This article was written in 2017, please note, the Hadrian's Cavalry exhibition is no longer available.
If you’re a family group with kids of up to around 14, and staying in Carlisle or north Cumbria, this one’s for you. The north Cumbrian section of Hadrian’s Wall is packed with family friendly Roman attractions that are easy to visit by car – and there’s no need for lots of outdoor gear or long walks!
How long does it take?
You can fit these three destinations into a day full of fun – two modern museums, a classic Roman fort and one of the best stretches of the Wall itself with turrets and milecastles. Spread your visit over two days and spend some time in historic Carlisle with its castle, cathedral, shops, restaurants and riverside walks.
What do we need?
A car is essential for this day out as public transport is limited along this stretch of the Wall. Pack your own lunch and picnic at Willowford Roman bridge near Birdoswald, or treat your family to a meal at Lanercost tea rooms or in the cafes at Birdoswald and the Roman Army Museum.
What’s the plan?
10.00am: Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery in Carlisle
A British Museum Partnership Gallery, The Roman Frontier: stories beyond Hadrian's Wall is located at the heart of the former Roman city of Luguvallium, once the headquarters of the Roman garrison along Hadrian’s Wall. This modern gallery tells the story of Rome’s north west frontier, before, during and after the building of Hadrian’s Wall, illustrating the story with objects selected from the museum’s rich collections and with others on loan from the British Museum and from private collections. The Living Wall is a compelling display exploring frontiers around the world today and how they impact on our lives. There are lots of fun interactives for children.
12.00pm: Lanercost tea rooms
About 20 minutes drive east of Carlisle, through the small market town of Brampton. Time for a spot of lunch or a snack in this beautiful setting at the western ‘Gateway’ to some of the best preserved parts of Hadrian’s Wall.
When you leave Lanercost, the road beyond the village of Banks closely follows the line of Hadrian’s Wall (it’s built on top of the Wall!). If you look carefully you will see the Wall ditch to the north and the Vallum to the south, as well as the remains of several turrets.
1.30pm: Birdoswald Roman fort and Hadrian’s Wall
Park close to one of the longest and best preserved stretches of Hadrian’s Wall. The walls of this classic Roman fort are clear to see with their gates and fine stone masonry. See (link) for details of events. One of the granaries was re-used in anglo-saxon times as a feasting hall, giving a fascinating insight into life along the Wall after the end of Roman Imperial rule. Take an easy stroll by Hadrian’s Wall to the edge of the Irthing gorge with amazing views. Your efforts will be rewarded if you walk a little further, down the steep path to the remains of the Roman bridge at Willowford. It’s a great picnic site in summer.
3.30pm: Roman Army Museum
With close links to Vindolanda, The Roman Army Museum is on the site of Carvoran Roman fort. This place is dedicated to recreating life as it would have been for Roman soldiers in Hadrian’s army. Using 3D film, incredible artefacts (including the only Roman helmet crest ever to be discovered) and fantastic story-telling, the museum invites visitors to step into the sandals of a Roman soldier and face his life on the frontline.
If you have time, explore the ruins of Lanercost priory, built with stones from Hadrian’s Wall and once the centre of government for England for six months when Edward 1st stayed here.
Take time to walk the stretch of Hadrian’s Wall from Birdoswald to Gilsland, picnicking by Willowford Roman bridge.