Originally some 70 miles in length, and six metres high, Hadrian’s Wall is the most important Roman monument in Britain. It stretches from the Solway Firth to the mouth of the River Tyne, across the wild and often eerily beautiful landscapes of this Border country. This Hadrians cycleway tour is a self guided tour over 4 days.
Riding Hadrian’s cycleway, on arrow-straight military roads, cycle paths and tranquil lanes, is to plunge back through history. The fragmented remains of the wall, as well as the medieval fortified churches, the castles, Pele towers and reinforced farmhouses are all testament to the centuries of feuding.
The natives are, however, very friendly. Brampton, Haltwhistle, Corrbridge and Ovingham are all characterful, quiet market towns with good pubs, cafes, bakeries and a warm welcome.
The final section of the route follows the River Tyne, one of the great environmental success stories of recent years, and takes you into the cultural heart of the north, Newcastle.
Day 1: Arrive in Newcastle or Bowness-on-Solway
Arrive in Newcastle either by train (you’ll be collected from the railway station) or car (you can leave your vehicle at the hotel for the duration of the trip), and check in to your accommodation. A member of the Bikecation team will meet you this evening or after breakfast tomorrow, to hand over your route notes and maps (plus your bike if you’re hiring one) answer those last minute questions, and hand over a few tips. Newcastle upon Tyne is the thriving, cultural capital of the North-East. There are many excellent restaurants. If you arrive in good time, there’s nearly always something on – either at the Baltic Centre, the contemporary visual arts venue, Sage Gateshead, an excellent music venue, or one of the other galleries or museums along the ‘Golden Mile of Culture’. Newcastle is also well known for its nightlife. The City has recently become something of a cycling crossroads – as various cycle routes like the Sea to Sea and Hadrian’s Cycleway converge on the traffic-free cycle path that winds along the banks of the River Tyne.
Day 2: Bowness-on-Solway to Gilsland: appox 37 miles
Transfer from your hotel in Newcastle to Bowness-on-Solway, a sleepy village on the Solway Firth facing the hills of southern Scotland. This was once the most northern outpost of the Roman Empire: it’s the end of Hadrian’s Wall, and the start of your ride. The first few miles follow the Solway Firth east, past sand dunes and across salt marsh. The area is rich in birdlife. Speeding through the villages of Burgh by Sands and Kirkandrews-on-Eden, you arrive in the outskirts of Carlisle. A path along the banks of the River Eden leads you through the centre and out into Cumbrian countryside. Warwick Bridge to Brampton then onward to Lanercost Priory. Between Banks and Birdoswald Fort, the route closely follows the line of Hadrian’s Wall. There are the remains of turrets, neatly aligned sandstone blocks that comprise stretches of the wall and a fort.
Day 3: Gilsland to Corbridge: approx 31 miles
Cycling in Northumberland today, the route crosses the highest section of Hadrian’s Cycleway: there are grand views north, over open farmland dotted with copses and isolated farmhouses, across moorland as far as the dense, black mass of Wark Forest. There are several excellent sites you can visit today to learn more about the Wall, and appreciate the remarkable civil engineering project it was: Vindolanda and Housesteads are the most impressive. In Hexham, pause on the bridge over the River Tyne to see salmon and sea trout leaping over the weir, in late summer and autumn. Corbridge was prosperous through the Middle Ages and today, it’s full of boutique shops and charm.
Day 4: Corbridge to Newcastle / North Sea: approx 30 miles
The mighty River Tyne is your companion for much of today. Thirty years ago, the river was heavily polluted by the industry further downstream. It’s now an internationally acclaimed fishing river. On lanes, and then on a lovely, long traffic-free path, you glide through the heart of Newcastle, underneath the ornate bridges which span the Tyne, continuing along the north bank all the way to the sea. The river runs out to the sea at Tynemouth, a pretty village with several architectural gems. Below the 11th century priory and castle, facing the North Sea, you’ve reached your journey’s end.