In the year 122 AD, when the Roman Empire was still massive, construction started on the wall that now runs from coast to coast in the north of England. The wall essentially became the northern border of the empire, and this huge undertaking took about 6 years to build. Impressive. Especially since there are many forts along its length. Parts of it are still in good shape today, though not the 5 metres high it was originally built to.
We started our day at the Roman Army museum, which is a good place to start as it reviews the history of the Roman Empire, basics about the army and has a lot of great interactive exhibits. I was impressed by how efficient the army was run, by recruiting soldiers from conquered lands, then shipping them to other territories (to avoid conflicts of interest in their own homeland) with the promise of Roman citizenship for themselves and their family (and return to their homeland) after a certain amount of service.
After the museum, we headed to Vindolanda (you can get a combo ticket for 10 pounds for the museum and this fort). The ruins were very interesting to walk around, and there are ongoing excavations you can actually volunteer on. This fort has been one of the best places for finds from the Roman empire, and in the attached museum, relics such as shoes and pottery from around the empire can be found in great condition. There are examples of notes passed between friends, both important and mundane that are displayed. Both the museum and the fort are worth checking out.
The last stop was Housesteads Roman Fort, which was better preserved than Vindolanda but the museum is smaller. We got to see a presentation by a guide dressed up as a Roman soldier but unfortunately did not get a photo. 😦 We ended the day with a delicious pub dinner and, of course, a few pints.
The next morning, we walked along the wall (in the rain) from our hotel to Houseteads, passing the famous Sycamore gap, where scenes from a version of Robin Hood I haven’t seen were filmed. Still, the gap is impressive, and the walk had very scenic views of the Northumberland National Park. It’s a bit up and down, moreso along the wall, but we took the nearby Roman Road back to our hotel which was a bit flatter.
Have you explored any remnants of the Roman Empire?