Housesteads to Steel Rigg Circular Walk

Housesteads Fort, Bardon Mill, NE47 6NN

Route details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
 © NTPL/ Joe Cornish

Curlew nestling in the grass ©

Curlew nestling in the grass

Large Heath Butterfly © NTPL / Steve Knell

Large Heath Butterfly

Route overview

Explore Hadrian's Wall Country on this 8 mile circular walk starting at Housesteads Fort. Head west along the Wall built in AD122 before returning north of the Wall to appreciate the stunning surroundings and impressive Whin Sill the Wall was built on.

Route details

See this step-by-step route marked on a map

Map of route
  • Directions
  • Route
  • Bus stop
  • Parking
  • Toilet
  • Viewpoint

Start: Housesteads Visitor Centre

  1. From the car park climb up to Housesteads Fort and then keeping to the left of the Fort join the Hadrian's Wall Trail heading west.


    Hadrian's Wall area is one of the richest parts of the country for Roman archaeology. As well as some of the best preserved remains of the Wall you will be able to see the remains of forts, temporary camps, the Vallum ditch and northern ditch which were all part of the military zone that make up Hadrian's Wall World Heritage Site.

     © NTPL/ Joe Cornish
  2. Pass Hotbank Farm and the earthworks of Milecastle 38 then cross the farm track and switch to the north side of the wall. Head through the woods above Crag Lough and continue to Sycamore Gap. (For a shorter walk, follow the footpath north past the farm at the Milecastle and pick up from step 6)


    In summer spot upland wading birds such as curlew, redshank or snipe, you will also see countless skylarks and meadow pipits in song flight throughout the season. A flash of white may also reveal a wheatear among the stones. The Loughs are home to many wildfowl; both autumn/winter and spring/summer visitors.

    Curlew nestling in the grass ©
  3. As you drop down the crag to walk through the Wall at Sycamore Gap, or Robin Hood’s tree as it’s also known after it’s appearance in the ‘Prince of Thieves’ film, look out for the large lumps of mortar on the face of the stones on the north side of the Wall. This mortar is all that remains of a render that would’ve covered the entire Wall. From here keep following the trail west to Steel Rigg car park.


    The speciality in Northumberland is the very rare Large Heath butterfly which can be found on the mires surrounding Hotbank Farm.

    Large Heath Butterfly © NTPL / Steve Knell
  4. Leave Steel Rigg car park and head right following the road down the hill for 100 metres.

  5. The footpath is signposted on the right going over the stile and along the track and then field path to Hotbank farm. As you pass Peatrigg plantation on your left, the earthworks on the slope to your right are of the original Steel Rigg Farm from the 17th C.

  6. At Hotbank farm keep on the track heading away from the buildings and then east staying north of the plantation. On top of the ridge is the remains of a large cross shaped stone wall, this was a shelter for livestock from the harsh conditions in these exposed areas. You will also pass the remains of a lime kiln; this was used to heat the lime stone that was quarried from the area to make lime mortar. Keep heading east along the farm trail until you reach another plantation.

  7. Just before heading through the plantation you can see a dry stone walled circle in the middle of the field, this ‘Sheepfold’ was a pen a shepherd could gather his flock in for routine checks and examinations. As you leave the plantation head towards the gate through the wall on your south east.

  8. This dip in the crags is called Kings Wicket, or Busy Gap and has a strong association with local folklore, ‘Busy Gap Rogue’ was a term of abuse in Sixteenth Century Newcastle to describe rough Borderers and thieves. From here keep to the north side of the Wall all the way back to Housesteads until you reach your start point at the Wall. On the way back the natural defensiveness of this location soon becomes apparent – imagine wanting to attack Housesteads Fort but having to run up that hill first to do so!

End: Housesteads Visitor Centre

In partnership with

Cotswold Outdoor logo © Cotswold Outdoor
  • Trail: Walking
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Distance: 8 miles
  • Time: 3hrs
  • OS Map: Explorer OL43 or Landranger 87
  • Terrain:

    Established public footpaths with some steep climbs and descents along stone pitched paths. Can be muddy at times.

  • How to get here:

    Bus: The AD122 runs between Carlisle and Newcastle throughout the summer.
    Rail: Haltwhistle 8 miles from Housesteads Visitor centre.
    Road: Housesteads visitor centre is on the B6318.

  • Facilities:

    Visitor centre, café, shop, picnic area, (charge for National Park car park), toilets.

  • Contact us
    • Telephone: 01434 344525