Jarrow, Tyne & Wear, United Kingdom
September 26, 2005
I did the hike in reverse, starting at the Steel Rigg car park before cutting east along the wall towards the dramatic scenery of Crag Lough, intermittently lit by the sun poking through the rain crowds. The route here is quite challenging, the wall rising and falling along the contours of Peel Crags and necessitating a couple of scrambles up roughly cut stone steps and small loose rocks. As you approach Crag Lough the hills become more rounded and in successive dips you’ll find the foundation stones of Milecastle 39 and a huge sycamore tree--along with the small wood a little further on the last bit of shelter until you reach the museum at Housesteads.
Continue straight ahead along the top of Crag Lough - one of five shallow lakes in the vicinity--in the direction of Hotbank Farm, where the path branches off along a temporary diversion towards Housesteads. You can choose to either follow the climbs and dips of the wall or take the more manageable grassed over military road that runs parallel to it. Although the terrain here is much flatter than Peel Crags it is also entirely open to the elements and the wind whips across the wide expanses of land filled with nothing but sheep.
The path stops at the old side entrance to Housesteads, Hadrian’s Wall merging with the north wall of the fort. From here, you can either turn left for Peatrigg or right down the hill back to the B6318, from where you can walk or pick up a bus back to Once Brewed or follow the marked path across fields and Roman defensive ditches for Vindolanda.
Take a raincoat, sun cream and plenty of water with you as the weather can be very changeable and the only facilities along the route are the pub and visitor centre in Once Brewed and the small shops at the two forts.
From journal Over the Hills and Far Away: Adventures in Northumberland National Park