Housesteads Circular Day Hiking Hadrians Wall Northumberland England UK
Housesteads Circular Day Hiking Hadrians Wall was about 9 miles in distance and was part of a Northumberland walking holiday.
Probably the most well known part of the northern frontier defence of the Roman Empire here in Britain is Housesteads Roman fort on Hadrian’s Wall.
These days it is owned by the National Trust and managed jointly with English Heritage.
The fort towers over the wild land north of the wall on the cliffs of Housesteads Crags.
This hiking route loops over landscape which at times I would describe as wild or untamed.
The last leg of the hike returns from the east with fabulous views of the wall and north of the wall.
I would advise hikers with little experience to only attempt this hike on a clear day.
Hiking Hadrians Wall At Housesteads Video
This video slideshow shows the highlights of this Hiking Hadrians Wall At Housesteads, Northumberland trip.
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Hiking Hadrians Wall At Housesteads Route
Housesteads Circular Day Hiking Hadrians Wall was a varied and interesting hike over rugged fields and moorland tussock; beside crags with no clear path; and along Hadrians Wall with a few short medium inclines. Fist we headed northwards through an arch in the National Trust Centre down a dip and up the other side to Housesteads Roman fort. The route then went in a clockwise circular direction.
The first leg of the loop was in a westerly direction along Housesteads Crags and past Milecastle 37, over Cuddy’s Crags into Rapishaw Gap. The next leg headed northwards along part of the Pennine Way across rough grazing and over ladder stiles. The path snaked along with a view eastwards to Broomlee Lough; and following occasional wayposts to guide us we generally heading northwards to just east of East Stonefolds.
The third leg headed north east and veered away from the Pennine Way through forest towards Haughtongreen and past an uninhabited cottage. After passing through more forest we emerged onto Haughton Common which was rough moorland of tussock which was boggy in places with no obvious path across. We hiked north easterly along the base of Crow crags, keeping Harraway Hills to our left. Next we headed for Stell Green just left of a few trees peeking over the top of a low ridge in the distance.
The next leg headed south along an access track between Halleypike Lough and Folly Lake; crossing a bridge beside a ford and past a ruined limekiln. The route swung left uphill; then right along another track heading south west then left towards a cottage on Sewingshields Crags.
The final leg of the loop was in a general south west direction, first passing through Sewingshields Wood along Hadrian’s Wall path; and passing Milecastle 35 perched on the edge of the cliff with a stunning view north. The path then undulated past a turret to a trig point that marked the high point of the hike. Next he path swung southwards with a fabulous view to Broomlee Lough to the west before curving south west over King’s Hill and Clew Hill.
After passing through a small belt of wood we emerged onto Hadrian’s Wall and dropped down into gap to the Roman gateway of Knag Burn and up the other side back to Housesteads Roman fort. We then retraced our steps back to the car park.
Housesteads Hadrians Wall Circular Day Hiking Local Information
Housesteads Roman Fort
Of all the forts on Hadrian’s Wall, Housesteads is the best known. Being the most intact Roman fort in Britain, and hovering high on the ridge of Housesteads Crags, it is a symbolic representation of the greatness and spirit of the Roman Empire. Housesteads was a permanent fort added to Hadrian’s Wall about AD 124 during the second plan for the northern frontier, and spread over about 5 acres. Romans called it “Vercovicium” which means “the place of effective fighters”. There were about 1,000 Tungrian infantry, from the Belgium area, with support from Germanic cavalry.
Some of the points of interest include: the commanders residence at the centre; the stone latrines which are famous for being one of the finest preserved in Roman Britain; storehouses; hospital and administration buildings; and the “Murder House”. A considerable civil settlement developed south of the fort and a bathhouse was built to the east of the settlement. There is a museum which holds a complete Housesteads model showing how it may have looked.
Constructionof Hadrians Wall started about 122 AD and eventually spanned 73 miles over northern England from coast to coast. It was still being used during the fifth century, at which point the Romans decided to leave Britain. Evidence of Hadrians Wall today consists of substantial ruins. Some sections of the wall have been reconstructed whilst others have been restored in order to demonstrate exactly how impenetrable and menacing the wall would have been.
Housesteads Crags & Cuddy’s Crags
Housesteads Crags spread westward from Housesteads Roman fort and connect with Cuddy’s Crags a little further west.
Rapishaw Gap is a gap in the crags between Cuddy’s Crags and Hotbank Crags further west, through which the Pennine Way runs north south.
Broomlee Lough is a lake positioned just north of Hadrian’s Wall and Housesteads Roman Fort and east of the Pennine Way near Ridley Common. There are some legends about there being treasure hidden in the lake.
There is not much at Haughtongreen apart from an uninhabited cottage, which may also be a mountain bothy. A bothy is a shelter in remote parts of the UK which are available for anyone to use if the need arises.
Haughton Common is all Access Land, a wide expanse of moorland with tussock and some boggy areas to test your hiking ability. It has very few landmarks above ground level except some low rises that you could call hills it stretched to, and a low line of crags south of the hills.
Harraway Hills are low, rounded ridges on Haughton Common, north of Crow Crags, which I am reluctant to call hills. However, as the surrounding Haughton Common is flat, with tussock and marsh, they can be very useful navigational landmark. The southern most hill has a clump of trees on it.
Crow crags are a line of crags on a north east inclination on Haughton Common, just south of Harraway Hills. They are one of the few distinguishing features to aid navigation on Haughton Common.
Stell Green is an isolated farmhouse on Haughton Common next to a clump of trees on a low isolated crag north of Halleypike Lough, and south east of the Crook Burn River and valley.
Halleypike Lough is on Haughton common about 1 mile north of Sewingshields Crags and Hadrian’s Wall. It is Victorian in origin and is also fished. Apparently, the only native crayfish to Britain, the rare White-clawed crayfish can be found in the Lough.
Halleypike Lough is on Haughton common north of Sewingshields Crags and Hadrian’s Wall and just south west of Halleypike Lough. Unlike Halleypike Lough, Folley Lake is surrounded by trees.
Sewingshields Wood is a narrow stretch of trees through which Hadrian’s Wall runs. It is located at the eastern end of Sewingshields Crags to the rear of farm buildings.
Sewingshield Crags is about 1.5 miles north east of Housesteads and is well known for its great views of Hadrian’s Wall. At one time it had a castle of its own but this was destroyed during the 19th century.
Knag Burn Roman Gateway
The gateway of Knag Burn can be found a little east of Housesteads where Hadrian’s Wall crosses Knag Burn. It was added to Hadrian’s Wall at some time during the 4th century, most likely to promote trade. The burn actually runs underneath the wall through a culvert a couple of metres west from the gateway. The ruins show that it was 3.7m wide, had one gateway with chambers guarding it on both sides plus gates at both ends to control the passage.
When Done & With Whom
I did this hike with my partner Anne whilst on a Northumberland hiking holiday during April 2011. We drove from our cottage accommodation in Bellingham to the starting location of Housesteads National Trust pay and display car park on the B6318.