Solo female walkers guide to walking the Hadrian’s Wall

Solo female walkers guide to walking the Hadrian’s Wall

Hadrian’s Wall is an 84 mile long Roman defence fortification which was built on the orders of Emperor Hadrianus between AD 122 to AD 128 to protect the extreme northern part of the empire from the Picts of Scotland.

Apart from being a dream for lovers of Anglo-Roman history, walking the wall offers a wonderful opportunity to get a glimpse of the beautiful north England countryside,packed with quaint towns and villages, not to forget mediaeval castles and loads of Roman ruins obviously.

The wall was opened to the public in 2003 and is regarded as one of the least challenging of all National Trails and the first to follow a UNESCO World Heritage Site.The wall runs from Bowness-on-Solway to Wallsend.

Best time to walk the Hadrian’s Wall
Are you looking for the best time to walk Hadrian’s Wall? North of England can get cold and rainy in winter,so the best time of the year to do the Hadrian’s Wall trek is during the summer and autumn months, with October being perfect.

For a female traveller wishing to do the walk solo,there will be more people during summer but if you want peace and want to do the walk by yourself,then feel free to do so whenever you want. The locals are extremely friendly and will go out of the way to welcome you.

Getting there
Hadrian’s Wall county is connected by the two international airports of Newcastle and Durham Tees Valley which offer easy access from not only within the country but Europe and worldwide as well. By high speed train, Hadrian’s Wall county is a three and half hour ride from London to Newcastle. Virgin trains also connect Carlisle with London, Manchester and Glasgow.

Glenn Carstens

What to pack?
Though the summer weather is mild,it can change suddenly and one should come prepared for this. No matter when you do the walk you should always carry:

A map
Sturdy walking shoes or boots
Water Bladder
Waterproof trousers and jacket
Warm tops
Comfortable socks
Blister plasters
Walking poles
Energy bars and snacks

Is it safe for a woman to walk alone?
By all means yes! In fact it is much safer to walk here than in some cities in England and moreover the path is well marked and the chances of getting lost are remote. As solo female travelers,it is always advisable to follow your intuition and should you feel uncomfortable or unsafe at any point of time on the walk,do not hesitate to move ahead or call a taxi.


Hints for solo female hiking
If you fancy a long-distance solo walk like the Hadrian’s Wall,these tips may be of help:
● However much you decide to pack at first,cut it down to only a few selected things to reduce the weight of your backpack. Ideally it should not weigh more than 10 kg.
● Pack extra energy bars or emergency meals,even though there are pubs enroute.At
times the nearest pub may be closed or involve a long walk and you will find these
snacks very useful.
● Walk fewer miles each day than you think possible, else walking day after day with a load on your back will begin to take its toll.
● Carry a paper map so that you don’t have to rely on phone or GPS navigation only

Which direction to walk the wall?
The Romans named the milecastles from east to west and most people walk the wall in the same direction. Additionally, the views also get better as you go west. While the direction you choose is up to you,as a solo female walker it is better to walk east to west for the social perspective.You will find more walking companions as a majority of walkers you come across will be walking in that direction.

Terrain you are likely to encounter
Though the vast majority of the Hadrian’s Wall terrain is grassy and flat there are some steep sections involving gain and decrease in elevation, especially when passing Housesteads and Once Brew. However,none of these gradients last too long and the steep sections have stone steps.

Suggested seven day itinerary
It is important to pace yourself and not push too much to cover the walk early. A feasible time to walk the wall should be seven days. The route to follow is as follows:

Day One: Arrive in Newcastle
Day Two: Newcastle to Heddon-on-the-Wall -12.5 miles /20 km
Day Three: Heddon-on-the-Wall to Chollerford-15 miles / 24km
Day Four: Chollerford to Once Brewed 10 miles / 16km
Day Five: Once Brewed to Gilsland 10 miles / 16km
Day Six : Gilsland to Carlisle 18 miles / 29 km
Day Seven: Carlisle to Bowness-on-Solway 14.5 miles / 23.4km
Andrew Masters

Best attractions on the walk
The best preserved section of the Hadrian’s Wall runs from Chollerford to Steel where impressive and large stretches of the wall still remain. You can stop here and admire the views for hours on end. That said, at the start of the walk in Wallsend you can see the completely excavated Segedunum Roman Fort with its barracks,stables,blocks and the house of the commander.

Just to the west of Housesteads is the only section of the wall where you are allowed to walk stands Housesteads Fort, the best preserved Roman Fort in England, complete with barracks hospital and even running toilets to showcase what life was like for the Roman soldiers who lived within the wall.

Sycamore Gap is a natural dip in the wall and the site of a once lovely sycamore tree (pictured) which stood here for over 300 years before it was unceremoniously vandalised in December 2023.The tree became a part of a film and was considered to be a celebrated landmark among the walkers on the wall.

Hadrian’s Wall path accommodation
There are plenty of budget hostels and bunkhouses on the way and if you want to splurge some good hotels too: Here are a few recommendations for solo walkers:

Newcastle: Albatross Hostel
Heddon-on-the-Wall: Houghton North Farm
Chollerford: The George Hotel
Once Brewed: The YHA Hostel
Gilsland: Slack House Farm
Walton : Florrie’s on the Wall
Carlisle: Carlisle City Hostel

Where to eat?
Most bunkhouses and hostels have community kitchens where you can have self-cater meals on a budget. There are some supermarkets and shops enroute, but the choice is extremely limited. You can eat in pubs generally between 12 pm and 3 pm and then again after 5 pm when they reopen for dinner. You can also order packed lunch from your chosen accommodation, providing you order the night before.

Some suggestions are:
● Riverside Tea Rooms in Chollerford
● Once Brewed Bakehouse in Once Brewed
● House of Meg in Gilsland


Image: Unsplash Mark MC Neil