Housesteads Roman Fort & Museum
Housesteads Roman Fort & Museum Hexham Reviews
Housestead Fort and Hadrian's Wall Jan 02, 2014
Housesteads fort is one of the best preserved fortresses on Hadrian’s Wall, the massive defence that marked the edge of the Roman Empire. It was occupied by a century of auxillary soldiers from the time the wall was built, early in the second century AD, to when it was abandoned late in the 4th. The remains include evidence of bakeries and bath houses, the gate houses, and the barracks where they slept. The real attraction, however, is the wall itself. Hadrian’s wall was built right across the top of England (it’s roughly 50 miles south of the current border) to separate the civilised tribes in the south from the troublesome Picts in the north. The Romans did have trade, and slaving relations, with the people living north of the wall; the Antonine wall is in central Scotland, and also Roman. But they never really conquered Scotland and the wall marks their defensive efforts.
The wall at this point crests a ridge line, with the manmade ramparts balanced along natural cliffs with what would have been marshland along the bottom (it’s fields now, thanks to 2000 odd years of improved agriculture). It must have been nearly unassailable. There were fortresses frequently along its length, and “mile castles” – mini fortresses – every Roman mile. It was heavily defended and you have to feel a little sorry for the auxillaries, raised in other, warmer parts of the empire and posted to this frozen, windy land. The landscape forms part of the Northumbrian National Park and is amongst the most dramatic in England.
Entrance to the fort is not cheap, and is governed by English Heritage. This means that there are separate charges both for parking and for entrance to the fort. There’s a visitor’s centre and the obligatory gift shop, and guide books are available. Parking aside, it should be free to walk along parts of the wall, so whether you want to pay for admission depends on how close a look you want at the ruined fort. I think it’s worth it, but then the fort was technically shut when I went so I got in free. It’s quite a long, hilly 10 minute walk from the car park so might not be suitable if you have severe mobility restrictions, but there is a path so baby buggies should make it. Dogs are welcome on the wall as long as they behave themselves – bear in mind that there are sheep around and your dog mustn’t be allowed to harass them. Bring a hat – it will be windy. The nearby Twice Brewed Inn, in Twice Brewed (my current favourite place name in the UK), is a rather splendid pub and good for warming back up in.
Part of the UK 2014 travel blog
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