12 Smart Things To Know Before You Hike Hadrian’s Wall Path

With its 85 miles (135 km), Hadrian’s Wall Path is one of the UK’s shortest National Trails, which is great for a short walking holiday or training week. Although walking from one side of Britain to the next, following a wall is pretty straightforward, I did experience some surprises. Here are my 12 things to know before hiking Hadrian’s Wall path.

My husband and I set out in May to walk the entire length of Hadrian’s Wall Path. We walked West (Bowness on Solway) to East (Newcastle/Wallsend) in 8 days. Although I came prepared, some things surprised me and I’d like to help you, so you’re even better prepared!

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Woman in pink jacket and with pink cap looking into the camera in front of green landscape and brick wall
Hiking Hadrian’s Wall Path was a dream come true!

There is no wall except between Birdoswald and Chester’s Fort

Although the path is called Hadrian’s Wall Path, the miles on the far west end of the trail, and the far east end have no significant wall to walk along with. We started in Bowness on Solway in the west and were well into day 3 before we saw our first piece of Hadrian’s Wall.

Of course, after day 3 we saw nothing but wall, so that middle section really made up for the lack of wall on either end of the trail. After we passed Chester’s Fort near Chollerford, we didn’t see much wall remains anymore. 

It is safe to say that the sections between Birdoswald and Chester’s Fort are the most interesting concerning wall walking and Roman frontier history.

Green grassy hilly landscape with a stone wall snaking over the hills while a woman in pink jacket and with pink cap climbs the hills.
The sections that DO have the wall are spectacular

Get your Hadrian’s Wall Path Passport before you go

We didn’t do this, as we had some trouble getting our Passport. Now, you don’t need the passport to complete Hadrian’s Wall Path, but it is a nice gimmick to get the stamps and complete the trail this way.

There are only 3 ways to get the Hadrian’s Wall Passport:

  • At Segedunum (10 am till 5 pm)
  • At the King’s Arms Inn in Bowness-on-Solway (noon-10.30 pm)
  • Online in advance, here

As you can see, on either end of the trail you can buy your passport. But if you plan to start your walk in Wallsend, you need to wait until Segedunum opens at 10 am. Or if you start in Bowness-on-Solway, like we did, you need to wait till noon to start your walk. 

Now, if you arrive the day before, you might be able to get the passport during opening hours and start whenever you want, but I’d say, when possible, to purchase the passport in advance (online).

With your purchase, you support the maintenance and upkeep of Hadrian’s Wall Path for future generations. And you have a nice souvenir to bring home. Win-Win!

We started at Bowness-on-Solway with our Hadrian's Wall Hike but of course you can start also in Wallsend Newcastle
Some epic views of the wall and the Roman turrets

There are additional (unofficial) stamping points on the trail

Besides the official 7 stamps that go into Hadrian’s Wall Trail passport, there are a few extra ones that are fun to collect as well. 

These are the 7 official ones:

  • The Banks Promenade or King’s Arms Inn in Bowness-on-Solway
  • Sands Centre in Carlisle
  • Birdoswald Roman Fort
  • Housesteads Roman Fort
  • Chesters Roman Fort & Museum
  • Robin Hood Inn near East Wallhouses
  • Segedunum Roman Fort at Wallsend/Newcastle

However, we have found 2 additional, unofficial stamps:

Walltown Visitor Centre at Walltown Quarry (open 10 am till 5 pm). They have toilets, a few drinks and snacks, and a souvenir shop, as well as informational leaflets. A great place to get a rest, and stamp!

Arbeia, South Shields Roman Fort (10 am till 5 pm, different times on the weekend). This Roman Fort, by the sea, is worth a visit if you have the time. It is free to visit and… they offer an extra stamp. The fort itself is really nice and the museum holds some nice artifacts.

Collecting stamps along Hadrian's Wall Path in our Wall passport
I love collecting stamps when hiking

Allow extra time to visit the forts

Along the way, you’ll find amazing remains of the wall, but also its turrets and milecastles and of course, the military forts!

There are quite a few forts along the wall that are worth visiting, but allow additional time to visit them!

As ticket prices are around GBP10 per adult (prices vary depending on high season) you will want to take your time to tour the excavations and museums.

  • Birdoswald (near Gilsland)
  • Vindolanda (near Once Brewed – not on the wall)
  • Housesteads (near Once Brewed)
  • Chesters (near Chollerford)
  • Segedunum (at Wallsend/Newcastle)
  • Arbeia South Shields

By the time we arrived at Birdoswald, I was so tired and it was already late in the afternoon, we didn’t visit it anymore. When we saw Housesteads, we were interested but we knew we had a long day of walking ahead of us, so we skipped it. We arrived at Chester’s and Segedunum at 5 pm, and they closed for the day. 

We only visited Vindolanda and Arbeia on our rest day and I’m glad we did as we could take our time and we didn’t have to hike that day.

I really enjoyed our visit to Arbeia Roman Fort in South Shields (Newcastle) with its rebuilt wall gate and barracks
I really enjoyed our visit to Arbeia Roman Fort in South Shields

There are no supermarkets or shops on Hadrian’s Wall Path

Absolutely nothing. Not even a gas station that sells sandwiches and drinks along the way. The only supermarkets/shops you’ll find are in Carlisle, Heddon-on-the-Wall and Newcastle. 

So if you want to cook your own food, you need to bring everything from Newcastle or Carlisle. Otherwise, you’ll have to rely on packed lunches, and pubs and inns for your dinner.

Hadrian’s Wall Path – Practicalities

  • Distance: 85 miles or 135 km
  • Start: Bowness-on-Solway (west) or Wallsend (Newcastle)(east)
  • Finish: Wallsend (Newcastle) or Bowness-on-Solway
  • Guidebooks: Hadrian’s Wall Path by Trailblazer (great maps) or Cicerone (West to East first)
  • Getting there: Book train tickets to Carlisle or Newcastle, flights to Newcastle or Carlisle, or ferry to Newcastle.
  • Accommodation: Book your accommodation well in advance and stay flexible with Booking.com or Hotels.com
  • Insurance: Unfortunately, things might go wrong when you travel to the UK or hike Hadrian’s Wall path. World Nomads offers coverage for more than 150 activities as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation and more.
  • Bring change for honesty boxes

    However, can find snacks and drinks on the route with honesty boxes. Brilliant if you need a sugary drink or snack on the path. 

    Local villagers or entrepreneurial people have set up a shed or booth, and provide you with some snacks and sometimes cooled drinks. Some even offer pot noodles and instant soup.

    You pay via the honory system and they have a box to deposit your money. However, they don’t offer change so make sure to bring enough change with you!

    I knew about the honesty boxes, so we got some cash in Carlisle. But turns out, that a note of 10 quid doesn’t do you any good when you want to pay for your GBP2 drink.

    A new refreshing ice cream makes for a great break on a hot hiking day along Hadrian's Wall
    We got this ice cream for free with our drinks!

    Only honesty boxes between Bowness-on-Solway and Birdoswald

    When we encountered a few times an honesty box and couldn’t buy ourselves a Coke or Fanta, it was a real bummer. 

    Luckily, I managed to break my 10 quid at Birdoswald Museum and finally, we had some coins. But… I couldn’t use them as beyond Birdoswald, going east, we didn’t find any honesty boxes anymore.

    Bring change for the honesty boxes on Hadrian's Wall path to buy snacks and drinks
    Unfortunately, we couldn’t buy anything as we didn’t have change

    Chlorine water on Hadrian’s Wall Path

    Same with food, we didn’t find many places to tap some water. We were quite surprised that almost all water coming from the tap along Hadrian’s Wall Path tasted like chlorine.

    I do feel it was safe to drink, but if you’re not used to it, the taste is just really off-putting. I know I’m super spoiled with our tap water here, so this was a surprise for me.

    We spent quite a few British pounds on very expensive bottled water, but it is always best to properly hydrate when hiking!

    Not all km/miles are the same, pace yourself

    Of course, the amount of miles/km you can hike per day depends on your fitness level and your abilities. When planning for your Hadrian’s Wall hike, make sure you factor in the elevation profile, as well as the availability of accommodation along the path.

    I really struggled on our shortest day of 13 km, (8 miles) as it was the toughest section and the true rollercoaster section with ups and downs. I was so glad we didn’t have to hike any further than we did as I was completely spent at the end of the day.

    The next walking day, we had 24 km (15 miles) to go. The first section was similar to the previous section with lots of elevation gain and loss, but after about 8km, the land leveled out and we made much better progress.

    Not all sections are the same, so pace yourself and make sure you don’t overdo it! This way, you can enjoy the whole of Hadrian’s Wall path!

    Some parts of the Hadrian's Wall trail were more strenuous than others
    Some parts of the Hadrian’s Wall trail were more strenuous than others

    Book accommodation ahead of time

    I like to book ahead no matter what, but I only booked our accommodations at the end of February, for our hiking adventure in May. Turns out: there isn’t that much accommodation on the trail to begin with. Especially when everything is booked or reserved by tour groups and package holiday providers, it is a real pickle to find an affordable place to rest your feet at the end of the day.

    I advise you to book as early as possible to avoid overpaying or adding additional miles at the end of a tiring day. Remain flexible by using a booking platform as I always do. If you want some pointers, here are the hotels/guesthouses we stayed at along the trail

    • Carlisle (2 nights) in a small apartment just 2 streets from the train station and 1 mile from the path.
    • Hadrian’s Wall Studio (Newtown), we order food as there is nothing else in town
    • Hadrian’s Holiday Lodges (Longbyre), lovely luxury pods a few miles from Gilsland.
    • Saughy Rigg Farm (near Steel Rigg/Once Brewed), as the Twice Brewed Inn wasn’t available.
    • George Hotel (Chollerford), is right on the path but needs some work. The onsite restaurant was a big bonus.
    • Heddon-on-the-Wall, everything was fully booked, so we took the bus to Newcastle
    • In Newcastle, we stayed in an Airbnb in the center, but Newcastle has hundreds of hotels and other accommodations.
    Book your accommodation for Hadrian's Wall path in advance
    A nice bed to rest after an intense day of walking

    If someone offers you a ride, take it

    Some sections of the trail are really remote. Even if you go off-trail, there are little amenities available for hikers. So if you do need something, and someone offers you a ride: just take it!

    Especially owners of guesthouses and locals are aware of the needs of wall-walkers and they know how remote their region is.

    We stayed at a guesthouse about 1 mile from the path and 2.5 miles from the nearest pub. When the owner offered to shuttle us, so we could have a nice meal at the Twice Brewed Inn, my husband hesitated.

    I didn’t!

    It was only a 4-minute drive, but it would have saved us quite a strenuous walk. On a different day, the guesthouse owner offered to drive us to the nearest town to get a warm meal and we happily accepted it!

    Some villages and sections of Hadrian's Wall were super remote with no bus or taxi services at all
    Luckily, the path was very well sign-posted.

    Be nice to people you meet

    I hope this is a golden rule wherever you go, but it is essential when you hike Hadrian’s Wall Path. Be careful who you gossip about, because you’ll probably see each other all week. 

    As people tend to walk in the same direction and you might overtake them or they catch up to you as you’re having a break, you keep running into the same people. 

    You might as well be nice to them as you might see them again on another day!

    We encountered 3 Americans hiking in the same direction as we did, on day 3. And low and behold, we kept running into them for the rest of the week. We even had a rest day on the same day as they did!

    We started at Bowness-on-Solway with our Hadrian's Wall Hike but of course you can start also in Wallsend Newcastle
    at the start of our hike in Bowness-on-Solway

    Hiking Hadrian’s Wall Path

    And there you have it: my 12 things to know before you hike Hadrian’s Wall Path. Regardless if you follow my tips, be sure to enjoy the path, leave no trace, and take it all in as it is spectacular. I really loved the hike and it was a dream come true.

    Let me know if you have any specific questions or need help planning your own trip. If you thought this post was helpful or fun to read, let me know in the comment section below. Or share it with your friends or on social media! And make sure to come back for more travel stories next time.

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