A northern frontier which protected the world’s most infamous empire for three centuries, Hadrian’s Wall is a fascinating relic of Roman history stretching across the north of England. This Collection guides you along Hadrian’s Cycleway in seven stages where you can cycle in the footsteps of history.
Starting from the Glannaventa Roman Bath House on the outskirts of Ravenglass in Cumbria, Hadrian’s Cycleway leads 170 miles (274 km) through fascinating history to Tyneside, on the North Sea.
Along the way, you will not only cycle through Britain’s past, but also through spectacular nature: gushing rivers, undulating hills, luscious grazing pastures, and shimmering lakes await you as you ride.
With 2090 meters (6857 feet) of elevation gain over the seven stages, Hadrian’s Cycleway is a popular alternative to other hillier Coast to Coast bike routes. It may be flatter, but it is no less beautiful, passing stunning shoreline, the Lake District and Northumberland National Parks and through the Pennine hills.
Thanks to its gentle climbs as well as mixture of quiet country lanes, traffic-free cycle lanes, and gravel paths, Hadrian’s Cycleway is suitable for all levels of riders – whether you are looking for a fun family cycle ride or some serious leg training. Most bikes are suitable for this route, but you may want to choose a chunkier alternative to your slick racing tyres.
Each stage of the Collection starts and ends in a town or city with plenty of accommodation and eating choices to make your adventure even more pleasant. Many of the towns also have a train station so you can conveniently complete the stages one at a time.
To reach the start of the Hadrian’s Cycleway in Ravenglass, you can travel by train via Carlisle. With direct trains from Glasgow, Lancaster, London Euston, and Edinburgh, Carlisle is well connected with the rest of the UK.
All that is left is to set off on your adventure; the towering turrets, ancient bath houses, and stone watchtowers that once served thousands of Roman soldiers have since crumbled along with the Roman empire, but their legacy remains.
For more train tickets and timetables, visit: thetrainline.com/stations/carlisle
For more information about Hadrian’s Wall, visit: hadrianswallcountry.co.uk
Your first day of cycling the Hadrian’s Cycleway from Ravenglass to Tyneside is steeped in history. Today, you will visit the crumbling walls of fortresses built in the 11th century and walk the same corridors as Kings seeking refuge from battles.
Your journey begins at the Glannaventa Roman Bath House just outside of Ravenglass, a pretty town on the edge of the Lake District National Park overlooking the Irish Sea. From here, you will follow a coastal path along beaches before arriving in Sellafield. An industrial town known for its nuclear processing plant, you may not want to linger here.
From Sellafield, you will head inland loosely following the River Ehen as it flows through the countryside. The road is mostly flat as it leads through the pleasant villages of Beckermet and Thornhill, before arriving in Egremont.
A historic town, Egremont was once the site of medieval battles and industrial iron mines. Today, the town has a thriving arts and crafts scene and many good eating options – a great place to stop for lunch.
From Egremont, you will ride 6.8 miles (11 km) back to the coast, with a descent into Whitehaven, your final destination. This Georgian town with a beautiful seafront is considered one of the 40 Gem Towns in England. You will find plenty of comfortable accommodation options here.
A fresh sea breeze, spectacular views over the moody Irish Sea, and picturesque coastal towns – with the sea never far away, stage two of Hadrian’s Cycleway leads you 30 beautiful miles (52 km) up the northwest coast of England.
Setting off from Whitehaven, today you will cycle mostly flat quiet roads, climbing 230 meters (754 feet) in total. Just after Parton, you will cross the Lowca Beck into Lowca village before arriving in Distington. Here, you can visit a medieval manor house, fortified in 1322 to protect its residents. These grandiose houses are common in this corner of northern England, once the scene of battles between the Scots and the English.
From Distington, you can enjoy a downhill section in Workington. Built on the edge of the River Derwent, Workington is a thriving town that was once a major industrial town and port. Today, the town serves as the main shopping centre for west Cumbria and you will find a huge variety of shops and restaurants.
Next, you will cycle along a cycle path through peaceful coastal landscapes, far away from hustle and bustle. The route passes nature reserves, crumbling Roman ruins and sandy beaches, interrupted by the occasional quaint coastal village.
When you arrive in Silloth, you have reached the end of stage two. Nestled on the shores of the Solway Firth, surrounded by sea, the Southern Galloway hills and the Lake District Fells, Silloth is a beautiful place to spend the night.
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On your third stage cycling the Hadrian’s Cycleway, you will be captivated by ancient history and beautiful nature. This 34 mile (55 km) stretch, leads you along the coast, passing wild nature parks and fascinating historical monuments along the way. Today, you will join the wall after which the cycleway is named – the infamous Hadrian’s Wall.
From Silloth, you will cycle inland via quiet lanes winding through the north Cumbrian countryside. Sheep grazing in luscious farmland backdropped by gentle hills will accompany you as you ride, reaching the coast once more at Anthorn.
A remote village located on the tip of a peninsula that juts into the Irish Sea, Anthon enjoys stunning views of the Scottish coast, just across the waters. From here, you will follow the coastline as it skirts around Campfield Marsh and Drumburgh Moss Nature Reserve. With hundreds of unique species of birds, this section of the route is a dream for bird watchers.
As the nature slowly melts into suburbs, you know you are nearing your final destination, Carlisle. During Roman times, Carlisle was one of England’s most important cities serving the forts on Hadrian’s Wall as a military stronghold. Mary, Queen of Scots was even imprisoned here.
Today, Carlisle is the cultural, commercial and industrial centre of north Cumbria. You will find many museums, historical monuments, entertainment, restaurants and accommodation here to ensure you enjoy your stay.
Stage four of Hadrian’s Cycleway leads you from the former Roman stronghold city Carlisle to Haltwhistle. Today, you will leave the flat coastal scenery behind you as you cycle into the stunning North Pennines, deep into the historical heartland of Britain.
You will leave Carlisle on a flat cycle path which follows the River Eden as it meanders through emerald countryside and patchwork farmland. Along the way, you will pass Warwick Bridge, How and Hayton. Although small, these pleasant villages have a smattering of good cafes, pubs and village shops to keep you energised.
After a gradual climb, you will reach Brampton a pretty sandstone coloured town located in a hollow formed by the last ice age. Look out for the tall motte as you leave the town with a statue of 7th Earl of Carlisle atop.
From here, you enter into the undulating Pennine hills, one of the most beautiful hill chains in the UK. This remote section of the route passes countless crumbling ruins of Hadrian’s Wall. You will cycle past various mile castles and Roman forts along the way.
After 26 miles (42 km), you will arrive in Gilsland, a small village straddling the border between Northumberland and Cumbria. It is thought that Sir Walter Scott regularly attended dances here where he met his future wife and proposed at the Popping Stone in the village.
Next, you will continue through the glorious countryside on the edge of the Northumberland National Park before arriving in Haltwhistle. Nestled amongst sweeping moors and woodland, Haltwhistle is a wonderful town nicknamed the centre of Britain. A popular stop-off for walkers and cyclists, Haltwhistle has all amenities for an enjoyable rest.
Imposing watchtowers, crumbling defensive walls, and ancient manuscripts – today you will cycle in the footsteps in the Roman Empire. Stage five of the Hadrian’s Cycleway takes you 23 miles (37 km) through historic England from Haltwhistle to Hexham.
Not only fantastic history await you here, but also stunning scenery. You will cycle the edges of the Northumberland National Park and the Pennines: with layers of rolling hills, lakes home to diverse wildlife and painted meadows, it is truly spectacular.
From Haltwhistle, you will follow the River South Tyne through woodland before arriving in Bardon Mill. Leaving the sleepy village, you will then climb into the hills and along one of the best-preserved sections of Hadrian’s Wall. It is worth taking a few hours to explore Vindolanda Fort and its museum to learn more about the region’s rich history.
The route continues past remnants of Roman history, rising and falling over the hills for 12.5 miles (20 km). This gorgeous section of the route follows a quiet country road with spectacular views before crossing over the River South Tyne just after the Boatside Inn, a great place for a break.
Next, you will follow a bike path next to the railway line which takes you into Hexham. Once home to England’s first purpose-built prison, Hexham is now a peaceful town situated amongst the green hills. With a thriving art and cultural scene, there are plenty of things to explore here. You will also find various types of accommodation such as hotels, B&Bs and inns for a comfortable night’s rest.
Covering 17 miles (28 km), stage six is the shortest section of your adventure along the Hadrian’s Cycleway, leaving plenty of time to explore the magnificent castles along the route. Today, you will cycle from Hexham to Prudhoe, staying close to the River Tyne as it meanders closer to the North Sea.
Leaving Hexham, you will cycle into the countryside for 5.5 miles (9 km) before arriving in Corbridge. Once known as the Roman town of Corstopitum, Corbridge was a supply town for the troops stationed along Hadrian’s Wall. You can learn about this fascinating history at Roman Town Fort on the edge of the town. Today, Corbridge is a paradise for shopping, with a pretty high street lined with independent shops and colourful flowers in hanging baskets.
After exploring Cordridge’s mix of new and old, you will cycle back into the surrounding countryside, with a short uphill section. Lined by thick woodland, quiet country lanes will lead you through the beautiful landscape, leaving and rejoining the River Tyne along the way.
From Bywell, a small village with a collection of pretty churches, you will follow the river to Ovingham. After crossing the river, you will arrive at your final destination for today’s adventure – Prudhoe.
Situated on the banks of a hill, Prudhoe enjoys beautiful views over the surrounding countryside. The town also witnessed important eras of history: Roman troops, battles between Scotland and England, coal mining, and even housed Cold War monitoring stations. Although few clues remain of the town’s interesting history today, it is a thriving town with many good restaurants, pubs and various accommodation to suit any budget.
Your final stage of adventure cycling the Hadrian’s Cycleway from Ravenglass to Tyneside takes you through the extraordinary city of Newcastle Upon Tyne to the waters of the North Sea. Today, you can enjoy 23 miles (37 km) of easy riding along flat cycle paths.
From Prudhoe, the day begins with a downhill stretch to the River Tyne. Here, you can expect to see some of the UK’s rarest wildlife – you may be accompanied by otters, water voles, and even seals as you ride.
As you near Newcastle Upon Tyne, you will be surprised by how green and peaceful the route is, with trees and the river either side. After 12 miles (20 km), you will see the iconic Gateshead Millenium Bridge, marking your arrival in the centre of Newcastle Upon Tyne.
A thriving city, Newcastle has an abundance of things to see and do. Here, you can roam victorian tunnels beneath the streets, browse local products in the Grainger Market, catch a play at the Theatre Royal, dine in world-class restaurants, and even visit a Biscuit Factory.
When you are done exploring, you can continue along the River Tyne towards the North Sea. When you see the sea on the horizon, you have reached Tyneside and the end of your adventure. Here, you can visit the town’s historic castle and dig into fish and chips on the waterfront before returning home.
With excellent transport links to cities across the UK, it is easier to travel home from Newcastle. The city has regular trains to London, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Leeds. You can find timetables and tickets, here: thetrainline.com/stations/newcastle