Stones. An infinite number of stones - piled up to form a wall …
How many people did it take to build it? And what agony and drudgery went into building this 118km long bulwark? How many have lost their lives in the process?
How a Roman legionary must have felt when he looked towards the distant hills and unknown lands north of the wall. A fortified wall built to mark the end of civilisation and with it the end of the world, at least as the Romans knew it.
1900 years of Hadrian's Wall
During his travels through the Empire, Hadrian visited the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire. It stretched over 5,000 km from the north of Britain through Europe to the Black Sea, from there to the Red Sea and across North Africa to the Atlantic coast.
Publius Aelius Hadrianus, or Hadrian became emperor in 117 AD and ruled for almost 21 years. He spent more than half of his reign outside Italy. It is easier to list the countries of the Empire that Hadrian did not visit, namely Corsica and Sardinia, than those that he did. Hadrian wanted to know and understand the Empire at first hand, rather than relying on intelligence reports
as previous emperors had done.
"In the summer of AD 122, exactly 1900 years ago, the Roman Emperor Hadrian visited Britain as part of his first major inspection tour."
Mike McGuire leads his group of visitors through the excavations of the former fort of Vindolanda.
"At that time the defences were extensively rebuilt, including some interior buildings. Archaeologists are fairly certain that Hadrian lived right here during his journey.
On his orders, one of the largest bulwarks in history was created:
117.5 kilometres long, up to 3m wide and 5 metres high, secured by a system of ditches as well as 320 towers, 16 auxiliaries and 80 milestone forts, it once wound its way completely from the east to the west coast of England.
"What were they afraid of?"
Craig, a visitor from Scotland, wants to know. "Of monsters and dark forces that might threaten their territory." Mike smiles mischievously at Craig. "Well actually from you, because today of course we know that those threats were the Scots. Back then, however, the Roman centurions had no idea what was beyond the wall and had to face the fear of the unknown."
Click on the first picture to start the photo gallery:
The ramparts, some of which are still well preserved today, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Excavations take place regularly during the summer months, and volunteers are also allowed to participate.
One such volunteer, 16-year-old Jennifer Moffat, carefully scratches the earth with a small rake. She has been kneeling patiently among the stones for hours, searching for long-lost artefacts. Suddenly she feels her tool hit something solid, stops excitedly and carefully continues digging with her hands.
Ever since Jenny first visited the ancient Roman fort of Vindolanda with her family at the age of 10, she dreamed of lending a hand to the archaeologists herself.
At the time, she took her father's promise that she would be allowed to come here during the summer holidays when she was 16 - the minimum age for volunteers. This year, her dream has come true, and the two are toiling in the earth as an excavation couple. "Dad, look - I think I found something!" she beams and releases an ochre-coloured shard from the earth. Eyes shining, she wipes the piece of clay and discovers a hair-thin drawing of a gladiator. History you can touch: A message from the past - probably more than 1900 years old. Jenny's enthusiasm is contagious.
Hadrian's Wall is best preserved between Birdoswald and Vindolanda.
Be sure to hike to Sycamore Gap - from here you have the best view over the wall.
The Sycamore Gap Tree is a sycamore tree that stands beside Hadrian's Wall near Crag Lough. Located in a dramatic dip in the landscape, it is a popular photographic subject and certainly one of the most photographed trees in the country. The tree was named Tree of the Year in England in 2016.
I have saved a 6km circular walk for you on Komoot:
A good overview of everything you can do in Northumbria (including accommodation, walks, restaurants and places of interest, unfortunately only in English) at: www.yournorthumberland.co.uk
How to get there:
Those who travel by their own means of transport and do not want to drive through the whole of England can also travel directly from Amsterdam to Newcastle by ferry. It is faster via Dover. www.dfds.com
There are direct flights from Frankfurt to either Newcastle or Edinburgh.
You can compare and book prices for rental cars at www.billiger-mietwagen.de.
Where to sleep:
Stablewood Cottages has cosy, well-equipped self-catering cottages in various locations - either directly on the beach at Budle Bay, or in the small village of Lucker - both very close to Bamburgh Castle.
Those who wish can also sleep in lovingly converted shepherd's caravans, or in the B&B above the pub. A SPA with sauna, steam bath and swimming pool is perfect for warming up on rainy days. www.stablewoodcoastalcottages.com/ Essen: The Apple Inn in Lucker is a cosy pub with award-winning food. If you want, you can also sleep in the pub or in converted - now stylish - shepherd's caravans. https://theappleinnlucker.com