How to Walk to Sycamore Gap with Kids

Thanks to Bethanie from Girl About Northumberland for this post. Photo credits are a mix of Bethanie's and my own. Over to Bethanie.......

The county of Northumberland is steeped in history. From the iconic castles to the mining colliery at Woodhorn, there is so much to learn visiting these places and Hadrian’s Wall is no exception. Here I share with you what it is like walking to Sycamore Gap (part of Hadrian’s Wall) with kids.

History of Hadrian’s Wall.

“The northern frontier of a mighty empire that once covered the known world.”

Covering an impressive seventy-three miles coast to coast, Hadrian’s Wall stands up to six meters high in places and was built by the Roman soldiers to guard the north-west frontier. 

How to Walk to Sycamore Gap with Kids
Chesters Roman Fort 

There are various points of interest along the wall including Roman Fort sites like Vindolanda and Birdoswald. You can visit the Roman Army Museum or Chesters Roman Army Museum. As you can tell, this part of Northumberland is pretty proud of its history connections and there is plenty for you to see and do. All provide fun and interesting days out for the whole family to enjoy. 

In the past we have visited Vindolanda and The Sill (read more about the Sill here), both of which are an educational yet fun visit. 

This post however is going to be focusing on a family friendly walk you can do along part of Hadrian’s Wall, that takes you to the famous Sycamore Gap. 

Here are some posts featuring Hadrian's Wall / Roman History you may enjoy: 

Sycamore Gap.

Thought to be one of the most photographed spots in the whole of the Northumberland National Park, Sycamore Gap found it’s fame because of its dramatic location. Oh, and it just so happened to be in the 1991 film Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, giving it a new title of the “Robin Hood Tree”. 

How to Walk to Sycamore Gap with Kids - Sycamore Gap Tree Picnic

Originally, we were going to park at the Steel Rigg car park, which costs £2 for a day ticket. As we approached, we could see already how busy it was, and as the car park is fairly small it was full when we arrived. (This was around 12pm so I recommend getting here early to get parked.) 

There are traffic cones on the side of the road leading up to the car park, encouraging visitors not to park on the roadside and to stick to actual parking spaces. 

We adhered to this, and back tracked down the road and headed over to The Sill car park, which is half a mile away. This added on only fifteen minutes to our planned walk. 

Parking at The Sill is calculated on the time you have spent there, cameras making a note of your number plate upon arrival, and you then pay before exiting the car park. (From paying at the machine you then have fifteen minutes to leave, so if you are anything like us and it takes a while to get the kids boots, coats etc off, pay for your ticket when everyone is in the car and ready to go!)

From what we could see, there are two routes that will take you to Sycamore Gap. Both are a similar length, but one involves a steep climb and decent, whereas the other is fairly flat. 

How to Walk to Sycamore Gap with Kids  - public footpath sign

We did both: heading towards Sycamore Gap the hilly route, before then looping back along the flat. This made it a nice 2.1 mile walk altogether, so a great one to do with the kids. 

If you park at The Sill as we did, head out to the main road from the car park and turn left which will then bring you up to the B6318 road. Once crossing straight over here, you will come to a small gate which leads to a safe footpath, so you avoid crossing at the road junction. 

Head up the road, away from The Sill for about half a mile. You will walk past two National Trust owned holiday cottages. Just behind the second of the cottages, you will come to a kissing gate and a Hadrian’s Wall footpath sign. Head through the gate and along to the right-hand side of the field. This then joins you up with the footpath those who parked in the Steel Rigg car park, will be on. 

You will approach a dry stone wall with a large gap to the right and a narrower path to the left. This is the point where you decide whether you take the steep climb or the flat route. 

We went to the left and followed the path from here, uphill and down, all the way to Sycamore Gap. This was approximately 1 mile. While the climb was steep, the path is laid out with stone steps, so it meant it wasn’t too much of a challenge. Our middle child is five and she managed this with just a little support as the steps were slippery at the time of our visit, if that helps you gauge whether your children would manage or not. 

How to Walk to Sycamore Gap with Kids - hills

Personally, I was glad we chose to walk this way as the views from the top were spectacular. You are walking alongside Hadrian’s Wall so that also felt a little bit exciting. 

How to Walk to Sycamore Gap with Kids  - beautiful views

Along this walking route you pass Milecastle 39, a well preserved part of the wall that is a must see for history lovers. 

After dropping down into the dip where the famous tree at Sycamore Gap stands, you may want to sit for snacks, take photos and even let the kids have a run around. It felt pretty sheltered in this part and plenty of people were pulling out picnics or simply taking in the view. We visited in January, and it was still a popular spot. 

How to Walk to Sycamore Gap with Kids

Once you have finished here, you can either follow the path up the hill in front of you to make the walk longer or start to head back. This was the point where we joined the flat route to walk through fields back to the holiday cottage that marked the start of the road walking. This part, while flat, was particularly boggy so make sure you have some good walking boots on.  

The path was very easy to follow, and the views were still very impressive. 

How to Walk to Sycamore Gap with Kids  - views from the tree

We simply followed the road back down to The Sill, where we popped into the cafĂ© for a hot drink and toilet stop. We explored The Sill exhibition before heading home. 

For the Steel Rigg Car Park and The Sill, use postcode: NE47 7AN

Here are some of Sam's photos from visits to the Sill. It's free to visit (as mentioned, parking is chargeable) with a rooftop garden offering glorious views, a decent cafe and an interactive exhibition all about Northumberland National Park. It's definitely worth popping into. 

How to Walk to Sycamore Gap with Kids  - the sill rooftop garden

How to Walk to Sycamore Gap with Kids  - interactive exhibition at the sill

How to Walk to Sycamore Gap with Kids  - once brewed menu at the sill

How to Walk to Sycamore Gap with Kids  - sausage roll from the sill cafe


1 comment

  1. Sycamore Gap looks incredible. My wife and I plan to take our children there next week.


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