The Roman Army in the North of England
Hadrian’s Wall is the most important site in Roman Britain, with forts, civilian settlements and temples as well as fortifications. A World Heritage listed site, it is the largest surviving monument to the Roman army, stretching for 80 Roman miles from the Tyne to the Cumbrian coast. In a series of visits and walks in the company of renowned Roman historian, Dr Andy Fear of Manchester University, we examine the role and organisation of the largest professional army until the modern era, placing it in context as we visit the altars and tombstones of its soldiers and their families and explore the remains and reconstructions of fortifications, houses and barrack blocks. Walks will follow marked national paths, at times over challenging terrain, but nothing that a person of average fitness could not achieve. However to maintain momentum, those not up to the required fitness standard will be asked to travel by coach and meet the walking group at the far end. Notwithstanding, everybody will enjoy this hospitable tour set amongst the dramatic scenery of Northern England.
Recognising that the Roman Empire could not expand indefinitely, Emperor Hadrian determined to consolidate his frontiers and the resultant wall reflects that change of policy. Whilst this is the story of the frontier of an empire and the threats it faced, it is also the story of both the flourishing and decline of Rome's British province and the experience of the locals living on either side of the barrier. Occupied for two and half centuries, the Wall was heavily garrisoned, yet much about it is a mystery. Mentioned a handful of times in ancient literature, the changing design and function of Hadrian's Wall has to be deduced from excavation and many puzzles remain for us to discuss and unravel as we travel along it.
- With acknowledged authority Dr Andy Fear
- Part walking tour visiting key sites
- Staying in the beautiful market town of Hexham
- Learn what life was like for Roman Soldiers in Britain
"An excellent tour which was well researched. The Cultural Experience provides a brilliant service and go out of their way to ensure that no one is left out. I am so glad that I have discovered this company."
Day 1 – Vindolanda
Assemble at Newcastle Central rail-station at midday or meet at our Hexham hotel at 1pm, where will enjoy a light sandwich lunch. Visit to Vindolanda which probably formed part of the so-called Stanegate frontier, commonly regarded as the predecessor of Hadrian’s Wall. This iconic site and its excellent museums provide great stimulus for discussions about the wall and its developments. Check-in to our hotel for three nights.
Day 2 – The Preserved Wall
Today we enjoy walks along two of the most beautiful and best preserved sections of the wall. Starting at Gilsland we visit the best internally preserved mile-castle on the wall with its in-situ internal staircase. We then enjoy a 2½ km walk along the wall to Birdoswald Fort, where we see clear evidence of the broad/narrow wall transition, a good section of the ditch preserved by a farm track, the Willowford Roman bridge abutment, sections of turf wall and visit the small museum and internal buildings. After our picnic lunch our coach takes us to Housesteads from where we will walk the 4½ km to Steel Rigg via Mile-castles 37, 38 and 39 (Sycamore Gap) where our coach will be waiting for us.
Day 3 – Towns and Forts
Our day starts at Carrawburgh Mithraeum dedicated to the Persian warrior god, thence to Limestone Corner, where the ditch was abandoned, the infantry and cavalry fort at Chesters, with its impressive bathhouse and the reserve infantry fort at Corbridge. We enjoy a light pub-lunch before returning to explore Hexham, especially its Abbey which houses a number of Roman artefacts.
Day 4 – Points East
With brief stops at the Benwell Vallum crossing and the temple of Antenociticus en route, we will visit the remarkably reconstructed gate houses, wall sections, viewing towers and visitor centres at South Shields and Wallsend. Thence to the centre of Newcastle for lunch and a visit to the dedicated Hadrian’s Wall exhibition within the Museum of the North. Drop off at Newcastle Central station at 15:30 and our Hexham hotel at 16:30.
Recommended Reading List
- Hadrian's Wall
- Hadrian's Wall AD 122-410
- Roman Britain. A New history
- The Complete Roman Army
- The Frontiers of Imperial Roman