The vandalism at Sycamore Gap may have hogged the headlines, but walking the length of the national trail puts these borderlands into thrilling historical context
Hadrian’s Wall has perhaps the most single-minded personality of all the National Trails, tracing as it does the 84 miles from Bowness-on-Solway to Wallsend, which represented the north-west frontier of the Roman empire for nearly 300 years. It was built by the Roman army (the soldiers dug the ditches, quarried the stones and laid them) on the orders of the emperor Hadrian after his visit to Britain in AD 122.
The Hadrian’s Wall path celebrates its 20th birthday this year. I’ve now walked all 17 National Trails, including the Coast to Coast path and King Charles II England coast path (officially opening in 2024 and 2025 respectively). I’m not sure why it took me so long to get round to walking the Hadrian’s Wall trail; perhaps it was a perception that it was too busy or that there was too much road walking. All my concerns proved unfounded.
‘The wall was built from east to west, but I’d decided to go west to east so the prevailing wind was behind me and my load of camera and camping gear’