I’m rather a fan of intense wilderness: climbing in the Himalaya or the Rockies and camping out in wilderness with animals for days on end, is my idea of a rewarding holiday. Or doing some extreme sports like bungee jumping or skydiving (as yet I have yet to go skydiving but it is still definitely on my list of things to do before I die!), but this summer I ended up having a much more laid-back, low-key holiday and to my surprise and delight it was just as fun as anything else I had done.
Outside the UK and outside of historians with a focus on the Roman Empire, Hadrian’s Wall may not be all that well-known. Lying at more or less the modern-day border between England and Scotland, Hadrian’s Wall stretches entirely from one coast across to the other and was built during the rule of several emperors but most notably Emperor Hadrian. At that point in Roman history the empire had internal turmoil and stopped its expansionist policies of trying to conquer Scotland, know to the Romans as Caledonia, and instead built a wall to keep the Scotts out.
For nearly two thousand years the wall has sat across the Britain, fading in an out of collective memory, but now it makes for an amazing hiking trip. At 84-miles (just under 200 km), it’s walkable in a couple of weeks but it’s not necessarily for people who don’t have endurance.
There’s even a Hadrian’s Wall passport where one can collect stamps along the way and it provides amble information about the wall and the surroundings as well.
Certainly much more of a cultural getaway than an adrenaline-fuelled marathon, but that’s also part of the charm of the experience. Sleeping in little cottages and village inns along the way one gets a strong appreciation for the countryside and the culture in the north of England.
And perhaps what made the trip the most interesting for me was thinking that for all the hundreds of years that have passed since the Romans were there, I was essentially seeing the same thing that they would have seen all those years ago.