About Hadrian’s Wall
Hadrian’s Wall is a magnificent remnant of Roman Britain and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
History of Hadrian’s Wall
Built under the rule of Roman Emperor Hadrian between 122 and 130 AD, it took six legions to complete this once 73 mile wall – 80 miles by Roman measurements. At the time of its completion, Hadrian’s Wall would have been between 13 and 15 feet high, made of stone and turf and would have stretched east to west from the River Tyne to the Solway Firth.
The purpose of Hadrian’s Wall was once thought to have been as a fortification to keep out the Scots, but today historians believe it was a way of monitoring movement between the north and south in an attempt to consolidate the Empire.
Although mainly built by legionaries, the Wall was manned by auxiliaries. They were organised into regiments nominally either 500 or 1,000 strong and either infantry or cavalry or both. The 500-strong mixed infantry and cavalry unit was the workhorse of the frontier. Each fort on the Wall appears to have been built to hold a single auxiliary unit. The troops based in the forts and milecastles of the Wall were mostly recruited from the north-western provinces of the Roman empire, though some were from further afield.
Despite the significant undertaking in its construction, Hadrian’s successor as Roman head of state, Antoninus Pius, abandoned the wall following the former’s death in 138 A.D. Under Antoninus’ orders, Roman soldiers began building a new wall some 100 miles to the north, in what is now southern Scotland. This became known as the Antonine Wall.
The most famous of all the frontiers of the Roman empire, Hadrian’s Wall was made a World Heritage Site in 1987.
Hadrian’s Wall today
Large sections of Hadrian’s Wall remain intact in northern England and these are surrounded by various Roman monuments, forts and other ruins. There are several ways to visit all of these sections and sites, notably as part of the National Trail, which is a signposted walk, by bus, by bicycle and via tour groups. The 15 metre section pictured above is known as Planetrees and is quite central along the trail.
Other key sites along the Hadrian’s Wall trail include Corbridge Roman Town, Chesters Roman Fort, Arbeia Roman Fort, Birdoswald Roman Fort, Vindolanda, Segedunum Roman Fort and Housesteads Roman Fort.
This site features as one of our Top Ten tourist Attractions in the United Kingdom.
Getting to Hadrian’s Wall
You can reach Hadrian’s Wall by most methods of transport. For those looking to visit the area by train there is a busy rail network stretching from Newcastle on the east coast to Carlisle on the west coast. Both cities link up with the main rail networks from London and Birmingham to the South and from Glasgow and Edinburgh to the North. The stations at Brampton, Haltwhistle and Hexham all give access to Hadrian’s Wall and the surrounding area.
An hourly bus service (685) also runs between Newcastle and Carlisle, stopping at many places within the Heart of Hadrian’s Wall. You can use your bus pass on this service. You can catch the special AD 122 Hadrian’s Wall bus which runs from Easter to the end of October, to all the sites along the Wall – Vindolanda, the Roman Army Museum at Carvoran, Housesteads, Chesters and Birdoswald. You can use your bus pass on this service.
If travelling by car via the M6 or A1, exit onto the A69 trunk road which runs from Carlisle to Newcastle. There are a mixture of pay and display and free car parks across the Heart of Hadrian’s Wall.
These spectacular routes, which include both short circuits and multi-day treks, bring hikers close to ancient ruins and historical landmarks.
Discover the best historic sites in England, from Hadrian's Wall to Bletchley Park and more.
Discover 10 of the best Historic Sites in the United Kingdom, from the Roman Baths in Bath to Edinburgh Castle and more.
Discover some of the best Roman sites in England, from the iconic Hadrian's Wall to the country's largest Roman residence of Fishbourne Palace. With amphitheatres, mosaics, forts, and bath houses to explore, this guide will walk you through what remains of one of history's most famous Empires.