Hadrian's Wall, Hexham, England

Cruising Northern England: Hadrian's Wall

Hadrian's Wall crosses the narrowest part of northern England from one coast to the other. There are people who walk the whole wall (73 miles!) but we just wanted to take a look. We choose Dene House, in Hexham as our B&B. It turned out to be a wonderful choice with huge rooms and a welcoming fire in the parlour. Margaret, our charming hostess, got out a map and sent us off to visit Vindolanda and Housesteads. The above photo overlooks the ruins of Vindolanda, once a large and prosperous Roman settlement. Vindolanda was surrounded by bogs which the Romans used as dumps. To the delight of modern archeologists, the bogs provided the perfect environment for preserving artifacts. Excavations have provided clear view of what life was like in those days. In the Vindolanda museum, you can see leather shoes (some look like they could be worn today), glassware, pottery, and most astonishing, wax tablets (their version of the mail), including a birthday invitation and assorted requests home to "send money!"

We got to Housesteads, a major fortification on Hadrian's Wall, late in the day. Perched high on a hill, the wall stretched off as far as we could see in either direction. The wall, the northern-most frontier of the Roman empire, was build over a 6 year period around 120 A.D. The wall was between 8 and 10 feet high and every mile there was a gate with a guard post. The wall served as protection from the marauding barbarians from the north, as well as a way to collect taxes from traders passing through.

Housesteads is the best known fort on Hadrian's Wall. It once housed more than 800 soldiers and had a town build up outside the fort walls. Now there are the stone foundations of the barracks, the hospital, headquarters and the granaries. While the ruins were interesting, the best part was being high on the hill in the late afternoon light, looking out over the Northumbrian countryside.

The next morning, we got up and drove to Lindisfarne.

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No unauthorized reproduction. Thank you. Text by Nan. Photos Copyright ©2003 Nan Hamilton