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1

Carlisle to Haltwhistle

Arriving at Carlisle, Hadrian’s Cycleway eases you into your coast-to-coast challenge. It’s traffic free for the first mile, with the route well signposted from the station; it then settles down onto little roads along the Eden valley. There’s one hill just before Brampton, a friendly market town with a good range of cafés.

The priory, church and cycle-friendly café at Lanercost are worth a stop before the route climbs up to our first glimpse of Hadrian’s Wall. (There’s a short one-way split in the route, but it’s clearly signed.) The route runs alongside the wall for the next three miles, with impressive views over the Irthing valley to the south.

Birdoswald Roman fort is tamer and more manicured than Vindolanda (coming later), but it’s still remarkably well preserved 2,000 years on. There’s cycle parking in the main car park.

A new traffic-free path runs beside the railway line after Gilsland, after which comes the steepest hill on the whole route. A gravel path has been built alongside, but to be honest we found the tarmac surface on the road more comfortable. The corollary is the two-mile descent into Haltwhistle, which is pure fun.

Haltwhistle is an old-fashioned town with a particularly good line in butchers’ shops. The Tourist Information Centre is now housed in the library, but is closed over the winter.

Hotels

Bardon Mill

Bardon Mill

Brampton

from £130Heads Nook Hall
from £60Low Nook Farm
from £131The Barn
from £141The Mews

Carlisle

Carlisle

from £57Angus Hotel
from £49Angus Hotel
from £48Crown & Mitre
from £80The Sawmills
from £35Vallum House

East Twice Brewed

from £120Stoneacre Barn

Farlam

Gilsland

from £0The Joinery
from £0The Ostlers

Gilsland Brampton

from £0Glengarth

Gilsland

from £62Gap Cottage
from £0Magnis

Gilsland Nr. Brampton

from £87Alpha Rise
from £0Meg'S

Greenhead

Hadrian's Wall

from £10YHA Once Brewed

Hallbankgate Nr. Brampton

Haltwhistle

from £66Glendale Mews
from £0Hall Meadows
from £70The Grey Bull

Haytongate

Hexham

Irthington

Melkridge Haltwhistle

Melkridge

Scaleby

West Hall

from £0The Fauld
2

Haltwhistle to Corbridge

The Pennine Cycleway meets Hadrian’s Cycleway at Haltwhistle, and the two routes share a common path for the next seven miles. At first it’s fairly uneventful, but at Bardon Mill it kicks uphill, climbing back towards Hadrian’s Wall.

The two cycleways split at a lonely T-junction known as Smiths Shield. Note that there’s a pub, youth hostel and the Northumberland National Park visitor centre at Once/Twice Brewed, half a mile further along the Pennine Cycleway.

Vindolanda is the real deal, the most impressive site along Hadrian’s Wall by quite some margin. So much wilder than Birdoswald, this remote outpost of the Roman Empire has been extensively excavated. A small number of new-build wooden structures help you imagine what life must have been like for the Gauls who received a (no doubt unwelcome) posting to this windswept fort. A vast number of relics – coins, leather, and the famous tablets – are housed in the newly renovated museum.

The road is roughly surfaced past Vindolanda, preventing motorists from using it as a scenic cut-through. Half a mile of climbing later, you reach the highest point of Hadrian’s Cycleway.

It really is all downhill from here. Six exhilarating miles of descending on a largely straight road take you to the banks of the River Tyne, which the route will follow closely all the way to the North Sea. A path beside the railway provides a safe approach to Hexham.

Hexham is perhaps the finest town on the route. Its magnificent abbey dominates the town centre, though the most impressive feature is buried below – the Saxon crypt. St Mary’s Chare is a particularly appealing street with cafés and a handy bike shop.

Leaving Hexham requires crossing the river on a busy main road bridge. Still, it’s not far to Corbridge, a smaller, attractive town, uniform in its stone buildings and slate roofs.

Hotels

Acomb

from £133Willow Cottage

Bardon Mill

Bardon Mill

from £68The Snug

Broomley

Corbridge

from £71The Stable
from £63The West Wing

Corbridge Near Hexham

East Twice Brewed

from £120Stoneacre Barn

Fourstones Near Hexham

from £103No 2 Cottage

Greenhead

Grindon

Hadrian's Wall

from £10YHA Once Brewed

Haltwhistle

from £66Glendale Mews
from £0Hall Meadows
from £70The Grey Bull

Haydon Bridge

from £52Hadrian Lodge

Haydon Bridge Near Hexham

from £60Airlea

Hexham

from £86Low West
from £35Station Inn

Melkridge Haltwhistle

Melkridge

Newton

Newton Near Corbridge

from £145Orchard House

Northumberland

Riding Mill

Near Hexham

3

Corbridge to Tynemouth

One of the delights of Hadrian’s Cycleway is the gentle approach to urban Tyneside. From Prudhoe to Tynemouth, the route is almost entirely traffic-free, following the north bank of the River Tyne. Motorists have to contend with roundabouts and retail parks, ring roads and red lights. The cycle route glides serenely into town – sometimes green, sometimes built-up, but always interesting.

First comes seven miles of quiet lanes from Corbridge to Ovingham. Then the route briefly crosses the Tyne on a rickety road bridge, to join the Wylam Waggonway – a tramroad dating from the 1740s, well before the railway age. This has become a justly popular route, and is usually busy with cyclists. You’ll see a couple of boats on the river here, too. In fact, cars are the one mode of transport which are conspicuous by their absence – apart from a brief tangle with the roads at the derelict Whitehouse Enterprise Park.

Newcastle’s riverside panorama is famous the world over, with seven bridges in the space of a mile. The newest, the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, is reserved for cyclists and pedestrians: you could choose to cross here and follow the southern bank to South Shields for an alternative finish. Staying on the north bank leads you to the Hub, a new riverside cycle centre with café, workshop and a programme of events.

The final miles of Hadrian’s Cycleway see it climb above the river onto a railway path – watch out for glass. There are dramatic views back down to the river and the site of the old Swan Hunter shipyard.

Tynemouth marks the end of Hadrian’s Cycleway, but the start of several more adventures – Coast & Castles and the notoriously challenging Reivers route among them. You can celebrate your achievement in local style with fish, chips and a pint, or return to Newcastle to paint the town red. Bear in mind that bikes aren’t allowed on the Tyne & Wear Metro, but you could take the Shields Ferry across to the south bank, and return along NCN route 14 for a change.

Bike shops

Byker

Corbridge

Gateshead

Hexham

Jarrow

Newcastle

Newcastle upon Tyne

ShopRide

North Shields

Prudhoe

South Shields

Tynemouth

Whitely Bay

Campsites

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Hotels

Acomb

from £133Willow Cottage

Boldon

Broomley

Consett

Corbridge

from £71The Stable
from £63The West Wing

Corbridge Near Hexham

Cullercoats

from £105Pebble Cottage

Gateshead

from £160Baltic Quays
from £30Rowers Hotel
from £30Rowers Hotel
from £35Royal Hotel
from £32Royal Hotel
from £75The Armstrong

Gateshead-on-Tyne

Hebburn

Heddon on the Wall

Hedley on the Hill

from £0The Cottage

Hexham

from £35Station Inn

High Mickley Nr. Stocksfield

from £170Winnie Cottage

High Usworth

Jarrow

Jesmond

from £150Osborne Ave

Newburn Nr. Newcastle

Newcastle

from £150Close House

Newcastle

Newcastle Gateshead

Newcastle upon Tyne

Newcastle upon Tyne

from £32Bentleys
from £45Cairn Hotel
from £52Caledonian
from £36Carlton Hotel
from £150Close House
from £38Dene Hotel
from £36Dene Hotel
from £156Hadrians Barn
from £33Jesmond Park
from £41Osborne Hotel
from £48Osborne Hotel
from £30Sleeperdorm
from £36The Brighton
from £40The Longship
from £29Whites Hotel
from £42Whites Hotel
from £19Albatross
from £16Albatross
from £13Budget Hostel
from £125Centralofts
from £0Claude Gibb
from £75Docker's Digs
from £80Ellison Hall
from £21Express Rooms
from £32Hansen Hotel
from £15Heroes Hotel
from £27Hotel Express
from £30Rooms Inn
from £60Sleeperdorm
from £27Sleeperdorm
from £97Suitestayzzz
from £32Surtees Hotel
from £55The Farndale
from £125The Wingrove
from £100Welbeck House
from £49Westview B&B
from £56Your Space

Newcastle on Tyne

from £41Heroes Hotel

Newcastle upon Tyne Tyne And Wear

from £10budget hostel

Newcastle-upon-Tyne

from £43Claude Gibb

Newton

Newton Near Corbridge

from £145Orchard House

North Shields

from £59Park Hotel

Nr Gateshead

Ovingham Near Prudhoe

from £88Holly Tree

Ovington

from £449Ovington House

Riding Mill

Ryton

South Shields

from £30Athol House
from £30Athol House
from £96Hopehaven
from £0Sandhaven
from £35The Clifton

Tyne & Wear

from £24Manhattans

Tynemouth

from £61Gull Cottage

Tynemouth

from £84Grand Hotel
from £486Longsands Lodge
from £160Malvern Road

Wallsend

from £68Dorset Arms
from £120Tynedale Avenue

Whitley Bay

from £45Oaktree Lodge
from £50Oaktree Lodge
from £30The Chedburgh
from £54Windsor Hotel

Whitley Bay, Tyne & Wear

Wylam

from £30The Ship Inn

Wylam, Northumberland