What exactly have the Romans ever done for us? The aqueducts. Law and order. And this enormous wall, built between AD 122 and 128 to separate Romans and Scottish Picts. Named in honour of the emperor who ordered it built, Hadrian's Wall was one of Rome's greatest engineering projects, a spectacular 73-mile testament to ambition and the practical Roman mind. Even today, almost 2000 years after the first stone was laid, the awe-inspiring sections that remain are proof that when the Romans wanted something done, they just knuckled down and did it.
It wasn't easy. When completed, the mammoth structure ran across the narrow neck of the island, from the Solway Firth in the west almost to the mouth of the Tyne in the east. Every Roman mile (0.95 miles) there was a gateway guarded by a small fort (milecastle) and between each milecastle were two observation turrets. Milecastles are numbered right across the country, starting with Milecastle 0 at Wallsend (where you can visit the wall's last stronghold, Segedunum) and ending with Milecastle 80 at Bowness-on-Solway.
A series of forts were developed as bases some distance south (and may predate the wall), and 16 lie astride it.
Carlisle, in Cumbria, and Newcastle are logical start/end points; Haltwhistle, Hexham and Corbridge make good bases. The B6318 follows the course of the wall from the outskirts of Newcastle to Birdoswald. The main A69 road and the railway line follow 3 or 4 miles to the south.
Every May the Hadrian's Wall Festival features lots of recreations of Roman life along the wall – contact tourist offices for details.