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 that help us understand how and when Hadrian’s Wall was built. Use our 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.
Around 220 metres of Hadrian’s Wall has survived east of milecastle 12, just off the A69. In some places this section is as high as 1.4 metres. Don’t be fooled into thinking the kiln built into the structure is as old as the Wall – in fact that’s a late or post-medieval kiln, but it’s no less fascinating for it.
Heddon to Corbridge
You can follow the line of Hadrian’s Wall by car along the B6318 from Heddon to the junction with the A68. The road is built on top of Hadrian’s Wall with the Wall ditch to the north. The Vallum is well preserved along much of this stretch, clearly visible as a bank and two ditches to the south of the road. The A68 follows the line of Dere Street, one of the main Roman roads north into what is now Scotland. An impressive gateway once stood where the road crossed the Wall
Corbridge Roman site is different to all the other Roman sites along Hadrian’s Wall. It was a thriving supply base and Roman town. Explore the streets and houses with a fascinating audio guide and visit the modern museum that displays amazing finds from the site. Over the bridge to the south of the town, a short walk westwards along the river bank brings you to the impressive remains of the Roman bridge that crossed the Tyne here.
The tombstone of Flavinus is an impressive must-see for history buffs. Over two and half metres high, the tombstone features the finely crafted figure of a Roman cavalryman riding down a barbarian warrior who sprawls at his feet. The crypt, a surviving remnant of the church founded by Wilfrid in AD 674 contains carved stones that probably came from the Roman site at Corbridge.
Brunton Turret and Planetrees
Brunton turret is one of the best preserved turrets on Hadrian’s Wall, built by soldiers from the 20th legion. The turret is signed from a small car park on the A6079, east of Chesters Roman Fort. A fine stretch of Wall lies a little further up the hill from the turret, at Planetrees. The turret and this length of wall illustrate a change of plan while the Wall was being built, when its width was narrowed from 10 to 8 Roman feet - probably to speed up building. The narrower Wall sits on top of broader foundations, suggesting the soldiers laying the Wall's foundations had worked faster than the builders of the main Wall.
Chester’s bridge abutment
Close to Chesters Roman Fort in Northumberland are the remains of a Roman bridge across the North Tyne. On the eastern river bank you can see evidence of two successive bridges: an early one that just carried Hadrian's Wall, and a second, much larger one, that carried the Military Way - the road that serviced the Wall. This fine bridge, one of the most remarkable survivals on Hadrian's Wall, proclaimed the power and prestige of the Roman emperor and his empire.
One mile east of Brocolitia car park along the Hadrian’s Wall Path is an interesting section of the Wall where the soldiers evidently found the work hard-going as they didn’t complete the rock cut ditch. A large rock here provides clues to the methods used by the Legionary engineers to cut the rock. Holes have been drilled (or cut) into a vein of quartz on the rock's upper surface. Wedges were then hammered into the holes to allow the rocks to split along the weakness provided by the quartz vein.
Brocolitia Roman temple
This site, located near a car park on the B6318 between Chesters and Housesteads Roman forts gives an intriguing insight into Roman religious practices. The well-preserved temple here was dedicated to Mithras, god of light and the intermediary between man and eternity. The temple design imitated the cave in which Mithras killed the bull from whose body all goodness sprang. The temple interior would once have been brightly painted. You can see a reconstructed version of the temple in the Hadrian’s Wall Gallery at the Great North Museum/Hancock.