20 days into what had already been an epic road trip we were headed to the stop I was most excited for: Hadrian’s Wall. I know that for some, what basically amounts to a crumbling brick wall in the middle of nowhere England might not be interesting, but for me, a history loving anglophile, this was an absolute dream come true! Built in AD 122, Hadrian’s Wall, was the North-west frontier of the Roman Empire for nearly 300 years!
I already knew this day was going to be great, but the icing on the cake, was when we accidentally came across a home once inhabited by Mary Queen of Scots on our way to Hadrian’s Wall. Ancient history and royalty, my perfect day!
Mary Queen of Scots House
ALONG THE WAY FROM Edinburgh to York… Jedburgh, Scotland
76.5 KM FROM Edinburgh
I do love a road trip, but I also love a nap, so it was pure luck that I woke up from my nap at the exact moment we were passing a sign that said: Mary Queen of Scots House. Of course we were stopping!! We soon discovered that we were in Jedburgh a little town 10 miles from the Scottish English border.
The boys weren’t as interested in visiting the Queen of Scot’s house, so they had a bite to eat while I looked around. The home contains what is said to be one of her two surviving death masks along with some other of her other items.
There is no admission fee, but if you want to purchase anything at the little gift shop keep in mind that they only accept cash.
Jedburgh though small was a great place to take a break from the road. There were a number of interesting sites, one of which was the Jedburgh abbey, which looked absolutely beautiful! However, Hadrian’s Wall was calling, so we were on our way…
ALONG THE WAY FROM Jedburgh TO York… Hexham, England
83.7 KM FROM Jedburgh
The challenge when visiting a site 73 miles (80 roman miles) long is working out where exactly to stop. Many parts of Hadrian’s wall are truly in the middle of the countryside, in disrepair, or inaccessible by car. Adding to the challenge were the many fences also made of stone. After all, making sure we were oohing and ahhing at the right wall was key! After doing a little research we decided the best place for our visit to the Wall was the visitor center and ruins of Housesteads Roman Fort.
I was excited to discover that while most of Hadrian’s Wall is off limits there are sections where it is acceptable to stand upon or even walk along for a bit. Standing at and on such an important and ancient piece of history was an incredible feeling! The edge of an empire!
It’s quite popular to “walk” the Wall and I would have liked to, at least for a little while, but serious rain was threatening and after a few minutes the boys abandoned me for the shelter of the Housestead’s Museum.
The photographer in me wanted options, so we found another car accessible spot along the Wall, where I overcame my fear of “what might be in the grass,” cows, and bugs and ventured into the fields for a closer look and a few more snaps!
Maybe you’re not a history lover, but how about entertainment or movies? Hadrian’s Wall, although not a person, plays a major part in the movie King Arthur starring Clive Owen and Kiera Knightly, a personal favorite of mine. Standing on the wall looking north might bring to mind another favorite, Game of Thrones? Whether it’s an interest in pop culture, or a love of history, or both consider a visit to Hadrian’s Wall! Especially if it just happens to be “along the way…”
Practical information: There is a charge to visit Housesteads and if you’re planning to “walk” the wall for any length, you’ll want proper hiking shoes. We didn’t join a tour, but did enjoy the museum’s short film about the Wall’s history, Emperor Hadrian, and the Roman soldiers who lived at Housesteads and built the Wall. Of course we stopped in the gift shop where we picked up a few mementos of our visit!
Next stop: York, England