Today we went on our Big Hike #2, exploring the eastern side of Hadrian’s wall from Cawfields Quarry to Vercovicium, better known as the Roman Fort at Housesteads. We accomplished the hike in record breaking time, most likely due to the threat of rain as well as the intense wind at our backs. Despite those facts, we remained dry and were even treated to a little bit of sunshine from time to time. For the benefit of those unable to join us, or even those who plan to do the hike at some point, I have compiled a “To Do List” that everyone must accomplish when they hike this side of the wall. Without further ado, I present 10 Must Do’s on Hadrian’s Wall
1. Visit the Milecastle directly adjacent to Cawfields Quarry
This milecastle has the thickest walls as compared to all the other milecastles along Hadrian’s Wall. It is thought that this is where Hadrian came to visit the wall and thus, the walls were extra thick to impress the emperor and to imply that the rest of the wall was built like this. This is purely conjecture because all we know is that Hadrian visited Roman Britain. Whether he visited this specific milecastle is unknown but it makes for a great story!
2. Use the wind for support
The wind was so strong that you could actually spread you arms out, lean forward, and not fall down. It was actually quite a cool experience. In fact, most of the walk was spent leaning to one side to counteract the force of the wind. Today was not a day to stand near the ridge!
3. Visit the Highest point on Hadrian’s Wall
This point is actually the highest along the entire wall geographically. It is 1130 ft high and is marked by a stone pillar, shown above. It is customary to take off your toque and taking a picture with your hair wildly blowing in the wind.
4. Interact with the local wildlife
Rachel, our local horse whisperer made a new friend today. The horses are incredibly friendly. The sheep, not so much.
5. Enjoy the many picturesque views of the English countryside
6. See the second well preserved Milecastle along the route
This milecastle is great because of its positioning relative to our next attraction. The two together make an idyllic picture.
7. The Sycamore Gap
This is an iconic spot on Hadrian’s wall path. There’s really not much more to say because the picture tells all. But it is definitely a must see. It is also a great lunch spot, second only to…
8. Eat lunch at the Best Preserved Milecastle
This milecastle still has intact arches, high walls, and the foundations of rooms still on the ground. The tall walls are also great at protecting the lunches from the wind.
9. Point out Vindolanda in the Distance
Can you see the site?
10. Visit Housesteads
Housesteads has some of the best archaeological features along the wall. The principia, praetorium, the barracks, and the granaries are all clearly visible. You can see the detailed structures of the 4 gates, the hospital, and the bathhouse. There is even a murder house where skeletons of two middle aged adults were found, one with a broken sword still in the ribs. It even has latrines with visible plumbing! For more information about our trip to Housesteads, see Nick’s post from today.