Road trip to the Edge of Empire, by bus

Operating daily throughout the summer, the Hadrian’s Wall Country Bus, with the appropriately listed service number: AD122 (the year in which the Wall was built) is not just a means of travel to get up to Wall, it is a really enjoyable experience in its own right; allowing you to site back with no worries, knowing that it’s better for the environment too!

This is the first of two itineraries, the first starting, and finishing from Hexham.

Starting at Hexham

Catch the first Hadrian’s Wall Country Bus from Hexham Bus Station at 9.10am and buy and an adult ‘Day Rover’ ticket (£12.50). Sit back and use the time to take in as much of the view as you drive out of Hexham and travel through the village of ‘Wall’, past Brunton’s Turret (your first sight of the Roman Wall) to Chollerford (where the Wall crossed the North Tyne river).

Here you’ll begin to climb out of the Tyne Valley and travel along the Military Road (built after the last Jacobite rebellion in 1749 by General Wade), past Chesters Roman Fort, and up into ‘the land of the far horizon’ that is Northumberland National Park.

The river at Chesters Roman Fort

The views either side of the Military Road are breath-taking. To your left (south), you’ll gaze across the Tyne Valley towards the ‘Roof of England’ that is the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, whilst to your right (northwards), you’ll peer deep into the National Park, and on a clear day, see the peak of The Cheviot, some 40 miles north of the Wall.

Arrive at Housesteads

When you arrive at Housesteads car park at 9.39 am, disembark, pop into the loos on site or pick up a drink or some food-to-go, then stroll up to one of the most important and impressive Roman Fort sites in Britain. As you stand near the Wall facing north, you can easily imagine what it must have been like to have been posted here some 1900 years ago to defend the northern frontier of the Roman Empire.

Housesteads Fort at sunset

From this point, you’ll follow The Hadrian’s Wall Path National Trail (signposts and way markers have the distinctive ‘acorn’ symbol). The first few hundred metres will be along the actual top of Hadrian’s Wall, then follow the trail westwards alongside the actual monument to The Sycamore Gap (aka Kevin Costner’s Tree, after a famous scene from the film, Robin Hood- Prince of Thieves was shot here in 1991).

Steel Rigg and The Sill

The walk from Housesteads to Steel Rigg Car Park takes approximately 1.5 hours. When you arrive at Steel Rigg, look back at the route you have taken. This is one of the most iconic views of Hadrian’s Wall and is the ideal place to take a selfie and post it on your Instagram page. Walk 500m down the road to The Sill National Landscape Discovery Centre – just in time for lunch.

The Sill Visitors Centre

visitors centre in Northumberland National Park

The Sill National Landscape Discovery Centre opened in 2017 features a brand new landscape exhibition, modern learning and event spaces, a local food café, a world-class modern Youth Hostel, a rural business hub, and a shop specialising in local crafts and produce. One of its most popular attractions is the all-accessible Whin grassland roof which leads you to a viewing platform overlooking the surrounding area.  Why not grab a bite to eat in the Once Brewed Coffee & Bakehouse.

Walltown

At 12.44, catch the Hadrian’s Wall Country Bus from the bus stop at The Sill and travel to Walltown Country Park (arriving 13.00). Walltown Country Park was a working quarry up until the 1970s, but since then it has been restored back to nature and has matured into an attractive country park, ideal for picnics by the lake or for walking up to Walltown Crags, where some of the best preserved sections of Hadrian’s Wall can be seen. There are some great view across to Wark Forest in the north, or the North Pennines, to the south (yes, I know that sounds confusing). A small visitor centre on-site (24hr toilets. Open: Friday, Saturday and Sunday only to the end of September 2020) serves a range of refreshments and gifts, and staff there are on-hand to provide you with local information should you need it.

Thirlwall Castle in Greenhead

Thirlwall Castle near the village of Greenhead and the Northumberland National Park, England

One of the most popular walking routes from Walltown is to walk westwards along The Hadrian’s Wall Path National Trail to Thirlwall Castle, near Greenhead. You can find our self-guided walking route here.

Thirlwall Castle was actually built from stone robbed from the remains of Hadrian’s Wall itself in the 13th Century and stands on a prominent position above the Tipalt Burn. The return route back to Walltown passes alongside some flower-rich water meadows and through the small village of Greenhead, before you climb back up to Walltown in time for the last bus at 16.20. The Hadrian’s Wall Bus takes you all the way back to Hexham, arriving neatly at 17.05. 

We hope you are inspired to visit Hadrian’s Wall by bus. Look out for the next itinerary, which will start and finish in Haltwhistle.