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Walking that other great wall

A new 80-mile-plus footpath follows the whole length of ancient Hadrian's Wall, which crosses northern England nearly from coast to coast.

May 25, 2003|Jane Engle | Times Staff Writer

After nearly 20 years and an investment of $9 million, Britain this weekend was to have opened a footpath along the entire length of Hadrian's Wall, the country's most important classical Roman monument. Tour companies have already lined up with offerings.

The Hadrian's Wall Path National Trail, in northern England near the Scottish border, stretches more than 80 miles from Wallsend in the east to Bowness-on-Solway on the west coast. It follows the route of the barrier that Roman Emperor Hadrian, who ruled from AD 117 to 138, built to keep out barbarian invaders.

Although much of the structure has been breached by roads or plundered for its stones, much still stands. There are also remains of several Roman forts on the trail and nearby, plus history museums and visitor centers.

The path passes through the rugged moors of Northumberland National Park, rolling pastureland, salt marshes and cities such as Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Carlisle.

Highlights include the Segedunum Roman fort and museum in Wallsend; the Museum of Antiquities in Newcastle; Britain's most complete Roman fort, House- steads, near Bardon Mill; and Birdoswald Roman Fort near Brampton.

Creating the path required years of negotiations with hundreds of landowners by Britain's Countryside Agency. Fences, gates and many bridges and walkways have been added. A guidebook has also been produced.

Trains serve Newcastle and Carlisle from London (several hours away) and Edinburgh (about 1 1/2 hours away). There is also bus service.

For more information, including contacts for tour operators, call the Hadrian's Wall Information Line, 011-44-1434-322-002, or visit www.hadrians-wall.org or www.nationaltrail.co.uk. (Click on "Where to go, what to see?")

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