Hadrian’s Wall Country
Have you ever been to Hadrian’s Wall? Living in England, it’s pretty much on my doorstep. I always wanted to visit but never got around to it, until I was invited to attend Hadrian’s Wall Live in September 2016, courtesy of English Heritage. An opportunity to experience life at Hadrian’s Wall like it was 2000 years ago? I didn’t need asking twice, I can’t think of a better way to experience Hadrian’s Wall than when it is brought to life through reenactment!
About Hadrian’s Wall
Hadrian’s Wall is also known as the Roman Wall. During the Roman province of Britannia, it was a 73 mile long defensive wall in the North of England, built to separate the Roman and Barbarian territories. In fact, this very wall inspired the Wall in the Game of Thrones. In an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, author, George R.R. Martin revealed;
The Wall predates anything else. I can trace back the inspiration for that to 1981. I was in England visiting a friend, and as we approached the border of England and Scotland, we stopped to see Hadrian’s Wall. I stood up there and I tried to imagine what it was like to be a Roman legionary, standing on this wall, looking at these distant hills. It was a very profound feeling. For the Romans at that time, this was the end of civilization; it was the end of the world. We know that there were Scots beyond the hills, but they didn’t know that. It could have been any kind of monster. It was the sense of this barrier against dark forces – it planted something in me. But when you write fantasy, everything is bigger and more colorful, so I took the Wall and made it three times as long and 700 feet high, and made it out of ice.
Work began on Hadrian’s Wall in 122AD and is believed to have taken at least six years to complete. The Wall was an active military defence for around 300 years. It was finally (and deservingly) awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1987. I love to visit historic sites and that, combined with my love of the Game of Thrones and wild and dramatic scenery, knew Hadrian’s Wall Live was going to be an unmissable event!
Birdoswald Roman Fort
The Roman Fort at Birdoswald is one of 14 forts along Hadrian’s Wall, built before the Wall was completed. Birdoswald’s is also the perfect base to explore the longest, continuous stretch of the Wall and the surrounding countryside.
I was excited to stay at the Farmhouse at Birdoswald Roman Fort for Hadrian’s Wall Live, I mean, how often do you get to stay at a Roman Fort and wake up like an Emperor?! ❤️👑😉
The Farmhouse is a perfect space for large groups with 39 bunkbeds, plenty of bathroom facilities and a large communal kitchen and dining area. Unfortunately there was no wifi available which meant I couldn’t share quite as much of the weekend whilst I was there because my phone signal was poor. However I did find a spot near the Wall where I could upload photos and videos and regularly stood there, freezing my butt off throughout the weekend. You didn’t think the blogger life was glamorous, did you? 😂
On site there is also a small tearoom, gift shop and museum, which I explored on Sunday before leaving.
Hadrian’s Wall Live – something for all the family
The event took place over the weekend of Saturday 3rd to Sunday 4th September 2016. I arrived on the Friday evening, to ensure I could make the most of my weekend.
In advance of the weekend, Legio I Italica, the 80 strong Imperial Roman Army, also made their way to Birdoswald all the way from Italy. They were joined by 50 Barbarians, a group made of up a range of different reenactment groups.
During Hadrian’s Wall Live, we were treated to a range of displays and activities at both, Birdoswald and Housesteads Roman Forts throughout the weekend. Activities included;
- Demonstrations of the Romans preparing for battle
- A night patrol at Housesteads Roman Fort
- Activities for kids including chariot racing and training to be Roman legionaries
- Falconry display
- Exploring the Roman and Barbarian camps
- Learn about Roman life e.g. weaponry, cooking, crafting and healthcare
- Battles with the Barbarians during the day and also Saturday evening, after dark.
There was also a BBQ on the go, that was definitely welcome!
Unfortunately the weather was against us and we experienced a lot of rain at times, but that did not stop the show from going on and everyone giving their best. I felt a little guilty having a nice warm Farmhouse to sleep in, when all the Romans and Barbarians had to sleep outdoors in their camps. Still, full marks for effort and authenticity!
Preparing for Battle
It was really fun to watch the Romans on parade, practising their battle skills and singing the songs of their legion.
Of course one of the biggest highlights of the weekend was when the real action began and the Barbarians attacked the Romans! I watched the daytime attack at Birdoswald’s and the evening attack at Housesteads when the Romans were on patrol.
It was fascinating to learn about Roman life. I particularly enjoyed learning about natural treatments e.g.
- Romans apparently brought nettles to the UK and used them to treat arthritis as well as using them to heart their bodies. The nettles were used to sting the inflamed joint and the heat would help reduce the swelling.
- Fennel seeds were used by soldiers to chew on, to satisfy hunger when there was no time to stop for food and women would use them as a slimming aid.
Night Patrol at Housesteads Roman Fort
This was probably my favourite event of the whole weekend. Even though it was raining a little, the action was really fun to watch!
A brilliant way to spend a weekend!
Hadrian’s Wall Live was such a fun weekend event! I would definitely go again for some more Game Of Thrones type action (more on that, below)!
New for 2017
2017 marks two very special anniversaries at Hadrian’s Wall;
- 1900th anniversary of Hadrian becoming Emperor
- 30th anniversary since Hadrian’s Wall was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
There are a lot of activities happening throughout the year along Hadrian’s Wall including projects to enhance the visitor experience as well as a new major exhibition; Hadrian’s Cavalry. Events are taking place until Sunday 10th September 2017.
Update January 2018: New for 2018
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Hadrian’s Wall becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site, English Heritage are bringing the Romans back to Birdoswald Roman Fort! You can learn all about the project on the English Heritage website.
Disclaimer: I was hosted by English Heritage for 2 nights at Birdoswald Roman Fort and received free access to the Hadrian’s Wall Live events in exchange for social media coverage. I was not asked to write a blog post or to promote other events taking place along Hadrian’s Wall, but I wanted to share more about the event I attended and the upcoming events which may interest you. I would never let my editorial independence be compromised because an experience is hosted. For further information, please read my Ethics page.