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Hadrians Wall - Durham Cathedral -what to see in short time

During our 3 week vacation in UK we will be driving (we will have a rental car everywhere but London) from Keswick in the Lake District to York on a Sunday next month. We want to see Hadrian's Wall during that drive. From what I've read the 3 main highlights are Roman Army Museum, Housesteads Fort and Vindolanda. In addition to Hadrian's Wall, we are considering a quick stop at the Cathedral in Durham on our way from Hadrian's Wall to York, which closes at 5:30 that Sunday.

- How much time to allow for each stop?
- Should we eliminate one of the Hadrian's Wall stops in order to get to the Cathedral? If so, which one?

FYI: While in England, we will be visiting York Minster, Bath Abbey, Salisbury Cathedral, plus Westminster Abbey & St. Paul's Cathedral in London. I mention that to see if you think we will see enough old churches without seeing Durham Cathedral. We have seen Roman ruins before in Italy, Spain and Israel.
Thank you in advance for your advice.

Posted by
3046 posts

If you have just one day to drive from Keswick to York, you're not going to have a lot of time to explore Hadrian's Wall, let alone Durham. The driving time estimated on a site like Google Maps is unrealistically quick, IMO.

I suggest you forgo Durham Cathedral, but plan a stop for afternoon tea or just to walk around and enjoy the beauty of Durham town for a short while. As for Hadrian's Wall, I'd say research the "3 main highlights" and choose just one. Better to spend a decent amount of time at one stop and do some actual walking along the wall than to hop from one to the next just so you can say you've seen all three. A walk along the wall is a really unparalleled experience, I think -- but you'll want to be sure and dress for the weather.

Posted by
641 posts

I can't speak for Hadrian's Wall as I haven't been there, but Durham Cathedral was a favorite of mine. We also saw York Minster, Kings College Chapel in Cambridge, St. Paul's and Westminster Abbey; Durham Cathedral was different than all of those. We took the train from York for a day trip just to see the Cathedral and we were not disappointed.

Posted by
31 posts

Thanks for your answers. I agree that I need more time, but it's always that way when we travel. I wanted to wake up in York the next day so we would have a full day there, before ending our trip with 6 nights in London. I have no problem eliminating 2 of the Wall stops. I'm just not sure which one or two to omit. I'm hoping someone can help me understand the differences.

Posted by
771 posts

I wouldn't miss Durham Cathedral. It's Norman (Romanesque) architecture, unlike any of the others you mentioned. I adore churches, so I could never see enough.

As far as Hadrian's Wall goes, I thought the Roman Army Museum was the least interesting of the 3 you mention. Housesteads is a fort along the wall. You are up the hill here and it gives you a better idea of what the wall encompassed. Vindolanda was very interesting. We talked to some folks who were digging while we were there and it was interesting too hear about what they had found.

You are very short on time. You will have to pick what appeals the most. I would pick Housesteads and Durham, but we had 3 full days and you only have one. Tough choice.

Posted by
1116 posts

We've hiked the wall from end to end and my recollection is that most of the museums are set back from the wall, so to get a good taste of the wall itself I'd suggest Housesteads, because as mentioned previously it really does give you a feel of what the wall was about. It's also in a fairly remote location so you get big vistas. You can drive across the country parallel to the wall for the most part - the old Roman supply road is still in use as the major cross country road for modern day traffic. I always thought it made doing the wall walk rather less than a 'wilderness experience' but you have to admire the quality of the Romans road construction!

Check out also the Vindolanda tablets - I think the majority are in the British Museum. Fascinating. Roman voices that sound very much like our own and obsessed with the same things - "I'm not going up there at this time of year, the roads are terrible", "please send more socks", etc., etc., we decided that walking the wall and visiting all the museums wasn't practical in the time we had so, we went back for a week to 'do' all the museums properly. Of course, we live not too far away and are lucky in that respect, but for a day you need to choose carefully and do maybe just the one place justice

Durham cathedral is magnificent though and worth and hour or twos walk round if that's all you have.

Have a great trip!


Posted by
2337 posts

The Roman Army Museum and Vindolanda are on the same site; a short drive away is Housesteads. So it's quite possible to see all three. Only Housesteads is actually on the Wall. So, if all you want to see is the Wall then Housesteads wins. If the weather's against you it's a fair walk from the car park.

Durham Cathedral is the greatest building in Britain.