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Report 1057: Newcastle and Hadrian's Wall

By PatrickLondon from London, England, Summer 2006

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Page 5 of 5: Booked tour, do-it-yourself, point to point or fixed base?

photo by Patrick Wallace

A last look back at the crags

I went for a package with everything being organised for me, including baggage transfer, because that seemed simplest. I also checked that there was good public transport in case I needed to come off the walk at any point: the AD122 Hadrian's Wall bus runs along the main road very close to the Wall for precisely this purpose.

The Contours service was fine: it included 20 worth of guide book and maps covering all of the Wall, the B&Bs were excellent, the baggage transfer worked perfectly. It would be possible to organise it all oneself, though you might not get the same sort of price, and there's obviously a trade-off between flexibility and stress.

Contours supplied:

  • A two-way guide to the Hadrian's Wall Path, by Mark Richards, published by Cicerone (ISBN 1852843926). This provides sketch maps in two to three mile segments, showing bus stops and refreshments as well as the sights and the line of the path, together with very detailed walking directions and commentary on what's to be seen. Convenient pocket size, and much the more useful for me: only once was I slightly confused by the wording.
  • Harvey's waterproof map (in plastic case), ISBN 1851374051. If you have the wall beside you and a good sense of direction, you don't really need a map on this rather larger scale: what you need is the detail provided in a guide like the Cicerone (which gate or stile to aim for - that sort of thing).

There are also plenty of leaflets available free from the Tourist Information Centres and many B&Bs, for example, a walking and accommodation guide, general guidance on walking and on public transport. You can also buy packs of suggesting walking route guides from them as well: telephone: 01434 322202, email info@hadrians-wall.org, or visit the website listed in Resources.

It would also be possible to do this sort of holiday from a fixed base, using the dedicated AD122 Hadrian's Wall bus to get to walking routes and other attractions. Haltwhistle is a sizeable and attractive town, well-placed for trains to Newcastle and Carlisle, and for the bus to this central section of the Wall. Gilsland and Greenhead would also be good bases along the bus route at one end of this section, as would Chollerford and Humshaugh (though they are rather smaller villages) at the other. However, the first bus runs relatively late (around 10-10.30 am along this section), and you'd have to plan your walks carefully to make sure you meet the bus going back.

Planning is key: although you can walk as little or as much as you wish, this is not like country walking further south: services are a bit more remote, the wind and weather on the high crags rather fiercer and the potential for accidents all the greater if you aren't careful. You need good boots, preparation for all weathers (layers, waterproofs AND sun block), some food and water, and emergency first aid supplies. I noticed a lot of people with walking poles; I didn't see the need myself, but if you were to twist an ankle (check my photos to see how steep the scrambles up and down can be), the support might be welcome.

Resources

Hadrian's Wall website

Maps and guides: Cicerone

Maps and guides: Harvey

My photos from this trip

Newcastle City Council's tourist information

SAGE, Gateshead

Slow Travel Google Map

The Baltic art gallery

The most scenic railway in England?

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