Start: Whitehaven Finish: Tynemouth
Make your own way to Whitehaven, an attractive quiet coastal town with a redeveloped harbour. This used to be a Roman port and became one of the busiest in England with trade links to America from the 1600s, coal and iron production, as well as dubious links with the slave trade. Whitehaven is also the only place in England to be invaded by the young USA in 1778, and parts of the town were set on fire. All this is explained in the modern quayside museum. You can have a relaxing stroll along the seaside from the museum to visit old mining sites with memorials to what was once a busy industrial area. Mining seams went long distances out into the Irish Sea.
Accommodation: Your accommodation is situated just a few minutes’ walk from Whitehaven town centre and the waterfront. It is a fine example of a late Victorian townhouse that has been transformed into an elegant bed & breakfast offering all modern amenities whilst retaining its original features. Otherwise you will be staying in a centrally located small hotel.
After breakfast, collect hire bikes and catch your prebooked taxi van to Ravenglass, which is to the south of Whitehaven. Ravensglass is an interesting little coastal village and you may wish to lock your bikes and allow approx 2 hours return, to take the heritage Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway for a steam excursion into the Lake District.
Hadrian’s Cycleway begins at the Glannaventa Roman Bath House, about 500m from the village. The route passes Ravenglass station and crosses the estuary on the railway bridge. From here you will cycle on mainly quiet roads and off-road paths through the villages of Holmrook, Drigg and Seascale, then past Sellafield Nuclear Plant before turning away from the coast towards the small town of Egremont. Further on you join the Sea to Sea (C2C) Route 71, which takes you into Whitehaven.
Accommodation: Your accommodation is situated just a few minutes’ walk from Whitehaven town centre and the waterfront. This fine example of a late Victorian townhouse has been transformed into an elegant bed & breakfast offering all modern amenities whilst retaining its original features. Otherwise you will be staying in a centrally located small hotel.
Head north passing through Workington. This is an ancient market town, which in its post industrial and mining malaise has become the main centre for shopping in West Cumbria. From here you are on to another old Roman town: Maryport which has an interesting aquarium. Just to the north is the Senhouse Roman Museum, dramatically sited on cliffs overlooking the Solway Firth and set next to a Roman fort. Climb the observation tower for a fabulous view of the site. Continue cycling along to Silloth a classic, unspoilt English seaside town on the Solway coast. It has an extensive town green in its centre, and on its long promenade you can go for a lovely walk taking in the the majestic Solway Firth and views across the water to Scotland.
Accommodation: A beautifully restored Victorian townhouse overlooking the idyllic Solway Coast.
Rolling out from Silloth your attention turns to the East as you turn and head around the splendid Solway Firth, which is all that separates you from Scotland. On the Cumbrian side, much of the coastline is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty; the muds and sands make this a major coastal bird area. The minor roads head around the marshes before winding west then back east via the village of Bowness on Solway. This is at the western end of Hadrian's Wall and is marked by a pavilion on the small coastal cliff. The Wall originally was made of mud in this area and not much survives. However, the village is situated on the site of the Roman fort called Maia, which was the second largest on Hadrian's Wall. You then cycle through Port Carlisle, which sounds big but is only a tiny place. It was built in 1819 to service a canal link to take goods to Carlisle Basin. The canal was closed in 1853 and Port Carlisle silted up. From here you briefly meet the River Eden before pedalling into Carlisle: a border city that has changed nationality a few times through its turbulent history. If you have time, it is worth visiting the castle and museum, otherwise take a walk through the Cathedral.
Accommodation: Stay in a small 3* AA-graded hotel that was built in the 1850's with its foundations literally on Hadrian's Wall.
After Carlisle, ascend out of the Eden Valley and head into the Pennines, named by the Romans after the Apennine Mountains in Italy. Mostly you will be cycling gentle hills although there are a couple of steep ones. On the way you could have a break in Bampton. Or after about 15 miles you can visit The Priory, church and café at Lanercost, a useful stop before the route climbs up for the first views of Hadrian’s Wall. You then cycle alongside the wall for the next three miles or so, with views over the Irthing Valley to the south. Cycling past Banks with various remains of wall turrets and signalling stations, you arrive at the large site of the Roman fort at Birdoswald with its tea shop. The route then descends to cross the River Irthing near Gilsand and on through Greenhead with the option to visit the ruins of Thirlwell Castle on the way. From here, a new traffic-free cycle path runs beside the railway line, get ready for the steepest hill on the whole route up to Greenhead Bank. As a reward, visit the Roman Army Museum at the top (tip: buy a combined ticket, for entry into Vindolanda tomorrow as well). It's time for a descent, and this ride takes you into bustling Haltwhistle, claimed to be the most central town to the British isles and your final stop for today.
Accommodation: An elegant Victorian vicarage with spacious guestrooms and high ceilings standing in 2 acres of award winning gardens on the southern edge of Haltwhistle.
Today is a shorter bike ride, not only because it is hilly but so that you can take in the museum sites along the way. Seven miles after Haltwhistle, there is a steep ascent from Bardon Mill back towards Hadrian’s Wall. You could opt to take a short diversion to the pub and the Northumberland National Park visitor centre at Once/Twice Brewed. Otherwise it is straight on to the museum remains at Vindolanda - the most impressive site along Hadrian’s Wall. This remote outpost of the Roman Empire has been extensively excavated and a large number of relics are housed in the newly renovated museum.
Past Vindolana, the road is roughly surfaced and after 1/2 a mile of climbing, you reach the highest point of Hadrian’s Cycleway. Now you have 6 exhilarating miles of descending on a largely straight road taking you to the banks of the River Tyne. The route will now follow the river closely all the way to the North Sea, but first you arrive at the busy market town called Hexham. Probably the most picturesque town on the trip, it has abbey ruins with a Saxon crypt which dominate the town centre.
Accommodation: An ideally situated B&B in a quiet residential area in the centre of Hexham, only 3 mins from the Abbey and market place in the historic town. It is elegantly decorated and furnished with antiques in keeping with its Victorian architecture.
Leaving Hexham having crossed the River Tyne, it’s not far to Corbridge. This is a smaller, attractive town, uniform in its stone buildings and slate roofs. Continuing on cycling from Prudhoe to Tynemouth, the route is almost entirely traffic-free, following the north bank of the River Tyne. The cycle route glides serenely into town, sometimes green, sometimes built-up, but always interesting. First come 7 miles of quiet lanes from Corbridge to Ovingham. Then this section of Hadrian's Cycleway briefly crosses the Tyne on a rickety road bridge to join the Wylam Waggonway – a tramroad dating from the 1740s. The way gets busier but you soon arrive at Newcastle’s riverside with seven bridges in the space of a mile. The newest, the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, is reserved for cyclists and walkers. Staying on the north bank you now climb above the river onto a railway path. There are dramatic views back down to the river and the site of the old Swan Hunter shipyard. Cycle around the rather built-up riverside district passing the last Roman fort museum at Segendunm. Cross the river on the ferry and cycle the last mile to Arbeia South Shields Roman Fort, the official end of Hadrian's Cycleway.
From here you retrace your cycle back to the ferry and make your way into Tynemouth to drop off your bikes and check in to your accommodation. You can celebrate your achievement in local style with fish, chips and a pint!
Accommodation: We have selected two attractive guesthouses in the centre of Tynemouth, close to the amenities in the town.
Depart from Tynemouth. There is a convenient metro train to Newcastle Central Station from where you can join the national rail network.
The hotels, guesthouses and bed and breakfasts on this cycle tour along Hadrian's Wall are family-run, clean and comfortable (ranging from 2-4 stars), and provide access to local living thanks to your hosts. The hospitality is generous and their local knowledge of northern England is invaluable. Where possible, we have chosen locations that add to your experience.
This program can be booked any day between April 1st and September 30th, subject to availability
Nearest international aiports: Newcastle and Teesside (York)
Getting to Whitehaven
Whitehaven train station is close to the harbour and the accommodation on day 1.
Return from Tynemouth
From Tynemouth take the metro train to Newcastle Central Station to join the national rail network.
Ferry services run between Tyne (Newcastle) and IJmuiden (Amsterdam).
Enquire about the option to hire an e-bike.
GPS tracks are available on request.