With major rail stations at Newcastle and Carlisle, it’s easy to get close to either end of Hadrian’s Wall Path from almost anywhere in Britain. Wallsend has a metro station linking it to Newcastle city centre, and Bowness-on-Solway has a few buses a day to Carlisle.
There are good rail and bus services between Newcastle and Carlisle; for the most part, these run a few miles south of the Path. But from Easter to September, the AD122 bus service links the two major towns on these services – Hexham and Haltwhistle – with the major sites on the Wall itself.
Otherwise, there are almost no bus services other than the extremely useful Bellingham to Hexham service at Chollerford – I used it in 2017 – and infrequent buses serving the B6318 near the Errington Arms and linking Haltwhistle to Gilsland.
You probably won’t do it how I did it.
I started with the bit in the middle, in 2007, as a half-term treat for my history-obsessed son Adrian, then 15. Ten years later, I wanted to complete the trail to help boost my tally of National Trails – but would this mean two visits, one for each end? No. In 2017 I went up to the AGM of the Mountain Bothies Association, which that year was in Langwathby, south of Carlisle. I reckoned I could polish off the Newcastle sections in two days, travel by bus and train to Carlisle, and use that as a base for the remaining stretch west of Gilsland – two more days. It worked out fine.
Hadrian’s Wall Path is one of the most-walked of all National Trails. It fits nicely into a week, and balances landscape with history and variety, so its popularity should be no surprise. Alongside that has come a well-developed tourist infrastructure, and in particular there are plenty of places to stay, campsites, bunkhouses, hostels, B&Bs and hotels. Some walkers use luggage transfers – there are plenty of companies offering; no doubt this means they can posh up a bit in the evenings, but deep down they know it’s a cheat, and hardly cheap either.
To help plan your visit try:
- the National Trail site, with a very clever interactive map that can inter-relate the main attractions to accomodation and transport links; and
- the Hadrian’s Wall Country site, more sober and plain but everything’s there.
On Newcastle’s outskirts, I stayed at the Keelman’s Lodge in Newburn. It was a comfortable and welcoming place, with good food and beer.
We had three overnights on the Whin Sill: the bunkhouse at Green Carts farm, where the very helpful landlady happily drove us to and from the local pub for dinner; Saughy Rigg farm, which as of 2021 was only available to large groups, and Brookside Villa in Gilsland – which in 2007 we decided was just about the best B&B we’ve ever stayed in – great food, properly served beer, and loads of nice extra touches in the rooms. The landlady gave us a lift into Brampton the next morning too.
For the final stretch, I stayed both nights at the Carlisle City Hostel. I’ve been there before, for an overnight on my way south before the High Pennines stage of my cross-England walk, and I had no compunction about coming back; all the facilities you need, helpful host, and round the corner from the city centre.