We’ve put together some top tips to help you plan an explorer’s day out, visiting some of the lesser known parts of Hadrian’s Wall. Many of these sites have provided vital clues about how and when Hadrian’s Wall was built. Use these tips to plan a real history buff’s delight, linking up with some of the main museums and Roman sites listed in the Family Itineraries.
Poltross Burn milecastle
Located in the village of Gilsland, just south of the railway line, the Poltross Burn milecastle is one of the best preserved on the Wall and lies at the end of the only mile on the line of the Wall where both milecastles, both turrets and virtually the whole of the Wall are visible. The remains of the barrack blocks and of a flight of stairs are clearly visible. The angle and step size suggest the top of the staircase would have been about 12’ above the ground, the best indication of the original height of Hadrian’s Wall .
The Roman fort at Bewcastle is located in beautiful and remote countryside ten miles north of Birdoswald. This was an outpost fort garrisoned by a regiment from Dacia (part of modern Romania). The outline of the fort is clearly visible and has an unusual hexagonal shape. A church with a sixth century cross in the graveyard and a medieval castle lie within the perimeter of the fort. There is an interesting display about local history in a building near the church.
West of the river Irthing, Hadrian’s Wall was first built of turf, not of stone. Recent research suggests this may have been the first part of the Wall to be built. The only place where the earlier turf Wall can still be seen lies west of Birdoswald fort, near the modern farm of Lanerton. Here the stone wall was later built on a different line just north of the turf Wall. The turf Wall becomes visible in the second field west of Birdoswald, with the Vallum just behind to the south.
Banks turret and Pike Hill signal tower
These are the first well preserved remnants of Hadrian’s Wall you come across when approaching from the west from Lanercost. There is a small car park adjacent to the turret and a short section of Wall. The tower at Pike Hill just east of Banks turret acted as a signal station before Hadrian’s Wall was built and was later incorporated into the line of the Wall, at an angle. There are extensive views from here across north Cumbria and beyond.
An interesting unexcavated section of the Wall is clearly visible in the hedgeline by the side of the Hadrian’s Wall Path half a mile north west of Lanercost Priory. Most the stone sections of the Wall that can be seen elsewhere are the result of excavation and restoration by John Clayton in the nineteenth century. Here at Burtholme you can gain an impression of the appearance of the Wall prior to restoration, in a tumbled down condition.