and windy. Layers are key!

You will also definitely need rain gear such as a GORE-TEX rain jacket and waterproof hiking pants.

As far as footwear goes, I recommend wearing a waterproof trail runner such as Merrill Siren Edge Hiking Shoes. Because the trail has mud and hills, it’s important to pack sturdy, waterproof shoes.

Finally, you’ll need a backpack for Hadrian’s Wall – I’ve detailed which kind you’ll need here. If you don’t want to carry your bag, you can hire a baggage transfer service like this one.

Read my full Hadrian’s Wall packing guide here.

Note – I do NOT recommend hiking boots – they aren’t necessary for a walk with such soft terrain, and may cause you blisters.

Doing the Hadrian's Wall Hike: Everything You Need to Know

Where do you stay on the walk?

I recommend staying in pubs and B&Bs. Northern England has the quaintest, homiest B&Bs, which will only add to your overall experience.

Hotels on the path tend to book up far in advance. I’d recommend booking your accommodation two to three months before your trip. I booked my accommodation two days before I left on my trip (it was extremely last-minute), and it was somewhat hard to find accommodation.

Doing the Hadrian's Wall Hike: Everything You Need to Know
Brookside Villa B&B, my favorite B&B from the trip.

Here’s where I stayed on the Hadrian’s Wall Walk:

Newcastle: County Hotel Newcastle — This is a great place to stay the night before you begin your walk because it’s right next to the train station. I also loved the hotel’s historic building. You can read reviews and book on Booking.com.

Heddonon-the-Wall: Hadrians Hideout Airbnb — This converted garage is basic, but has everything you need: an ensuite bathroom, a hot shower, and a private garden. The only downside is that it got a little drafty at night (the garage door isn’t insulated) but the host provides heaters. You can read reviews and book on Airbnb.

If you’re new to Airbnb, you can use this coupon code to get $40 off your first stay!

Chollerford: The George Hotel — The George is a historic hotel with a beautiful riverfront location. Best of all, the hotel is located directly on the path and has a restaurant and bar. It’s the only accommodation in Chollerford, so I was overjoyed when I got there and could stop walking for the day. You can read reviews and book on Booking.com.

Once Brewed: The Twice Brewed Inn I loved this place! It a small inn with a cozy atmosphere and a fantastic restaurant with local beer on tap. The bed was the stuff of dreams. You can read reviews and book on Booking.com. 

Gilsland: Brookside Villa B&B — I loved this B&B! Housed in a Victorian stone villa that is clean, cozy, and modern. Their Full English breakfast was also fantastic. You can read reviews and book on hotels.com.

Carlisle: Howard Lodge — Howard Inn in is a family-run Victorian guest house in Carlisle. The hosts were incredibly welcoming and offered to do my laundry for a small fee. It’s located about 0.25 miles from the Carlisle City center. You can read reviews on Tripadvisor and book by contacting the hotel.

Read my full Hadrian’s Wall accommodation guide here.

How much does walking Hadrian’s Wall path cost?

Because Hadrian’s Wall is in the UK, it’s fairly expensive. In comparison, it was much more expensive than the Camino de Santiago.

I would budget at least $100 USD a day for Hadrian’s Wall. Accommodation will most likely be your biggest expense on the trail, as most hotels cost $70-120.

Should you walk Hadrian’s Wall solo?

This is a personal choice. I walked Hadrian’s Wall solo but wouldn’t necessarily recommend it.

Because so few people walk Hadrian’s Wall, you may find it hard to meet people. On my walk, I usually only saw 4-5 other walkers per day. Age-wise, most people I saw walking Hadrian’s Wall were in their 50s or 60s. There seemed to be very few people in their 20s or 30s.

If you do want to walk Hadrian’s wall solo, I recommend doing it in summer when there will be more people. But if you’re comfortable with the idea of walking completely alone, then by all means, go whenever you want.

Though I started my walk solo, I got lucky and ended up meeting two Polish guys the first day. They shared their food and vodka with me, and generally made the trip much more fun. If I hadn’t met them, I don’t think I would have enjoyed my trip nearly as much.

Are the locals nice?

YES. This was a huge highlight of the walk. The locals I met were so friendly and went out of their way to welcome us. On my first day of walking, several English people at the pub invited me to join their pub trivia team. Other people helped with directions and were generally just curious what an American woman was doing walking alone in England (fair, ha).

Also, several English people told me they loved my accent, which literally never happens, in England or elsewhere.

Is it safe to walk Hadrian’s wall alone as a woman?

As a solo female walker, I felt very safe on Hadrian’s Wall. As I mentioned, the locals were very welcoming and helpful, and because of the numerous signs, I only got lost once.

As always as a solo female traveler, it’s important to follow your intuition. If you feel uncomfortable at any point on the walk, don’t be afraid to call a taxi or skip ahead.

One day when I was on my own, it started getting dark and I started feeling a little freaked out. I also felt exhausted from multiple days of walking. So I walked into a pub and asked them to call me a taxi. Though it bothered me a tiny bit to “cheat” by skipping part of the trail, I knew I made the right decision by following my gut.

Your health and safety are paramount, so don’t hesitate to skip ahead if you’re feeling exhausted or unsafe.

Overall, I highly recommend hiking Hadrian’s Wall.

Walking Hadrian’s Wall was an absolutley wonderful experience. I highly recommend it.

My little adventure on Hadrian’s Wall came after a long, cold winter in Michigan. In many ways, it brought me back to life. It reminded me of how much I enjoy England, how much I love long-distance walks, and how thrilling I will always find last-minute adventures.

Have you ever hiked Hadrian’s Wall? Would you?

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

6 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Hiking Hadrian’s Wall”

  1. Hadrian’s Wall has actually been moving up on my list the last few years, so I have been loving your posts detailing your walk. Thank you for sharing all of these details!

  2. This actually sounds like the most fun way to get to know England better, soak in all of the history, and clear one’s mind while walking! I’m completely intrigued and already pretty much convinced I’m doing this next year!

  3. wow the nature looks lovely. It sounds like a fun trip, but i dont know it i would like for 7 days :| Let say i would want to walk 2 or 3 days…which part of the hike would be good for that?

    • Hi Stephanie! If you only have 3 days, I would recommend walking from Chollerford to Carlisle. But the most beautiful stretch of all was from Once Brewed to Gilsland. If you only have one day, that’s what I’d recommend :)

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