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The most northerly county in England, Northumberland is also one of the largest and least populated. This is a county steeped in history and violence. To understand Northumberland you need to go back to the time of the Romans when the emperor Hadrian, in 122 AD,built the Wall which carries his name. It is now a UNESCO world heritage site and runs for 83 miles from Newcastle in the east to the Solway coast in the west. The Wall itself is still visible along sections of its journey and there are excavations and reconstructions to visit along the way.
As an introduction to the Wall it is probably best to start with one of the large excavations to get a feel for what life in Roman times was like.
Vindolanda or Housesteads are the two main sites, both offering plenty to see and do. You have to pay an entry charge for both sites but the prices are not high with £5.90 for an adult being the highest price ( Vindolanda as summer 2010). There is plenty of parking available with toilets and tearoom. Disabled access is possible but you really need to be accompanied and Housesteads is up a hill so it can be a good push.
Once you have gained a sense of what Roman times were like the next step is really to walk along sections of the Wall to appreciate why it was built here and what the Romans hoped to gain. The central section of the Wall between Chollerford and Gilsland is probably the best for this.Its here that you follow the Wall along the Whin Sill and see the true beauty of the landscape. The picture below shows the Wall at Cuddy's Crag.
Running for 83 miles the Wall crosses two counties and runs through both private and public land. This makes it difficult to convey a central image or identity.In 2010 an attempt to remedy this was made through the illuminating the Wall event .
However this doesn't stop it being a popular tourist destination. One of the most famous parts of the Wall is Sycamore Gap. It was here that a scene from the Kevin Costner film about Robin Hood was shot and to the locals this is now the Robin Hood tree. See picture below
For many people the Wall is synonymous with raising money for charities. When you are exploring the Wall there is a good chance that you will see many walkers on sponsored walks.
Carlisle and Newcastle are the best Cities to start with. Both can be easily reached by rail links from London and Glasgow or Edinburgh. Newcastle also has an international airport. To explore the Wall you can then use the train line between these two cities to reach one of the towns in the centre such as Hexham, Haydon Bridge or Haltwhistle. From here your options are either use one of the taxi serviceswhich will be happy to drive you up the Wall or use the appropriately named Wall Bus 122.
Tourism is a major industry for the locals here and you will find a warm welcome in most places. The choices range between
Whilst you are in Northumberland there are a number of other areas and attractions well worth considering.
Tullie house museum in Carlisle has many exhibits dedicated to the Roman times.
If you have access to a car then the countryside either side of the Wall is famous for its part in the Border Reiver times with bastle houses, mining towns and so much more to explore.
It is well worth reading about the history and times of the area before your visit. One excellent resource would be Alastair Moffat's book "The Wall, Rome's Greatest Frontier". Pub by Berlinn Limited