Bruce’s Big Adventure on Hadrian’s Wall
By Charlotte Briggs
This was my first walk with Mickledore! Living in the Lakes, my husband (Jack), 3-year-old black lab (Bruce), and myself were really excited to walk the trail along Hadrian’s Wall. Bruce (and Jack and myself) are used to the mileage undertaken having lived in the Lakes most our lives. However, we didn’t know what to expect with consecutive days walking …
Day 1: Wallsend to Wylam
And we’re off
As we were in ‘dog friendly’ accommodation, we stayed in Wylam and travelled to Wallsend to start the walk – this differs slightly from the itinerary laid out on the website. What a glorious day for it! (This was surprising considering what was forecast for the week). Arriving at Wallsend we had a brief explore around Segedunum but we didn’t stay long as we were too excited to start our adventure. I know Newcastle fairly well but I found it really interesting to find how the landmarks I already know linked through the trail. As it was a Sunday, there was a market on the quayside which was lovely to explore. Had to keep Bruce on a tight lead here as the smells coming from all the food stalls were amazing!
The trail continued on the north side of the River Tyne, through parks and tree surrounded paved paths until eventually we said goodbye to the river. As the trail became less urban, we could let Bruce off the lead (as he doesn’t stray too far) until eventually we arrived back in Wylam for our second nights accommodation. After a quick freshen up, the pub was calling for well-earned drink in a beer garden!
Day 2: Wylam to Humshaugh
Following the harder terrain yesterday – the softer path was very welcome today. After Heddon-on-the-Wall we got our first glimpse of the wall!
Looking at this day in the guidebook before setting off the trail did appear to be mostly along the road. However, as the guidebook explains the trial is mostly separated from the road with high hedges or tree rows so you barely notice the road – we felt comfortable to let Bruce off the lead who was in his element trotting along in the sun! We walked through a few sheep fields but we could always see them coming so we had plenty of time to pop Bruce back on the lead again. We also walked through various farmers’ fields growing all sorts of crops so we saw lots of wildlife – I’ve never seen so many butterfly’s in one day! This was our longest day in terms of mileage so at the sight of the impressive Chollerford Bridge we knew we were close to today’s finish line!
Day 3: Humshaugh to Twice Brewed
Call me crazy, but I am marathon training at the moment so we decided to run this day as the mileage fit nicely with our training plan. (A change in footwear was also much appreciated!)
I’d read in the guidebook that this was the most spectacular day and it definitely didn’t lie – what a day! The wall along this section of the trail is most intact and combined with the surrounding views were breath-taking! The photos I had seen of the wall before undertaking this walk just don’t give you the full impact of the true scale of the wall. We passed Housesteads and then Sycamore gap just after the weather turned so other walkers were using the tree for shelter as we passed.
We arrived at the Twice Brewed Inn just after midday for some lunch, so we had the whole afternoon to explore Vindolanda – just in time for the sun to be out again. A very interesting afternoon spent wondering through the remains whilst there was an archaeological dig on. The museum was really interesting and well worth a visit, and the red velvet cheese cake from the coffee shop was delicious!
(Vindolanda only except guide dogs so we had made arrangements to leave Bruce with a friend)
Day 4: Twice Brewed to Banks
Today felt like my body had finally accepted walking! This was helped by another glorious morning where after a short climb we were soon on the highest part of the Wall. Bruce always likes to jump on top of the trig points whenever we go walking and there was another here to mark this point.
There was quite a strong westerly wind so Bruce’s ear ‘flapometre’ was at full strength! From this point the trail was undulating but felt mostly downhill until we reached Walltown Quarry where Bruce could take a nice dip in the pond for a cool off with his favourite stick of the moment. (We also brought ourselves a magnum at the shop here to cool off also) As we approached Gilsland there was a pop up ‘Art in the Barn’ exhibition which had an interactive musical display (great for families). Along the trail in this area there was a few pieces of art hanging from trees and in back gardens; including a scarecrow-like structure fishing in a stream – Bruce didn’t know what to make of this. There were quite a few stiles today – on most occasions there was barbed wire on either side so alternative options for dogs weren’t always an option. Bruce had no problem jumping over these as he’s still a young pup but something the bear in mind for older/ larger dogs.
Day 5: Banks to Carlisle
It was a rainy walk today – quite good going considering I was expecting down pour all week. Even Bruce had his rain coat on! From Banks onwards there is little wall to be seen along the trail. The trail negotiates between small country villages and farmland until you get a sense that you are approaching Carlisle as you suddenly notice the gentle sound of cars in the distance – the M6. This doesn’t long take long to pass and before you know it, you’re walking through Rickerby Park on north side of the River Eden. There were cows in this park that were obviously very used to seeing dogs and weren’t too bothered by Bruce. However, through some fields today we were watched very closely by cows that shared the same field as the trail.
Day 6: Carlisle to Bowness on Solway
The final days walk from Carlisle to Bowness on Solway was a pleasant surprise for me. Again, I know Carlisle fairly well but the walk along the River Eden through to the western side of the city was really enjoyable as I could see how the landmarks that I already knew connected together.
The river was up so the current unfortunately was far too strong for Bruce to go for a swim. As you leave the city the trail takes you through fields, mostly connected with many ‘kissing gates’ – as a newly married couple we took on this challenge. The fields soon turned into farm tracks as you spot the Solway in the distance.
The views are stunning and our pace quickened as the finish line was in sight. Once in Bowness on Solway we made our way to the small shelter on Banks Promenade which marks the end of the path! High-fives all round (High-tens from Bruce) – we had walked the Hadrian’s Wall path.
After the Promenade, I would recommend going into the Kings Arms for at least one drink. You will find there is the most incredible buzz from all the walkers slowly emerging after their walk. The real sense of pride and happiness that’s in the air that they have completed the trail, and a chance to re-connect with fellow walkers that you may have met and chatted too along the way.
Our colleague James also walked Hadrian’s Wall in August, but in the opposite direction. You can his story here.