August 14, 2013

Roman Times in Britain

"Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.”   Seneca, Roman statesman

Carol writes:
HADRIAN’S WALL:  Bisecting the isle of Britain at its narrowest stretch is a magnificent ruin called Hadrian’s Wall, a 73-mile stone wall built by the Romans under Emperor Hadrian in 122 A.D.  The wall served partly as a defensive military complex complete with Roman forts that were positioned at frequent intervals along the entire wall to deter the pesky Pict tribes from the Scottish north.  With the passage of 2000 years, many stretches of wall have disappeared beneath the sod; nevertheless, today the coast-to-coast 73-mile hike along Hadrian’s Wall is one of the most popular longer walks in England.  In fact, we saw many hikers carrying large overnight backpacks doing just that.  There were nifty little ladders installed over stone fences so hikers could cross along the route. 

We concentrated our visit to Hadrian’s Wall at Homesteads Roman Fort where some of the best sections of the wall were still visible and the ancient fort ruins remained quite spectacular.

Our tour guide pointed out the commanding officer’s house, which once had mosaic floors with an innovative heating system under the elevated floors.

There was a huge storage room that has been identified as a large granary, with elevated floors for air flow,

but the crowd favorite was a large communal latrine that once had running water.  Every grade school child on the tour could give the correct answer when the guide asked what the Romans used for toilet paper—answer:  a sponge on a stick.


There was only one short stretch of wall where it was permitted to walk ‘on the wall’—a stretch that was stabilized by a covering of sod.

For those of you that know about it—yes, we did take the short ride to Sycamore Gap along Hadrian’s Wall to view the iconic lone sycamore tree that was featured in the 1991 movie Robin Hood:  Prince of Thieves, starring Kevin Costner.

The Roman presence all along Hadrian’s Wall, especially at Homesteads Roman Fort, was certainly thought provoking, and the totally unspoiled countryside setting was superb as far as one could see.


CRAIGSIDE:  Many of our fellow campers like to tell us about favorite places they have visited.  A British man that we chatted with in our last campground told us most of the ‘house/castle tours’ just aren’t interesting to him, but there was one exception that he thought was very worthwhile, and that was the National Trust property called Craigside


Craigside sits prominently on a spectacular rocky crag in the Northumbrian hills.   The house is the fantasy creation of a Victorian industrialist and innovator named Lord William Armstrong.  His home has the distinction of being the first house to be lit by hydroelectricity.  As a result, Craigside had conveniences in the kitchen that were not found in any other homes of that era, such as an electrical rotating meat spit in the kitchen,

And--my favorite--one of the first automatic dish washers!

In the library were two of the first lamps to be lit by means of electricity.

There were luxurious heated Victorian spa rooms with a large beautifully tiled soaking pool where Lord Armstrong liked to entertain his visitors.


Many of the corridor walls were covered in gorgeous tile patterns, which added to the luxury feel of the home.

The most impressive area of the house was the upstairs suite of rooms that were built on a scale to entertain royalty, which Lord Armstrong did, with large formal hallways and a regal ballroom with a gigantic marble fireplace.

After an interesting morning at Craigside, once again we gave silent thanks for the Craigside tip that we had received from a fellow camper.  In 2-1/2 weeks our travels through England have taken us almost to the Scottish border, and we looked forward to entering Scotland the next day--finally!  Our game plan was to do a counterclockwise loop around Scotland, first heading north along the east coast to the very tip of Scotland as far as the roads would take us.  Our first stop along the Scottish coast was at ‘The Home of Golf’, hallowed St. Andrews…

“I’d give up golf if I didn’t have so many sweaters.”  Bob Hope



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