Just over an hour from our Lake District cottages in Keswick and Ullswater, Housestead's Fort on Hadrian's Wall feels like the top of the world. The Roman road to get to it is worth the trip in itself. The Fort, when you get there, sparks the imagination completely.
Originally built almost 2000 years ago (in AD124) there were 1000 soldiers garrisoned here at times. It also boasts what are probably the oldest toilets in Britain!
Bruno checking out the drains
In the fort you can see how soldiers lived, as well as how the fort changed over the centuries. Some of the drainage system is still there (we sent Bruno down the drains to check them out), the communal toilets are really interesting (did I mention that already? – I really liked them) and there are four twin towered gateways, as well as boundary walls for internal buildings. There is also a museum owned by English Heritage but we didn’t visit this as it was being refurbished (March 2013). There is an entry fee to go to Housestead’s Fort.
Communal toilets (they possibly don't look much but I thought they were amazing!)
Hadrian’s Wall itself is 73 miles long (or 80 Roman miles). It is thought to have been originally built to protect Roman England from the marauding Scottish tribes, although there are alternative theories for its purpose. These theories include:to stop internal rebellion, to reflect the power of Rome, to control immigration, smuggling and customs.
There are plenty of walks along the wall, as well as a cycle track along part of it. Hadrian’s Wall has been described by English Heritage as "the most important monument built by the Romans in Britain".
To reach Housesteads Fort, head North towards Carlisle on the M6. Leave at Junction 43 (signed A69, Newcastle). Take the third exit on the roundabout onto the A69. Six miles later, at the next roundabout, take the third exit once again and follow the A69. Carry on for 10 miles or so and then turn left signed Greenhead, Gisland and Chollerford (just as the A69 is about to become a dual carriageway). There is also a brown sign here pointing you to Hadrian’s Wall. Go a few yards and then turn right at the end of the road. This takes you onto the old Roman Road (the B6318). Follow this road for 8.5 miles and then you’ll see the carpark for Housesteads Roman Fort & Museum on your left (postcode: NE47 6NN).