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I am consider myself very lucky to live in rural Northumberland with its stunning countryside and wealth of history to discover. One of the biggest tourist attractions is the amazing Hadrian's Wall, stretching for 84 miles from the Solway estuary in Cumbria to Wallsend at the mouth of the Tyne. Along the wall are over a dozen wall forts and probably the best preserved of these is the fort at Birdoswald in Cumbria.
Birdoswald is situated in stunning countryside high above a bend in the river Irthing 4 miles west of Greenhead. It is well signposted in both directions. If you are using a Sat Nav the postcode is CA8 7DD. From April until October there is a bus from Hexham railway station in Northumberland that runs directly to the site. There is a railway station in Brampton (8 miles away) or one in Haltwhistle (7 miles away) it would then be possible to travel by taxi to the site. However I would recommend you come by car if possible as there are many other interesting sites to see in the area.
There is a paying car park; although the fee is refunded on admission to the fort.
Birdoswald was once a very important wall fort housing over 1,000 soldiers. Built in AD 122, the original fort was constructed using timber with a turf wall. The emperor Hadrian re-built the wall and fort using stone. The fort was continuously occupied from AD122 until long after the Romans left. Standing inside the remains of the fort, you really get a sense of what it would have been like looking down the gorge for any approaching enemies. Excavations have revealed 3 gateways, work shops, granaries, barracks and a drill hall where the soldiers would have been able to exercise. An inside exercise area is an interesting find as it indicates that the Northern weather was a consideration for exercising outside as it is today!
In addition to the fort remains there is a well presented visitor centre covering over 2,000 years of the sites history. There is a full size replica of a section of the wall showing just how tall it actually was. There are several glass cases displaying items found at the site such as shoes, trinkets and coins. I really like the interactive displays such as life sized models that tell a story of what life would have been like. The centre covers life at the fort from Roman times until it became a farm in the Victorian era.
The visitor centre also houses a very good café serving locally made cakes, sandwiches and light snacks. It is not cheap but the food is good quality. If you prefer you can picnic in the sheltered courtyard outside the centre.
There are toilets inside the visitor centre including one for disabled visitors. The fort is accessible for those with disabilities although the ground is a bit uneven. The visitor centre and café are fully accessible.
From Birdoswald you can walk along a well preserved section of the wall to Harrows scar or Willowford Bridge. I would advise you to bring adequate clothing as it is an exposed area and the weather can change quickly. There are many other sites worth visiting in this area and for me the best is Vindolanda about 10 miles away in Northumberland (see my review) It is also well worth visiting Housesteads and Chester roman forts.
In the summer there are often Roman re-enactments staged (for details visit the English heritage web site)
Admission and opening times.
The site is owned by English Heritage and admission is free for members. Otherwise admission costs £5 for an adult and £3 for a child. Under 3's are free.
Opening times are-
April 1st until 30th sept- 10 am-5.30pm
Oct 1st until 31st oct- 10 am-4pm.
Nov 1st until 23rd dec-10am-4pm.
For further opening times visit the web site.
Overall Birdoswald is well worth a visit !