This morning we said goodbye to Scotland and slowly made our way down toward London. Our original plan was to drive straight from Edinburgh to London but with traffic jams all around every city it seemed unlikely that it would be a clear 5-6 hour run to London. So I looked at our schedule and rearranged a few things so that we would have 2 days to get there instead.
We did have one plan that we didn’t change for today and that was to visit Hadrian’s Wall. If you’re anything like me you’ll have heard of this attraction but don’t really know much of the history behind it. (You might even just be wondering whether Game of Thrones is based on it? It’s not.)
Here’s a very brief history of Hadrian’s Wall: It was actually constructed by the Romans around 122 AD. It’s named Hadrian’s Wall because it was built under instruction by the reigning of the emperor Hadrian. At the time they were busy conquering “Britannia” as it was then known. The wall was meant to act as fortification against the “savages” in the north, a land now known as Scotland.
Hadrian’s Wall stretches from coast to coast so one doesn’t simply “visit Hadrian’s Wall” – there are multiple locations to stop or if you’re really ambitious you can hike the whole 80 miles. Addam and I were driving down the east coast of the U.K. so we had a couple of choices. I wanted to stop somewhere where the wall still exists. This map from the official site helped:
Hadrian’s Wall: Housesteads Roman Fort
We chose to stop at the Housesteads Roman Fort because it wasn’t too far off the path to London, had intact original wall, and is one of the best preserved Roman Forts in the world.
It wasn’t the easiest place to get to but that’s probably thanks to our trusty GPS. I was driving too, which basically means I interpreted the drive to be more unnerving than it actually was. One lane streets, narrow roads and lots of curves and hills later we finally reached the UNESCO heritage site.
My first impressions were that it was a very long walk to the actual site, far too much sheep poop, and that the more we see these ancient sites the less capable I am of truly grasping their significance.
In hindsight the walk wasn’t that long. There really was an obscene amount of poop though and it was like stepping through a minefield to get around it, which is kind of terrifying when you’re wearing open shoes.
After watching a short film in the visitor’s center we walked through what was the stone remains of a Roman Fort. The site itself was thankfully protected from the sheep with gates. We roamed around trying desperately hard to use our imaginations. It’s difficult to comprehend that humans actually lived in the stone remnants of these buildings.
There was one room where it wasn’t so difficult to imagine, however, and that was the latrines. They’re the most complete Roman latrines in Britain – and an impressive testament to the engineering feats humans were capable of one thousand years ago. They were communal toilets where people lined up and talked to each other while they did their business. The waste went through an underground sewage system so people weren’t having to walk through smelly poop in the streets.
After taking photos we decided to do a Geocache since there was a sign reminding us at the beginning that there were some around the area. Like amateurs we thought they looked closer than they actually were on the map and so voila we ended up walking far away from the Fort and stepping around all the sheep poop to finally get to it. But the bonus side was we walked back on top of the remaining part of Hadrian’s Wall – something to remember forever!
This part of Hadrian’s Wall is in the middle of nowhere so we didn’t really have time do much else. We drove another hour or so (I don’t remember) to Leeds where we camped and ate at a local pub.