Two nights: Saturday, July 14 to Monday, July 16
Given that we needed to work our way south and the fact that I don’t like to travel all day, we needed an appropriate location for our next stop. After doing a little research, we realized that Hadrian’s Wall ran across the middle of Britain, just four hours to the south. Unfortunately, there were no reasonable AirBnB apartments to be had, so we went with a hotel in the Scottish town of Gretna Green, just over the border from England (and on the barbarian side of the wall). More about Gretna Green later.
On our travel day, we made a point of heading straight south to check out a site at the eastern end of the wall – Chesters Roman Fort. It’s billed as the best preserved Roman cavalry fort in Britain and was fairly interesting. However, having seen Pompeii earlier in the trip, subsequent Roman sites have been a little anti-climactic. That said, we also wanted to check out Hadrian’s Wall because it would give us a good excuse to get out for walks in the countryside. In fact, after checking out Chesters, we did a quick three mile loop walk we found described on the Hadrian’s Wall Path National Trail website.
The next day, we headed out to a central section of the wall for another hike. On the way over, we took a spin through Haltwhistle, which claims to be at the geographic center of Britain (though the truth may be more complicated). Next, we stopped off for a nice pub lunch at the Twice Brewed Inn and then hit the trail. It was a somewhat strenuous hike with lots of steep climbs, but the views of the countryside and of Hadrian’s Wall itself were wonderful. We went as far as the Sycamore Gap, apparently famous for appearing in a ’91 Robin Hood movie – this site has a clip of the scene in question.
While we had a great time hiking around Hadrian’s Wall, our accommodations proved to be a bit of a mix. The B&B we stayed in was great – they even offered a choice of haggis or black pudding with the full cooked breakfast each morning! However, the town of Gretna Green is just across the Scottish border and its primary purpose is as a popular place for English couples to run off to to get married. Kind of like a tiny, damp, no-frills Vegas. Donna’s blog post captures the surreal aspect of the place but omits that during our stroll through town we were actually trying to find something for dinner. If you take another look at those pictures, you won’t see any pubs. Or restaurants. Or grocery stores. So, despite my desire to spend as little time as possible behind the wheel in the UK, we ended up driving to Carlisle for dinner that night. On our second night, we did a bit of research online and treated ourselves to a couple of steak dinners at the local boutique hotel’s restaurant (one of the few dining establishments in town). And guess what was going on there – another wedding!