Day 12: Ravenglass Roman Bath House

Just before I head back down South, it was time to get the la’al Ratty railway back to Ravenglass, and then see the ruins of the Roman bath house there.

They are among the tallest remaining Roman structures in Britain, apparently, and are just next to the site of a Roman fort.

I was quite impressed, although it’s hard to get a sense of how they were laid out, from what remains.

   
   

Day 11: Ravenglass and Hardknott

The train journey from Carlisle down to the southernmost of the Roman Cumbrian sea defences, Ravenglass, is surprisingly long, passing places such as Corkickle and Drigg. From Ravenglass, there is a wonderful little railway called the “La’al Ratty”. 

 
This little railway leads inland from Ravenglass to Dalegarth, and this was very near my accommodation, in Boot. From there it is a short 3 mile wall up to Hardknott Roman Fort, an amazing location for a remarkably well-preserved fort. 

It is a much-recommended place, and a great end – the highest Roman fort in Britain – to a wonderful couple of weeks. The final day tomorrow will be Ravenglass bath house and then the train back down South! 

Day 10: Senhouse museum and Tullie House

After a fantastic breakfast (see below) at the Guest House in Bowness, I headed off in a taxi to Carlisle and thence to Maryport, a seaside town with fish and chips and boats and everything (well maybe not everything but you know what I mean).

  
Above: “Eggs Hadrian” at Wallsend Guest House, Bowness on Solway

A climb up the town to Senhouse Roman museum was well worth it – stacks of Roman altars (the biggest collection of Roman altars in Britain!) and lots more of interest.

I had some chips for lunch down in the town, and then back up for the 2pm tour of the archaeological dig. It was really interesting to see an excavation in progress, and to speak to one of the leaders about what they were looking for and expecting. There was much relief as following a couple of days of not much, they’d finally started to ind something, and it looked like it might not have been a spectacular waste of time after all!

Then back to the train and to Carlisle. Only 45 minutes to look round Tullie House museum in Carlisle wasn’t enough, of course. It is a great museum full of stuff to spark interest and questions, both from Hadrian’s Wall and from wider spheres.

It was good to have a relatively easy day’s walking (it has come to something when I consider 8 miles in a day to be an easy day!)

Day 11 will be fun, I hope – Ravenglass, a steam railway and a walk up to Britain’s highest Roman fort at Hardknott.

Day 9: Carlisle to Bowness on Solway

So I really did it. And walked nearly 130 miles:

Mon 8 Jun: 4.62 miles

Tue 9 Jun: 16.9 miles

Wed 10 Jun: 14.7 miles

Thu 11 Jun: 17.6 miles

Fri 12 Jun: 16.9 miles

Sat 13 Jun: 5.7 miles

Sun 14 Jun: 19.2 miles

Mon 15 Jun: 16.7 miles

Tue 16 Jun: 17.1 miles

   
 The first day, Mon 8 Jun, was just me getting to Kings Cross and getting on and off the Metro in Newcastle.

Anyway, the last day of walking was actually pretty enjoyable. My feet were hurting and I was walking really slowly, and there wasn’t much to see (not even the usual humps and bumps of Milecastles and turrets) but it was quite atmospheric trekking along the flat watery marshes of Cumbria. And the proximity of The End did add a certain buzz!

It all made me think back to the early days of the walk, which seem so long ago now: watching a bloke in a white van reverse slap bang into a traffic light, knocking it to the ground, outside the Great North Museum in Newcastle… Getting abuse shouted at me from some local youths as I used a selfie stick to Skype the Lower 6th at Segedunum… It was quite a long way.

Something else that struck me was how kind, open and ready for a happy chat were so many people I’ve met along the way, whether walkers or locals. On the last day, I got myself on the wrong side of the river, assuming I could just cross later, and the bridge was not traversible – but luckily a man walking his dog approached, and when I asked where I could cross, he walked on, even well past the path he was going to take, cheerfully chatting and showed me the best way to get to the new road across the river.

Well, the big walk is done, and now it’s time for some less challenging days. Tomorrow: Tullie House Museum in Carlisle and Senhouse Museum in Maryport; Thursday is time for the steam railway and walk from Ravenglass to Hardknott Roman Fort and Friday is time to visit the Roman bath house at Ravenglass, and then back down South!

Day 8: Lanercost to Carlisle

My highlight of the day, after an exceptional cooked breakfast at Lanercost B&B, was the visit to Lanercost Priory. The lady at the ticket desk chatted at length, successfully selling me a book about birds and musing on the nature of the changing attitudes towards nationhood displayed from Roman times to model conflicts. The amount of Hadrian’s Wall that is now contained within the fabric of this 12th century edifice is staggering, but… why wouldn’t you use it, if you were building a priory in the 12th century?!

So, later than planned, I headed off westwards once more. On the way I stopped at a fantastic tea room, the Reading Room at Walton, where I got a great cup of tea and some excellent quiche. Also a very pleasant welcome.

Suitably refreshed I continued. There is not much to see on this leg of the journey – the turrets and milecastles are not even humps and bumps at this stage: more imagination is required.

There were some lovely woods, attractive bridges across becks and long walks across fields of sheep and cows, and a most enjoyable stop at a box full of goodies at Bleatarn farm, leaving money in the honesty box inside.

Before long it was time to cross the M6, the equal noisiest moment of the journey after crossing the A1 back at the start, and soon after I arrived at Carlisle.

So it’s just a day’s more walking to the end of the Wall (fingers crossed!) and lots of walking along the river and the marshes of the Solway. Bring it on!

Day 7: Steel Rigg to Lanercost

My iPhone app tells me I walked over 19 miles today, which must be further than I have walked in a long time (if ever!) It was a lovely day, for so many reasons…

Firstly, I had two friends walking with me, Sim, whom I have known since I was 11, who has been travelling around the world for 18 months, and arrived back in the UK in March – he’s now living near Carlisle, so it seemed too good an opportunity to miss – and Eric, whom Sim and I know from university, who flew over from Stockholm to join us!

Secondly, it was drizzly and overcast. Having walked for five days in baking sunshine, it was nice to have a bit of cool rain, and it also fitted in a little better with the sort of weather I’d expected when I’d first started planning the walk over a year ago.

Thirdly, it was a really exciting walk, with plenty to keep us interested.

For some reason I forgot to take photos on my iPhone or iPad, and so I have lots on the camera, but am unable to upload them.

Walking along the top of crags looking out north through the mist was lovely, and the first few miles went along Peel Crags, Windshield Crags and Cawfield Crags.

Aesica Roman Fort at Great Chesters is always better than I think it’s going to be – I expect humps and bumps, and get humps, bumps and stones and gateways and a strong room and an altar! Result!

Then more crags (Walltown) and on to The Roman Army Museum, which was excellent. I’m not sure if I’ve been before (we always came in November, when it was closed) but I’m glad I stopped in this time. The video and all the displays are great!

Lots of turrets, milecastles, bridges and wall followed, and then a familiar place – Birdoswald, where we used to stay when we ran Year 9 Latin trips to the region. It was getting late, so we sped around looking at gateways, training halls and granaries before continuing on our way.

So shortly later we got to Lanercost, and I checked in at the excellent Lanercost B&B, a very plush and enjoyable way to end a long day!