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What's this blog all about?

Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog begun in 2012 about family travel around the world, without leaving the UK.

I love travel adventures, but to save cash and keep my family's carbon footprint lower, I dreamt up a unique stay-at-home travel experience. So far I've visited 110 countries... without leaving the UK. Join me exploring the next 86! Or have a look at the "countries" you can discover within the UK by scrolling the labels (below right). Here's to happy travel from our doorsteps.

Around 2018 I tried a new way of writing my family's and my own UK travel adventures. Britain is a brilliant place for a staycation, mini-break and day trips. It's also a fantastic place to explore so I've begun to write up reports of places that are easy to reach by public transport. And when they are not that easy to reach I'll offer some tips on how to get there.

See www.nicolabaird.com for info about the seven books I've written, a link to my other blog on thrifty, creative childcare (homemadekids.wordpress.com) or to contact me.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Hadrian's Wall Path - following Roman footsteps

This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. We do this in a bid to be less polluting and tackle climate change while at the same time keeping a global outlook. Instead of lazing on family holidays guest poster Pete May took his family for a very long walk along Hadrian's Wall. It not only gave his family a taste of life as a Roman, it even got his young daughters walking the whole way across England (the secret is don't rush!).
Pete and daughters Nell and Lola had different views about cows
on the footpath at the early and late parts of the 84 mile long walk.
The Hadrian’s Wall Path is one of the most thrilling long-distance walks anywhere in the world and now there's a new booklet to help you conquer it. The route is only 84 miles long  - a lot easier to walk than to make - and you won’t have any problem remembering when it was built, as the accompanying walkers’ bus is the AD122.

Hadrian’s Wall Path by Mark Richards is a comprehensive guide to the path, with full directions, maps, and information about all the towns and places to stay on the route.

Real Roman remains. Some can even be clambered over.
We started our walk at Arbeia fort at South Shields, where the foundations of the Roman fort can still be traced and several rooms have been reconstructed. There’s no wall left in Newcastle, but the thrill of seeing your first section of wall at Heddon-on-the-Wall and then the angular Brunton Turret is unforgettable. Some superb Roman forts can be seen on the walk, including Chesters with its well-preserved bathhouse with alcoves for robes, and the foundations of a Roman bridge across the Tyne. The museum there has many excellent statues and gravestones too.

History, wildlife, fresh air, geography... looking at how little the girls are
it's amazing to think they walked the 84 miles. We broke it into several mini
holidays (yes, we call walks holidays) and rewarded walkers with hearty pub meals
of chips at the end of the day.

You soon realise what a massive project the wall was, with regular mile castles and turrets designed to control the border between Roman England and Scotland. In places it is still taller than an adult, though it would once have been three times bigger. There are massive earthworks too, with the Vallum ditch visible on the south side and a ditch to the north. It’s hard to believe, but many of the conscripts manning the windswept wall would have been from places as far afield as modern-day Iraq.

Nearing the end - the Solway Firth.
The most stunning section is the central section over remote crags, where the famous Sycamore Gap (used for filming Robin Hood) is situated.

  • At Housesteads fort there are intact communal Roman toilets, which will certainly stimulate some family lavatory humour. 
  • The fort at Vindolanda was unforgettable as we saw archaeologists digging up a Roman sandal and a cow’s skull used for target practice. It’s here that old Roman messages on papyrus have been found in the waste ditches referring to “Brittunculi” (wretched little Brits). 
  • It’s worth trying the Twice Brewed Inn too for good beer and rooms. 

The fort at Birdoswald was another highlight. After going through Carlisle the walk ended with the beautiful sweeping estuary of the Solway Firth and for the adults, a well-deserved pint.

Blog guest poster Pete May on the Hadrian's Wall path - he liked to make
detours to wherever football was being played!
One very useful aspect of the book is that it covers Hadrian’s Wall Path from both west to east and east to west, so that you can start at either South Shields or Bowness-on-Solway. It can be completed in one week or a more leisurely fortnight - but whatever your pace those 84 miles will feel like you’re walking with the Romans in Britain.