We haven't let the fact that we don't have a car at the moment stop us from getting out there and enjoying fun days out. Visiting Sycamore Gap along Hadrian's Wall was on our bucket list this summer, and with a little bit of research, I found that we could actually get here quite easily by bus.
The Go North East AD122 travels between Hexham and Haltwhistle, stopping at various points along Hadrian's Wall along the way. The service costs £26 for a Family 1 Day Rover Ticket (with unlimited travel on the AD122 for that day) or £33 for a Family 1 Day Hadrian's Frontier Ticket which allows travel on any Go North East bus across the North East. Family tickets cover up to 2 adults and 3 children and save you at least £23 when compared to buying individual tickets.
|We spotted Sycamore Gap as we whizzed past on the bus|
10:54am - The Roman Army Museum, Walltown
The Roman Army Museum is small but perfectly formed and the perfect place to start your Hadrian's Wall adventure. The 3D cinema is really interesting and brings to life what life was like on the wall for the Roman's and also points out various points of interest.
Entry to the museum is £16 for a family of 4 - if you show your bus ticket, you'll receive a 10% discount. As we were visiting Vindolanda later in the day, we purchased a joint site family ticket (£32) which unfortunately isn't eligible for the 10% discount but it's still better value than paying admission to both sites separately
We especially enjoyed the Roman lesson and our teacher put us through our paces, teaching us how to speak and write in Latin.
12:20pm - Catch the bus to Twice Brewed
The AD122 bus isn't too regular so it's important you are at the bus stop around 5 minutes before the bus is due. There are timetables on board for you to take, you can access timetables via the Go North East app or they are displayed at bus stops. The bus drivers are ever so friendly and will happily give you advice on walking routes or the best itinerary if you ask. They'll also stop anywhere along the route as long as it's safe to do so, so when you board the bus, simply let the driver know where you'd like to go. The AD122 is a talking bus and there is a large visible screen telling you where the next stop is and the bus will also point out different points of interest as you drive along.
12:31 - Arrive at Twice Brewed Pub
One of the best things about not having the car with us was being able to enjoy more than one glass of wine with lunch. We stopped at Twice Brewed which is a nice dog-friendly pub with lovely staff and a cosy, welcoming interior.
I LOVED that there was a board game corner (and they were in good condition). The kids happily played snakes and ladders whilst we waited for our food.
Steve picked best with his Gammon, Poached Egg, Homemade Chunky Chips and Pineapple chunky chips from the main menu (£12.95). It was all homemade and really hit the spot.
I ordered the local sausage sandwich with chips and tomato relish which considering it was served with frozen chips, I thought was a bit steep at £9.25. It's so annoying when your husband is served homemade chips and you're given frozen! The sausages were nice and I do think it's a shame they went to the effort of sourcing local sausages but served them up with frozen chips when homemade were available.
The kids' meals were £4.95 for a (frozen) main meal. They enjoyed it but I would really love to see country pubs make more of an effort and cook homemade meals for everyone. St Mary's Inn in Stannington offers 2 homemade courses PLUS a drink for kids for the same price and because of this, we return again and again. If a pub serves up frozen produce it doesn't give me much reason to go back.
I realise I'm sounding like a bit of a moaning minnie here. We did like Twice Brewed Inn but wouldn't rush to return - the AD122 also stops at the Milecastle Inn and there are several tearooms at various sites along the wall so I think we would try one of these next time.
1:40pm - Walk from Twice Brewed to Vindolanda
We chose to stay at the pub and enjoy an extra drink rather than rush to finish our lunch and catch the bus. It's a nice walk from the pub to Vindolanda (although a lot of it is along a quiet road so perhaps not suitable for spritely toddlers) and as we had the kids with us and a lot of it was up hill, it probably took us just under an hour. A good way to burn off lunch we thought though! You can catch the bus if you don't fancy the walk which will only take you 6 minutes.
The views along the walk to Vindolanda are beautiful and we even walked past Sycamore gap.
2:30pm - Arrive at Vindolanda
Vindolanda is also home to some really beautiful gardens and cottages that have working re-constructions of village homes and merchants in them that come to life as you step in side.
It was raining on the afternoon of our visit but if the sun is shining there are plenty of outdoor tables in the tearoom that allow you to enjoy views like this one.....
There is also a fascinating museum absolutely filled to the brim with artefacts and finds from the site ranging from Roman writing tablets to animal skeletons and weapons. It really is a very comprehensive collection and it was nice to walk around, take everything in and hide from the rain.
3:26 pm - catch the AD122 to Chesters Roman Fort
We arrived at Chesters at 3:49pm and it was still raining. We were tired from all of our walking and in desperate need of a cuppa and cake. Chesters tea room was the perfect spot. It is nice and cosy and the staff couldn't do enough for us to ensure we were comfortable. There were 4-5 different homemade cakes to choose from and 5 slices of cake plus drinks set us back £20 which I think is reasonable. Admission to Chesters is free for English Heritage members or £16.10 for a non-member family ticket.
There was just enough time for a quick whistle-stop walk around part of the site before it was time to leave.
4:49pm - Catch the AD122 back to Hexham
We loved spotting the various snails and insects as we waited for our bus back to Hexham (which only takes 15 minutes by the way).
From Hexham, we headed back home to Newcastle. We were absolutely exhausted but felt like we'd spent some proper quality time together, inhaled plenty of fresh country air and learned a thing or two. My TomTom Spark informed me that I'd walked 17k steps that day too which isn't bad going at all.
Need To Know
- You can view the A122 Timetable here
- Find out more about ticket prices, routes, where to visit and connecting services here
- Twice Brewed Inn Website
- Vindolanda Trust Website
- Chesters Roman Fort Website