Housesteads is a well preserved Roman fort on Hadrian’s Wall. In the heart of the Northumberland countryside the remains of the fort are set high on a ridge looking out over ‘barbaricum’, where the barbarians (Scots!) used to live. I’ve visited the fort four or five times but John had never been so one dry Saturday afternoon we jumped in the car and headed along one of England’s beautifully straight Roman roads.
The site is owned by the National Trust and maintained by English Heritage so there is a fee to get in (unless you’re a member) but it’s obvious the £6.60 for every adult has been put to good use. (You also have to pay for parking so make sure you have some change!). It might well be worth becoming a member if you plan to visit a few National Trust sites a year though, you can currently get a discounted family membership for £65 through the offers on MVC.
The museum has been updated and you can now watch a film which includes CGI recreations of the original buildings before you venture in to explore the fort for yourself. If you’re the only ones waiting to watch the film give a member of staff a shout and they’ll turn it on for you, there’s quite a wait otherwise! The Roman name for Housesteads is Vercovicium which means “place of the effective fighters” and you can view a collection of their weapons not to mention jewellery, alters and dedication stones which all help bring the surroundings to life.
The main event is of course the remains of a variety of buildings which stand inside the walls of the fort. You can wander through barracks, granaries, the commander’s house, the hospital and see every kids favourite, the toilets.
The fact that the fort sits so high on the hill means the walk up to it might take your breath away but so will the panoramic views…
If you’re more adventurous than us you can walk along the wall to Milecastle 37 and the famous Sycamore Gap which you might recognise from Robin Hood Prince of Thieves or if you’re really keen you can walk all 73 miles of the wall!