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Hadrian's Wall Northumberland

Nah man. The light’s too flat. Might as well head straight to the pub!” – Words that would have most certainly gone through my head on such a grey day ten years ago. Even in a landscape as stunning as the Northumberland National Park.

‘Flat Light’ is geek speak for when the weather is dull and very grey. It creates a diffused, even light, meaning the shadows that can dramatically define and shape a scene or subject are either considerably softer or non existent; hence the word “flat”.

While I still don’t need too much encouragement to head to the pub, on this occasion I was raring to get out and get walking the wall. I’ve learned that there’s no such thing as ‘bad ‘ light or bad weather. It’s something I enthusiastically teach at Walking Photographer Tours: great photos can be achieved in any light and all weather!

This particular area of Northumberland, grey skies or blue, has to be up there with the best landscapes in the country. It’s full of history, nature and has more stunning vistas you can shake a stick at!

We came to the area after receiving a gift voucher for one night at the Old Repeater Station. This unique bed and breakfast is cosy and quirky. Approximately placed at the halfway point along Hadrian’s Wall, it makes a welcome resting point for weary wall walkers.

Day one of our walk took us past Housesteads Roman Fort and an iconic tree that features in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. The route itself was reminiscent of a roller coaster with numerous ascents and descents. Whether up, down or even halfway there were always points of interest and something to see.

We finished at Twice Brewed Inn with a couple of pints and a packet of dry roasted peanuts while recouping in the beer garden. With a great variety of original beers (many I had never set eyes on before), including their own: ‘Twice Brewed Bitter’ on offer, this watering hole is well worth a stop.

Feeling revived, we headed back to the Old Repeater Station for dinner. We were joined by a group of young men who were walking the length of Hadrian’s wall. I know they were young because over dinner they played a game where you had to speak for one minute on a subject without hesitation, deviation or repetition. The giveaway was that they played this game unaware that it’s a BBC Radio 4 quiz called Just a Minute which has been broadcast since 1967. We chose not to shatter the illusion of this ‘new game’ they had discovered.

A number of souvenirs and extras are also available at The Old Repeater Station including a selection bottled beers from my current favourite brewery Allendale, who are based just down the road from Hexham. You can even order a packed lunch, in preparation for the next day’s walk!

Hadrian’s Wall, Day Deux

On the second day we started where we finished. No, not in the pub! We parked at the Northumberland National Park Centre and rejoined the path we had previously abandoned in favour for the Twice Brewed Inn.

Being Sunday morning, the footpath was a little quieter, our toughest obstacle was a herd of cows, who seemed reluctant to let us pass. Once we had cautiously negotiated the obstinate beasts we were back on the roller coaster of gorgeous scenery and historic relics.

We hadn’t planned how far we would walk, but we knew we wanted to loop back round to Vindolanda. But every turn and every peak we walked, revealed something new and enticed us further along the wall. In the end, Cawfield Quarry felt like a natural place to break from the path. We crossed the military road and made a bee line for Vindolanda.


As we headed to Vindolanda the clouds started to lift and the air warmed significantly. There was a real sense of relief when we made it to the main entrance and as soon as entered we headed straight to the cafe!

After some awesome and most welcome refreshments, we were ready to explore Vindolanda. For some reason Vindolanda had stuck in my head as “Vindaloo Land”, a place that many of my pals would pay good money to visit. Someone should buy the rights! But as a result I was somewhat unsure of what to expect from this exotically named Roman feature.

From an early age, I’ve visited quite a few Roman museums, sites and attractions; some voluntarily, some under duress, but this place has to be one of the most fascinating Roman destinations I’ve ever visited.

It’s the Roman Army Museum that sets this place apart from the numerous others. It’s brilliantly presented and really holds the interest of someone with as short attention span as myself! The real USP (That’s ‘Unique Selling Point’ for those unfamiliar with Dragon’s Den and the Apprentice speak!) and star attraction are the Vindolanda Tablets.

These tablets are the oldest surviving handwritten documents in Britain and are considered the best source for learning about what life was like around Hadrian’s Wall. There are 752 tablets that have been transcribed and can be viewed in the museum. Some are military related, some are personal, all of them though feel like a secret window into a lost world!

Visiting Vindolanda made the perfect ending to our Hadrian’s Wall experience. It kind of tied everything together. The only thing I felt was missing, was a portion of Vindaloo!


You can now view and buy high quality fine art photography of Hadrian’s Wall and other Northumberland scenes in the Walking Photographer Northumberland themed gallery