Hadrian's Cycleway

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Hadrian's Cycleway

Trip Highlights

  • Experience the scenic variety of northern England
  • Ride through the green pastoral scenes of the Eden Valley
  • Cycling right across England on generally quiet roads
  • Cycle the Solway Coast an area of natural beauty
  • The ruins of Hadrian’s Wall, archaeological sites and museums

Trip Summary

Prepare for great coastal and country scenery as you cross England by bike following close to the line of the Roman frontier during the reign of Emperor Hadrian 117 to 138 AD, the wall was built to defend and control his northern border from the wild northern tribes of Britain including the Picts. This cycle route traces the Roman involvement in the region from the remains of the baths at Ravensglass on the Cumbrian coast to Tynemouth on the North Sea. On the way the route passes along the Solway Firth where the ride crosses the end of Hadrian's Wall at Bowness on Solway, before turning easterly into the Eden Valley, where the route gets a lot hillier, until the River Tyne. From Carlisle you will be able to visit Roman forts and museums, quaint villages and attractive market towns, all set in a linear World Heritage Site. The Hadrian’s Cycleway, 170 miles / 274 km, is an easier but longer alternative to the traditional C2C (Coast To Coast Cycle route) and follows national cycle Sustrans Route 72. It crosses England following this generally well signed and waymarked series of minor roads and former railway lines. There are sections on gravel, but most of the route is on tarmac. The hills are more rolling and slightly less demanding than the main C2C route, but the scenery is still dramatic and beautiful.

The ride cannot follow the Wall directly all the time, but follows the general line, meeting it and crossing it at interesting points where you can visit features of this UNESCO World Heritage monument. You should have plenty of time to visit impressive fort museums such as at Birdoswald and Housesteads. The cycling also takes in historic towns such as Carlisle, Hexham and Haltwhistle. During the medieval period some of these towns benefited from dressed stone pulled from the wall.

Suitability

Moderate. Some longish days (up to 35 miles / 56 km) and a few steep climbs and descents. Generally however undulating. Mixed weather can be expected at anytime.

Itinerary

Make your own way to Whitehaven, an attractive quiet coastal town with a redeveloped harbour. This used to be a Roman port and became one of the busiest in England with trade links to America from the 1600s, coal and iron production, as well as dubious links with the slave trade. Whitehaven is also the only place in England to be invaded by the young USA in 1778, and parts of the town were set on fire. All this is explained in the modern quayside museum.You can have a relaxing stroll along the sea side from the museum to visit old mining sites with memorials to what was once a busy industrial area. Mining seams went long distances out into the Irish Sea. Accommodation: Your accommodation is situated just a few minutes’ walk from Whitehaven town centre and the waterfront. This fine example of a late Victorian townhouse has been transformed into an elegant bed and breakfast offering all modern amenities whilst retaining its original features.

Meals:  Nil

After breakfast, collect hire bikes and catch your prebooked taxi van to Ravenglass, which is to the south of Whitehaven. Ravensglass is an interesting little coastal village and you may wish to lock the bikes and allow approx 2 hours return, to take the heritage Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway for a steam excursion into the Lake District. Hadrian’s Cycleway begins at the Glannaventa Roman Bath House, about 500m from the village. The route passes Ravenglass station and crosses the estuary on the railway bridge. From here you will travel on mainly quiet roads and off-road paths through the villages of Holmrook, Drigg and Seascale, then past Sellafield Nuclear Plant before turning away from the coast towards the small town of Egremont. Further on you join the Sea to Sea (C2C) Route 71 which takes you into Whitehaven.

Meals:  B

Heading north passing through Workington, an ancient market town which in its post industrial and mining malaise, has become the main centre for shopping in West Cumbria. Now you are on to another old Roman town: Maryport which has an interesting aquarium and just to the north is the Senhouse Roman Museum dramatically sited on cliffs overlooking the Solway Firth, set next to a Roman fort. Climb the observation tower for a fabulous view of the site. Continue along to Silloth a classic, unpsoilt English seaside town on the Solway coast. It has an extensive town green in its centre, and its long promenade provides a lovely walk taking in the the majestic Solway Firth and views across the water to Scotland. Accommodation: A beautifully restored Victorian townhouse overlooking the idyllic Solway Coast.

Meals:  B

Rolling out from Silloth your attention turns to the East as you turn and head around the splendid Solway Firth, which is all that separates you from Scotland. On the Cumbrian side, much of the coastline is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty; the muds and sands, make this a major coastal bird area. The minor roads head around the marshes before winding west then back east via the village of Bowness on Solway. This is at the western end of the Hadrian's Wall and is marked by a pavilion on the small coastal cliff. The Wall originally was made of mud in this area and not much survives however the village is situated on the site of the Roman fort called Maia, which was the second largest on Hadrian's Wall. You then cycle through Port Carlisle, which sounds big but is only a tiny place, built in 1819 to service a canal link to take goods to Carlisle Basin. The canal was closed in 1853 and Port Carlisle silted up. Then you briefly meet the River Eden before pedaling into Carlisle: A border city that has changed nationality a few times through its turbulent history. If you have time it is worth visiting the castle and museum, otherwise take a walk through the Cathedral. Accommodation: Small 3* AA graded hotel was built in the 1850's with its foundations literally on Hadrian's Wall.

Meals:  B

After Carlisle, ascend out of the Eden Valley and head into the Pennines, named by the Romans after the Apennines Hills in Italy. Mostly you will be riding gentle hills although there are a couple of steep ones. On the way you could have a break in Bampton, but after about 15 miles you can visit The Priory, church and café at Lanercost, a useful stop before the route climbs up for the first views of Hadrian’s Wall. You then cycle alongside the wall for the next three miles or so, with views over the Irthing Valley to the south. Cycling past Banks with various remains of wall turrets and signalling stations, you arrive at the large site of the Roman fort at Birdoswald with its tea shop. The route then descends to cross the River Irthing near Gilsand and on through Greenhead with the option to visit the ruins of Thirlwell Castle on the way. From here a new traffic-free path runs beside the railway line, after which comes the steepest hill on the whole route up to Greenhead Bank with its Roman Army Museum (you can buy a combined ticket here which also allows you entry into Vindolanda tomorrow). You then descend into bustling Haltwhistle, the town is claimed to be the most central to the British isles! Accommodation: An elegant Victorian vicarage with spacious guest rooms and high ceilings standing in 2 acres of award winning gardens on the southern edge of Haltwhistle.

Meals:  B

Today is a shorter ride, not only because it is hilly but so that you can take in the museum sites along the way. Seven miles after Haltwhistle, there is a steep ascent from Bardon Mill back towards Hadrian’s Wall and you will be able to take a short diversion to the pub and the Northumberland National Park visitor centre at Once/Twice Brewed. Otherwise it is onto the museum remains at Vindolanda the most impressive site along Hadrian’s Wall. This remote outpost of the Roman Empire has been extensively excavated and a large number of relics are housed in the newly renovated museum. The road is roughly surfaced past Vindolanda, and after 1/2 a mile of climbing, you reach the highest point of Hadrian’s Cycleway. Now you have 6 exhilarating miles of descending on a largely straight road taking you to the banks of the River Tyne. The route will now follow the river closely all the way to the North Sea, but first you arrive at the busy market town called Hexham. Probably the most picturesque town on the trip, it has abbey ruins with a Saxon crypt which dominate the town centre. Accommodation: An ideally situated B&B in a quiet residential area in the centre of Hexham, only 3 mins from the Abbey and market place in the historic town. It is elegantly decorated and furnished with antiques in keeping with its Victorian architecture.

Meals:  B

Leaving Hexham having crossed the River Tyne, it’s not far to Corbridge, a smaller, attractive town, uniform in its stone buildings and slate roofs. Continuing on, from Prudhoe to Tynemouth, the route is almost entirely traffic-free, following the north bank of the River Tyne. The cycle route glides serenely into town, sometimes green, sometimes built-up, but always interesting. First comes 7 miles of quiet lanes from Corbridge to Ovingham. Then the route briefly crosses the Tyne on a rickety road bridge, to join the Wylam Waggonway – a tramroad dating from the 1740s. The way gets busier with retail parks and industrial estates but you soon arrive at Newcastle’s riverside, with seven bridges in the space of a mile. The newest, the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, is reserved for cyclists and walkers. Staying on the north bank you now climb above the river onto a railway path. There are dramatic views back down to the river and the site of the old Swan Hunter shipyard, and you ride around the rather built up riverside district passing the last Roman fort museum at Segendunm and eventually arrive at the castle and Abbey remains in Tynemouth marking the end of Hadrian’s Cycleway. You can celebrate your achievement in local style with fish, chips and a pint. Accommodation: Two attractive guesthouses are used in the centre of Tynemouth, close to the amenities in the town.

Meals:  B

Depart from Tynemouth, convenient metro train to Newcastle Central Station to join national rail network.

Meals:  B

What's Included

  • 7 Breakfasts
  • 7 nights accommodation on a twin share basis with ensuite facilities where available
  • One piece of luggage per person transferred from Inn to Inn, not exceeding 17kg
  • Information pack including route notes & maps (1 pack per room booked)
  • Emergency hotline

What's Not Included

  • Dinners, lunches & beverages
  • Travel insurance
  • Transport to arrive at the first B&B and return home
  • Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
  • Public transport on Day 2
  • Entrance fees to museums
  • Bike hire: approx. £100 or e-bikes £200

Upcoming Travel Dates

AT A GLANCE

Duration:8 Days
Countries:England
Starting Point:Whitehaven
Finishing Point:Tynemouth
Activities:Self-Guided Cycling
Grade:moderate  Click for more information
Trip Code:WHC
Prices From:GBP£880 Per Person
Please do not book any flights or extra arrangements until such time that your booking is confirmed by Sherpa Expeditions by phone or email.