Sewingshields to Cawfields
Key information: Sewingshields to Cawfields
- The finest stretch of Hadrian’s wall, and one of Walkopedia’s favourite walks ever.
- Follow the Wall as it snakes through superb hill and moorland scenery.
- Historically enthralling: with well preserved stretches of wall, towers, forts and camps, you can almost hear the legionaries tramping along the wall.
- Walkopedia rating95.5
- Natural interest14
- Human interest19
- Negative points2
- Total rating95.5
- Note: Negs: popularity.
- Length: 15km+
- Maximum Altitude: N/A
- Level of Difficulty: Strenuous
Hadrian’s wall, the Roman Empire’s British frontier, still runs from sea to sea across northern England, through magnificent hill and moorland scenery for much of the way. With many stretches in remarkable condition, this combination of beauty and extreme history makes for thrilling, inspirational walking.
The wall was brilliantly sited, following high ground wherever practicable, its central sections snaking along a series of ridges known as Whin Sill, a hard dolerite sheet pushed up through the area's predominant limestone which breaks up into cliffs and tough slopes to the north. History is enthrallingly immediate here. There is an intense connectedness about striding along the wall, overlooking the rough lands to the north: you can almost hear the legionaries tramping along the central stretches, and feel the loneliness of a watchman gazing northward to the empty Pictish wastes.
See more on Hadrian and his wall here.
The most dramatic wallscape, in the most improbable and gorgeous countryside, is on central Hadrian's Wall, between Sewingshields, where the Wall diverts from the B6318 road, and Birdoswald Fort just west of Gisland; this is more than a day’s walk for most of us.
The finest stretch of all, and one of Walkopedia's favourite walks ever, is from Sewingshields, westward via remarkable Housteads fort and the famous high central crags, to the road junction and carpark at Cawfields Quarry.
Walkopedia walked it from east to west, but you can walk the other way just as well.
Marching along the Whin Sill ridges and dipping sharply in and out of gaps in the cliffs, the wall offers huge views and a series of visual marvels, often peering down over cliffs and tough slopes into the reedy and ravishing of loughs to the north, and you can see why the defensive line was sited here, north of the gentler banks of the Tyne. Huge landscape recedes in both directions: gorgeous, wide views out from abrupt cliff-faces over the high farmland, moors and small lakes to the north and across the Tyne valley to the Pennine hills to the south.
With the wall and its forts and milecastles and turrets a permanent reminder of an extraordinary and deeply romantic history, it is hard not to come over all poetic.
Highlights include the view west from the end of Sewingshields Crags, across a winding and beautiful section of wall; the amazingly preserved and sited Housteads fort; the sheer drop from Highshields Crags to the lough below; the famous sycamore tree perfectly sited centrally in a steep little gap; and the huge and beautiful views from Winshields Crags.
If you want to make a bit of a longer walk of it, which Walkopdia did, start from Procolitia Fort, east of Carraw (and some 3km east of Sewingshields) on the B6318. The first delight will be the tiny and moving temple of Mithras just below the fort. The Wall between here and Sewingshields, when it diverts from the road and climbs onto the dramatic hills and cliffs of the Whin Sill formation, is most memorable for the deep and dead straight vallum ditch to the north of the not-so-visible wall itself.
If you want to shorten it a bit, walk from Sewingshields to Steel Rigg. This is a very concentrated 5 miles or so – a bit over two hours – of inspirational walking.
See William Mackesy’s account of walking much of this section.
A joy of walking the Wall is the profusion of good places to stay, from pubs and BnBs to comfy hotels, and you can have your luggage taken from place to place, leaving you with just a day pack and your excitement.
Most people come by car to their chosen start/end points. The brilliant AD122 Hadrian's Wall Bus (between Easter and October) stops at many points along the wall and opens up all sorts of possibilities of being taken back to your car at the end (or vice versa).
While crowding in places will detract from the full magic, you can screen quite a bit of it out.
See our Hadrian’s Wall page for more photos and lots of practicalties.
WILLIAM MACKESY'S ACCOUNT
of this walk
Housteads to Steel Rigg, 6.8.09
After the wettest UK July in more than 100 years, I couldn’t believe my luck: a clear sky was peppered with puffy little clouds, heat tempered by a gentle breeze. Perfect walking conditions.
This stretch of Hadrian’s Wall is one of the most enjoyable walks I have ever made. While its scenery may not match the Himalayan, and it was a bit overpopulated the day I was there, it was captivating nevertheless: gorgeous, wide views out from abrupt cliff-faces over the high farmland, moors and small lakes to the north and across the.....READ MORE
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