Hadrian’s Wall is a magnificent structure, a massive fortification that stretched across Roman Britain from coast to coast. Today the remains of the Wall, and its surrounding countryside, attract walkers, tourists and those with an interest in history, old or new. 111 Places Along Hadrian’s Wall That You Shouldn’t Miss is a compendium of everything a visitor needs to see in the area, an eclectic mixture of the important and well-known and of lesser known or more obscure places.
Hadrian’s Wall And Its Environs
2022 marks an important anniversary for Hadrian’s Wall, 1900 years since it was first built in 122 CE. Even by Roman standards it was an ambitious piece of engineering: 73 miles long, with 17 forts, 80 milecastles and numerous observation towers. Much of the Wall and its defences remain, and walkers can follow the line of the structure along the Hadrian’s Wall Path.
The Wall passes through the beautiful Northumberland countryside, running from the city of Newcastle to the neighbouring county of Cumbria. Its location close to the English/Scottish border means that the area has seen its fair share of history since the departure of the Romans, and there is a wide variety of places to visit in and around Hadrian’s Wall.
111 Places Along Hadrian’s Wall brings together historic sites, natural places, artworks and more. The author notes that “most of the locations in this book have a direct connection with Hadrian’s Wall and the Roman occupation of Britain, [but] some locations have no connection at all, other than I liked them…”
History Old And New
The history is a wonderful mixture of old, not-so-old, and new. There are all the famous Roman sites along Hadrian’s Wall, and some not so famous. There are Roman artefacts and graffiti, and infrastructure around the Wall. Then there are buildings like Lanercost Priory that were built from stone plundered from the fortifications. You’ll even find one pre-Roman site…
There are bits of industrial history, battle fields, and the town that claims to be the geographical centre of Britain. And there are statues and sculptures, lakes and crags, and a traditional funfair. Some of the sights are less expected, like the daleks in the Museum of Classic Sci-Fi.
The Occasional Diversion
Most of the entries in this book are in and around the line of the wall. However, there is the occasional diversion, such as the blacksmith’s shop in Gretna Green where countless eloping couples once married.
Many of the places will be familiar to anyone who has explored Hadrian’s Wall. But I would defy anyone not to find anything new here (I certainly didn’t know about the atmospheric stone where Sir Walter Scott proposed to his wife, setting the scene for countless subsequent proposals…) And, even where places are familiar, there is the odd surprise. Like the claim that King Arthur and his knights are sleeping peacefully beneath Sewingshields Crag, far from their West Country home!
How To Use 111 Places Along Hadrian’s Wall
As the title suggests, there are 111 individual entries. These are arranged in alphabetical order, but maps at the end of the book show the location of each site. Each entry has a description and bits of history, as well as information about how to visit. There are “tips” too, detailing nearby places, eating spots or other interesting or useful information.
Whether you are new to the area or a frequent visitor, this book will be the perfect companion for your exploration of Northumberland and Hadrian’s Wall.
111 Places Along Hadrian’s Wall That You Shouldn’t Miss, David Taylor, ACC Art Books, 2022, 9783740814250