Maria from Uruguay suggested running Hadrian’s Wall when we were at 4000m in Nepal. It had never entered my head. Anyway, as it was a chance for a reunion and 50th birthday celebrations with some runners we’d met in Nepal I offered to organise it. Harvey’s maps again came in useful as I plotted around 20 miles a day for three days. I left the more complicated logistics of Maria arriving in Manchester to Mark. I caught a train to Wylam where The Boathouse pub is adjacent to the station. Perfect! We had arranged luggage transfer with Hadrian’s Haul who were extremely helpful. They were completely unnerved with my last minute addition of a beautifully decorated 4.5 kg cake to transport.
The first day we ran 14 km to Vallum Farm where we enjoyed coffee and scones. On to Portgate where the great Dere Roman road crossed through a large gate, little of which has been excavated. Then on to St Oswald in Lee 8th century church where many miracles have happened. By the time we reached Chester’s Fort at Chollerford after 30 km we were ready for tea and cake before walking around the fascinating site. Even if you’re not a Roman buff it’s simply incredible what has been unearthed here and the bath house was excellent, as was the museum filled with remarkable findings, jewellery, altars, coins and statues. Luckily it was only a few more km to our resting place at a local B&B, where we enjoyed relaxing with cake and damson gin to celebrate Mark’s 50th. The local pub, the Crown Inn, in Humshaugh was also excellent.
Day two offered too many Roman sites as well as some summits to climb (245m, 285m, 345m, 289m….hardly massive but nevertheless….) and a much more undulating path. The Wall was much more in evidence with plenty of milecastles and turrets which were originally every 0.5 km. We stopped at Vindolanda for lunch and more Roman remains as well as a fantastic museum with some of the Vindolanda tablets as well as a remarkable collection of Roman shoes amongst other exhibits. After lunch our legs were tired and it was an effort to get back up to the Wall, but the scenery with all the dolerite crags and the far reaching views (even to the Lake District) was tremendous and kept us going. The running was definitely slowing down to walking on the ups but the views and ever changing landscape, coupled with interesting diversions, kept us going.
Sadly we were too late for the tea shops but on arriving at Slack House Farm Independent Hostel we were welcomed so warmly by Dianne and Eric and enjoyed tea and biscuits in front of the stove. It was such a lovely quiet location for a dairy farm and wonderfully old fashioned. Eric and Dianne are fantastic, all the heating and cooking is done with wood burning stoves, solar panels and a wood fired cooker, and we enjoyed a fantastic one pot stew with organic vegetables followed by damson pastry with home made yogurt. Washed down with local Muckle beer for the princely price of £12 a head. Such an interesting couple, Eric makes cheese and Dianne sells it at local Farmer’s Markets. We loved staying with them and met a most interesting french couple there too. I recommend Slack House Farm unreservedly!
The following day was beautiful and sunny and we had a lovely flatter run of 13km to a fabulous tea shop called the Reading Room at Walton with pretty undulating views, more lambs and bluebells. Walton is a lovely village and I spotted an independent bunkhouse there called Florries Bunkhouse which looked like an attractive place to stay if you were taking more time over The Wall. After that we ran on to Crosby in Eden for a drink and crisps at the Stag Inn before staggering the last few km to Carlisle, taking a rest by the riverside in the attractive park, not wanting to finish our adventure. Carlisle makes a very convenient place with good train connections, and we did find a nice place to eat called “The Last Zebra”, but a city was a bit of a culture shock to us after the last few days, and if we were doing the whole Wall I don’t think I would have stayed there.
The whole trip was excellent, and although we only took three days, it could easily be made into a lovely week’s holiday.
If you are planning to spend longer on the Hadrian’s Wall Path there are a number of independent hostels and bunkhouses on or close to Hadrian’s Wall offering great value, overnight accommodation for individuals, couples or groups.