We slept well in the cabin at Roman Wall Lodgings, woke up, dressed (gingerly putting our well worn feet into our boots) and headed to the reception cabin where Paul was cooking up some excellent breakfast wraps and preparing us a packed lunch.
We discussed our plans for the day. The original plan was to crack on with the last few miles to the end of the Wall at Bowness on Solway. From there we could get one of the two or three busses running back to Carlisle. This plan involved us having to carry our kit with us. We had rather got used to the idea of travelling a bit lighter over the last two days. We were tired. Our legs and feet were not happy with us. Paul had a much better idea.
We could leave our bags at the site and arrange for a taxi to meet us in Bowness. Paul had a deal with a local driver who would do the run into Carlisle for a fixed price, and would be happy to come back via the site for us to collect our bags on the way. Not only did this sound like a much better plan, but on checking, the cost of the taxi was not much more than the price of two bus tickets. Sold.
We left the campsite the way we had come the previous evening, re-joining the wall path at Beaumont. The lovely church is likely made of stone from the wall and is, apparently, the only church that sits exactly on the wall’s line anywhere on its route.
In Burgh-on-Sands we sadly didn’t have time for me to make a hoped for pilgrimage to the monument to Edward I. It lies about a mile north of the route and marks the spot where he died on his way to fight the Scots in 1307. At least the village has a statue to him next to the path which I could pull some stupid poses next to instead.
Leaving Burgh we were following an arrow straight road along the line of the wall and across the very flat and low lying marshes of the Solway Firth. Fortunately the fabled winds were relatively light and we were not in a time of year at which any potentially dangerous high tides were forecast.
At Drumburgh, the ‘castle’ built to protect its occupants from attacks by the Rievers has a couple of Roman Altars sitting in the front yard. The village also has an enhanced honesty snack box: a covered tuckshop with toilet facilities. We made use of both. I do like a Calippo and to get one here was most welcome.
For the next few miles we left the road and were back across some fields; passing through the village of Glasson, and then some more fields, re-joining the road close to Port Carlisle.
Port Carlisle is a strange place. Built in 1819 (on the previously named hamlet of Fisher’s Cross) the port was built at the end of a canal designed to allow goods traffic directly into the centre of Carlisle. The canal was short lived but was superseded by another short-lived enterprise, the Port Carlisle Railway. The wall path follows the edge of the Solway Firth into the village and across the silted up remains of the harbour entrance.
We left Port Carlisle and were back onto the road, but we were now almost there. We were into the final mile. It seemed to both go quickly and yet take forever. By this time we were just putting one foot in front of the other more in hope than expectation. We rounded a corner and there was the start of the village. A footpath in the village leads you back to the waterfront, and around another corner, and there it was. I’d been here before and so knew what to expect. Nash saw the little hut that sits on the path and looked round to me. “Is that it? Have we done it?” We had indeed.
We were both quite emotional. It had been a long walk. Over 80 miles across four full and two half days. We took in the results of our efforts, put the final stamps into our passports, and finished our lunch as a celebratory treat.
We had finished about 15-20 minutes before our taxi was due to arrive. We wandered into the village centre. Sadly we didn’t have time to visit a pub, but did find an open toilet in the village hall. As we came out we saw a taxi pull up (a few minutes early). We met him and poured ourselves into the cab.
The driver was nice and friendly. Though he was driving nice and steadily it took a disconcertingly short amount of time to get back to Roman Wall Lodges to collect our bags. After a few more minutes we were driving into the big city and were dropped off at the station. We bought our tickets and, with about half an hour to wait for the train, picked up a couple of take away coffees.
The ride back on the train was rather surreal. We couldn’t really directly see where we had walked but we could work it out and it was odd to count back the days as we passed the places where he had our overnight stops. We were too exhausted now to contemplate the possibility of breaking the journey at Bardon Mill and making the 3 miles or so round trip to Vindolanda. We had tickets from our visit to the Roman Army museum but they were valid for a year. We promised ourselves that we would use this as an excuse to come back in 2020 and do a more leisurely visit with the car. Sadly of course, Covid-19 prevented that from happening in the end.
Instead we stayed on the train and all too quickly we were pulling into Newcastle. We had one final bit of walking to do; down to the riverside and along to the Malmaison.
Our suitcase was still waiting for us and the reception team greeted us and congratulated us. We had been given a better room higher up in the hotel overlooking the riverside. We made our way up in the lift are gladly crashed out on the massive and comfortable bed. When we were washed and refreshed and ready we were more than happy to put on the nice clothes that we had left in the hotel. First up we had a voucher for a celebratory cocktail that we cashed in at the hotel bar before making our way to a restaurant a few doors down for a slap up Mexican banquet.
We ate well, taking our time and savouring that tomorrow we didn’t have to walk anywhere. We were actually booked in for two nights at the Malmaison and spent the next day exploring the city – but entirely at our own leisure and with nothing that we had to do and, more importantly, nowhere that we had to get to by the end of the day. Newcastle is a great city and we had a lovely day. We didn’t venture far but made the most of the day and our extra night at the hotel.
What a fantastic end to an amazing trip. There is quite a diversity of landscape across the width of the country and all of it is lovely.