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Defending the Empire – Hadrian’s Wall

Looking for a great historical walk? Hadrian’s Wall is the northernmost Roman ruins in England, and it’s well worth a day’s visit.

Walking in the green pastures and rolling hills of northern England it’s hard to imagine why the Roman empire stretched this far from Rome. But it did. In fact, by 80 AD the far reaching empire controlled not just this part of norther England but much of present day Scotland as well.

Of course, with their military lines stretched so far and so thin something had to give, and as the tribes along the Danube started rising up, Rome called back troops from the other frontiers and the troops in Britain pulled back. When he came to power in 117 AD, the Emperor Hadrian knew it was time to stop expanding and work on holding the lines.

A placard telling about Hadrian's Wall.

He ordered a wall to be built across the width of the country from the Irish sea to the English channel. It was a grand and glorious feat of military engineering with forts, towers, watch towers, beacons and semiphore stations, and of course unbroken wall and earthen works all designed to keep the northern tribes out of “civilized” Roman territory.

Roman ruins near the wall.

Today, there’s not much left of the wall. It has been conserved through most of its length with stones up to about three or four feet high and five or six feet thick. It rolls along over gently undulating hills, through fields of wild flowers, and past bleating sheep in bright green pastures. There is a walking and biking trail that one can follow to traverse the entire length of the wall but we didn’t have time for that so we concentrated our efforts at Birdoswald, the sight of one of the main fortresses.

Great artifacts in the Hadrian's Wall museum.

As with the stretches of wall we’d seen while driving, Birdoswald has little more than the stone walls forming the outline or footprint of the old fort. You can walk amongst the ruins and get a good idea of the defensive layout, storerooms, and the baths.

The sheep are still grazing outside the fort.

Again, we found the vivid green grass covered with sheep (and their dropppings) but this really just added to the forgotten and lonely mood of the place. Of course, there would have been a thriving town full of casinos, wine bars, kebab stands, and brothels back in the day–everything the lonely soldier far from home would want–but now there is little more than the tea room and tiny museum with a small shop.

The Roman tower at the fort.

It’s hard to say just how effective the wall was in its day, but on the day we visited we discovered that thieves had invaded the surrounding countryside and broken into one or two cars down in the parking lot (GBP 4 per day). As with other tourist sites in the UK, it’s always good advice to take all valuables with you out of the car and make sure there is nothing at all still visible in the vehicle.

Hadrian's wall as far as the eye can see.

Are you a fan of Roman Ruins?

We’ve chased them all over the globe.  Here are a few more you can check out:

Germany’s Frontiers of the Roman Empire
Morocco – Visiting Volubilis
Israel – Checking Out the Roman Ruins of Caesarea
Tunisia – Bulla Regia 
Turkey – Romping Through Roman Ankara

Hadrians Wall England Roman Fort

What Roman ruins have you visited or would you like to visit?

Author Bio: Jim Vail, is a travel, food, and video creator and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 15 years. For many years he lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands, and he’s visited over 90 countries.

Hadrians Wall England Roman Fort.

Barbara Wagner

Friday 14th of April 2017

I am ashamed to say, but I live in England and I have never seen this place. Put it on the bucket list. It s nice to see a photo of you and your husband.

Corinne Vail

Saturday 15th of April 2017

Thanks Barbara! I hope you get up there; it's a beautiful area and lots of nice walking trails.

Michele {Malaysian Meanders}

Saturday 15th of August 2015

I've always wondered what Hadrian's Wall looked like. Not quite the Great Wall of China, but the surrounding countryside is so bucolic and green. It's humbling to think that the Roman Empire reached that far.

Corinne Vail

Sunday 16th of August 2015

Michele, I love chasing down Roman ruins. It is mind boggling what they accomplished and left behind!

budget jan

Friday 14th of August 2015

I do love ruins. I think my favourite would have to be Ani in Turkey. I also like less well known ones that you might even stumble across by accident (even though they are well documented lol).

Corinne Vail

Friday 14th of August 2015

Jan, I love Ani as well, but I have to admit I tend to love all of them that aren't crowded!

Adrenaline Romance

Sunday 9th of August 2015

What a lovely, verdant place! If we have the opportunity to visit England, we would definitely visit this historical place.

Corinne Vail

Tuesday 11th of August 2015

Adrenaline, It was gorgeous! And I think the rain added to the overall ambiance. We loved it!

rhonda albom

Saturday 8th of August 2015

Like you, I love seeing the Roman Ruins. Hadrian's wall looks fantastic.

Corinne Vail

Sunday 9th of August 2015

Rhonda, It amazes me how far the Romans got. I love to see where they were, what they built and how many vineyards are left from their presence.