This page contains answers to questions on Walks and Camping Treks that we've often been asked. It has six sections, with two of them being specific just to our Camping Treks. The headings may be brief, but the dropdown menus contain the questions in full.
How long is the Wall?
There is often some confusion here between ‘The Wall' and ‘The National Trail', as they are not the same thing - hence there are two answers.
The Wall (as built by the Romans) was 73 miles in length, running between Maia (Bowness-on-Solway) and Segedunum (Wallsend). In the present day, existence of the stone Wall is mainly evident over approximately a 30-mile stretch, between Birdoswald and Chollerford. Beyond those two points, the line of the Wall is generally identifiable by the ditch (the Fosse) that was in front of it, or the mounds and ditch that lay behind it (the Vallum).
The National Trail is the long-distance Path that runs between Bowness-on-Solway and Wallsend. Where practical the Trail follows the line of the original Wall - diversions having been added in certain sections to make it more appealing (eg a footpath along a riverbank rather than through a modern busy city centre). The length of the Trail, at 84 miles, is longer than the original Wall.
What is the Hadrian's Wall Path?
It is the full name given to the long-distance National Trail, which is adjacent to parts of the Roman Wall, created and maintained by the Countryside Agency, in partnership with numerous other agencies - including English Heritage, the National Trust and Northumberland National Park.
How long is the National Trail?
The entire Trail is 84 miles long. Some folk walk all of it, some part of it and some choose to take diversionary routes off it in order to take in sites of interest like Vindolanda and Corstopitum.
When does the Trail close?
It doesn't, it's open 365 days of the year. That said, normal Full Trail itineraries are not really workable during December & January, as many accommodation providers take a break then, as do the baggage transfer guys.
Where is the Best of the Wall?
The answer to this is entirely subjective, however it is a commonly used term that is applied to where you find the stone Wall is most prominent and the landscape is particularly breathtaking. With those two considerations in mind, the ‘Best of the Wall' is generally regarded as being the 30 miles stretch in the central section between the Irthing and North Tyne valleys. That said, there is much to appreciate either side of the central area, it's just that the landscape is different and the visible heritage is not predominently Roman.
How long does it take to walk the Wall?
This generally depends on what you want to see, how experienced a distance walker you are and how much time you have available. We have a some guidance on what is possible within certain timeframes, in the 'Options' section of our 'Info' page.
When is the best time to walk the Wall?
This is an often-asked question and the answer depends on your definition of ‘best'. Is it a reference to weather, congestion, facilities or amenities?
Landscape - For us, living next to the Wall, there's never a week goes by that doesn't have a moment when we say ‘this is just the best time to be here'. Generally that moment will be a time when few, if any, folk are around and there's a sense of having that dramatic landscape of rolling hills, forests and loughs (Northumbrian lakes) all to yourself. The weather conditions merely affect ‘what to wear' and more significantly, how the landscape appears.
Higher Temperatures - If your idea of ‘best' is when you're most likely to feel comfortable wearing a pair of shorts, then it's probably going to be between the end of May and early September.
The ‘weather' question is a tricky one in terms of rainfall (as it's a bit like ‘how long's a piece of string') - we live here and never know what's coming, so tend to be prepared for whatever mother nature throws at us. What we can say, is that we actually have one of the lowest rainfall averages in the country and on those days when we do see rain, it tends to be a shower and for most of the day it will be dry. Between May and August 2016, we had about two days when we had some heavy showers - we are acutely aware of those occasions, as we run camping treks during those months and we have the issue of moving and drying out tents. The last time we had a lengthy period of rain was about ten years ago and even then, we had clients who walked all week with the rain either behind them, or in front of them, but not on top of them.
Main Season - If T shirt weather isn't such a high priority, but everywhere being open for business and the AD122 running (Hadrian's Wall Shuttle Bus) is, then that is anytime during the main season, between Easter (April) and the end of September.
Accommodation Availability - If ‘avoiding the crowds' is high on your agenda, the reality is there's enough space along the Wall to avoid them any time of the year. The congestion is only a one of there being availability in the accommodations and the secret there is to either book up early enough, or be flexible on the day of the week you start - most folk arrive on a Friday night or Saturday and therefore start their walk on a weekend, so starting on another day of the week can make a difference.
Out of Season - If ‘tranquillity', ‘getting away from it all', ‘de-stressing', or ‘recharging the batteries' is particularly appealing, anytime is good - however you would do well to consider an 'out of season' Autumn, Winter, or Spring Break - (October - April).
Which direction should I walk in?
From our perspective, you can walk in whichever direction you prefer - the choice is yours. We have seen clients who have walked the Trail in one direction one year and then returned to walk it in the opposite direction the following year. Whichever direction you walk in, you're not going to be disappointed.
Walking East to West - There was one guidebook produced (labelled as the 'Official National Trail Guidebook') that described the route as starting in the east at Wallsend and finishing in the west at Bowness-on-Solway. Because of this, there has been a tendency for most folk who set up their own itinerary, to walk from the east to the west.
There may be advantages in walking east to west. These could include the fact that it may be more practical logistically, for some folk to get to Newcastle (by road, rail, or air) the day before they start their walk, than it would be to get to Carlisle.
Wallsend is in an urban area to the east of Newcastle city centre and famous for its now demised shipbuilding industry. It would be fair to say that catering for tourists was never its primary concern and it could be said that it's an interesting place to walk from, rather than to. With this in mind, many folk like the idea of walking from an urban environment and into a rural one. Finishing your walk in Bowness-on-Solway entails arriving in a small stone-built country village overlooking the Solway Firth. Walking from the east means that on those rare occasions when there's a chilly north-easterly breeze, it's going to be behind you rather than in your face.
Walking West to East - Walking from the west may again be a one that is more practical for logistical purposes - ie Carlisle may be the easiest place for you to get to the day before you start your walk. However, also worthy of consideration is that the more experienced long-distance walkers tend to choose to walk from the west, as past experience for them has proved that it is better to have the prevailing wind (which comes from the south-west) behind you rather than in front of you. Those of us that live here generally agree with this preference and the fact that all our Camping Treks are set up to run in this direction is probably a bit of a clue... Finishing your walk in Wallsend would mean that you need to get there by 4pm if you want to have time to visit Segedunum Museum - which shouldn't be too much of a problem unless you've been distracted by the places of interest on Newcastle Quayside beforehand. Wallsend might not be regarded as picturesque, however you may like the idea of walking six miles beyond it to reach the coast at Tynemouth (which is picturesque). Alternatively, it's easy enough to just jump on the Metro (the frequently running Overground / Underground local rail network) at Wallsend Station, straight across the road from Segedunum. From there, you can be on the coast or in the centre of Newcastle within 10 minutes.
How many miles is it (each day)?
This is one of the two most asked questions we get asked on a daily basis (the other being 'What's the weather going to be like today?') and unfortunately for the person asking, like the weather question, there is not a straightforward answer.
Time - We don't think in terms of 'miles', we always think in terms of 'time'. Setting aside the fact that none of the maps produced in the last 30 years, give an indication of miles (as they're all measured in kilometeres), the distance to be covered (as seen on a map) does not give a clear indication of how long it will take to actually walk it.
Timeframe - There are some sections of the Trail that the majority of folk will find that they can comfortably walk at a rate of 4 kms (kilometeres) an hour (approximately 3 mph). There will also be other sections that the same walkers will find themselves only able to cover half that distance (and even less) in the same timeframe.
Itineraries - We put together hundreds of Itineraries for clients each year and the method we use is based on various factors - eg the overall timeframe that has been booked, the level of accommodation & services preferred and any special requests that may have been asked of us. Beyond that, we then factor in the terrain to be traversed each day and what distractions there are en-route (ie Sites of Interest) and thereby calculate the expected time that will be taken between each point. Within this calculation, there will also be consideration for whether you are just easing into your walk, or likely to be feeling a few aches from the previous day - and of course, we will have borne in mind all the feedback we've had over the last 12 years, as well as the fact that we ourselves have walked this Trail more times than anyone else.
Terrain - So the general rule of thumb is 'don't think in terms of miles - think in terms of Terrain'! That being the case, don't be surprised when you're presented with an itinerary that has longer distances on the flat bits - you'll appreciate it when you reach the hills...
Can I bring my dog?
Sadly, it has now got to the point that dogs are generally (with few exceptions) not accepted in accommodations. Those places that once did allow dogs in their rooms, or even just in a designated part of their establishment, have had too many unfortunate incidences, to the point that they now just refuse to accept them - no matter how small / well-behaved your dog might be.
The Alternative - The one way we've managed to find a way around the accommodation situation, is in effect to provide our own - however, that accommodation is under a canvas rather than a solid roof, using Oztents on our Camping Treks, which you can read more about in the Camping Trek FAQ section.
Consideration - Something extra to consider, is that walking the full length of the Trail, you should bear in mind that much of the path between Heddon-on-the-Wall and Wallsend is on a hard surface and therefore can be very tough on dogs' paws, compared to the softer ground to the west - so dogs need to be prepared for the ardours of the Trail as much as their owners.
When should I make a Booking?
As soon as you are able. Most folk will book at least six months before they are due to arrive. It's not unusual to find some accommodations being fully booked in popular periods, a year in advance. Bare in mind that there are some visitors travelling great distances to get here and they are making their plans, well before they come to the UK. Whilst it's not impossible to make a booking within a short timescale, the chances are that you will need to be either flexible on your dates, or be prepared to compromise on the preferred level of your accommodations on some nights.
What method can I pay by?
In the first instance, you can make your deposit either online (by card), or you can call our office and we can take your payment over the phone. Final Balance becomes due at the six weeks (eight weeks - for group bookings larger than 6 persons, or Camping Backpackers) prior to arrival point and can be made by Bank Transfer - our account details are included with your invoice sent out in your Booking Pack.
What happens after I pay my Deposit?
This is the point when we start putting your Itinerary together. Once it's been set up, we then send out your 'Booking Pack'. Included with your Booking Pack, will be your 'Outline Itinerary' (stating the type and location of your Accommodations), a 'Map', a 'Guidebook' (with III, IV, or V Denarii bookings), a recommended 'Kit List' and 'Advice on Time & Distance'.
What happens after I pay my Final Balance?
This is when we send out your 'Travel Pack'. Included in your Travel Pack, will be a 'Detailed Itinerary' (providing Accommodation details - ie. Accommodation Names / Addresses / Grid References / Route Directions / Contact Names / Telephone Numbers). There will also be 'Baggage Labels', as well as other useful information - eg Local Bus Timetables and Taxi numbers. After the 4 weeks prior to arrival point, we then pay for your accommodations in full - and it's at this stage, should there be some personal reason why you are unable to carry out your endeavour, it will be necessary for you to make a claim on your own Travel Insurance, as it will not be possible for us to get a refund from the Accommodation Providers, nor retrieve any other costs.
What happens if someone in our group drops out before we arrive?
If it's before your Final Balance has been paid, there is an administration charge of £25 for each person that drops out from the initial booking. If it's after the Final Balance has been made and the cancellation is not less than four weeks of arrival - we will refund the balance paid by that person (or those persons) less a £50 per person administration fee. Cancellations within four weeks of arrival are non-refundable and in this situation, non-participants would need to make a claim on their own personal Travel Insurance.
Where will we be located each night?
Simple answer is 'we don't know' - that is we don't precisely know where you will be accommodated until we start putting your Itinerary in place - and that process begins as soon as we receive your booking.
Booking Process - We're sometimes asked, which accommodations are going to be available, before we've received a booking and can we not just enquire with Accommodation Providers on their availability, before a booking is placed. Unfortunately, the Accommodation Providers won't accept a booking from us unless we've received one ourselves. Nor will they hold rooms on our behalf, while we put a full itinerary together and wait for a possible client (who has made no commitment) to get back to us. It should also be borne in mind that just because an accommodation has availability in the morning, it doesn't necessarily follow that the availability will still be there later in the day.
Itineraries - Given your preferred option (ie length of visit and level of Accommodation & Services), we have a formula for which locations and accommodations will be suitable for that particular choice. However, we won't know which of those accommodations will be available until we start contacting them all - and that's not quite as easy as it may seem, as there's not always someone there at the time we make those calls - which then has a knock-on effect in delaying the whole set-up process, as there may be a need to adjust the initial itinerary that we've planned. Sometimes we're able to set up the whole itinerary in one day and on other occasions, it may be necessary to work on it that little bit longer.
Booking Pack - As soon as we have your Itinerary in place, we then send you an 'Outline Itinerary' as part of your 'Booking Pack'. This will detail the type of accommodation (eg Farmhouse, Hotel, Inn, Guest House, etc) and its geographical location. There is scope at this point, for us to make adjustments, should you prefer to be in a different type of accommodation, or a different location, for any given night - you just need to tell us this when you receive your Booking Pack, before we issue your final invoice.
Travel Pack - Assuming you're happy with the Outline Itinerary, we then send out a more precise detail of those accommodations (eg names, addresses, grid references and telephone numbers) in your 'Travel Pack', which is sent out after we receive the balance of your booking.