Steel Rigg - Banks / Walton

This section of the Way is 13miles (21 Km) to Banks or 16.5 miles (26 Km) to Walton. The section quickly reaches the highest point on Hadrian's Wall at 345 metres an constant descent to Thirlwall then gradual drop to finish at an altitude of 125 m or 75 m from Banks and Walton respectively.

Please note that several of the images were taken when walking in the reverse direction.

Looking towards Crag Lough from Trig point on Windshields Crags

From the Steel Rigg carpark the walk for the first kilometre is uphill to the highest point on Hadrian's Wall at Windshields Crags. From here the walker will see west to the Solway Firth and east towards Sewingshield Crags. North the view is towards the Scottish border (dependent on visibility) and south over the line of the Vallum and the ever present military road (B 6318) whilst behind are the northern Pennine peaks.

Cawfield Crags looking towards Windshields Crags

Although the predominant level of the Way is down allow time for the next sections to Walltown Quarry. The Way stays close to the Crags and the wall remains, which are well preserved in these part. With the wall sticking to the cliff edge they combined to provide a wonderful defensive line for the Romans.

Cawfield Quarry

Having descended into Cawfield Quarry, which is an attractively developed recreational area, there is a gradual ascent to Aesica Fort, now only visible in outline beside the farm buildings. Passing through the woods at Cockmount Hill the next crags are at Walltown. The views to the Solway Firth and the ultimate destination of this route are clearly visible on a good day.

Walltown Quarry

The way then arrives at Walltown Quarry the second such quarry developed in Roman times to produce the stone for the wall, turrets and milecastles.
A little further west the path decends down the side of wide open fields to a wood and then a twisting path over a small bridge by attractive cottages to arrive at the side of Thirlwell Castle.

Thirlwall Castle

From Thirlwall Castle walk along the path to the Tipalt Burn, cross this and the railway line, with caution, and proceed to the road ahead. At the B6318 the Way turns right for about 50 metres before turning left to rejoin the line of the Wall. The Pennine Way at the road crosses and heads WSW and then south.
There now follows a field walk to Gilsland entering the village on the Northumberland side.

Modern bridge over the Irthing River at Willowford

At the Station Inn the way follows a path by the side of the railway viaduct and a small pedestrian bridge crossing the burn that acts as the boundary between Northumberland and Cumbria. The path again crosses the railway line on the SW side of Gilsland and follows round the outside of the school. Cross the road and pick up the line of Hadrian's Wall again as it proceeds to the River Irthing.
The river is crossed by a modern metal pedestrian bridge with its own unique beauty, this just after one of the most photographed sections of the Hadrian's Wall at Willowford.

Milecastle 49 overlooking Willowford

From Willowford to Birdoswald there are interesting and significant remains of the Roman Wall. Where the line crosses the Irthing River at Willowford there are interesting Milecastles and Turrets, although the Roman Bridge is no longer visible. This is a significant valley to cross and the route demands a zigzag ascent from the bridge back up to the line of the Wall.

Birdoswald Roman Fort and information centre

Birdoswald is the site of one of the principal Roman Forts and is worth stopping to look at the remains and the information centre. As the route progresses west the way starts to slightly diverge from the road rising gradually towards a directional change close to High House. From here the Way is following the line of what was initially a turf wall.

Turret 52 to east of Banks

The Turf Wall line now starts to merge with the road that runs from Birdoswald to Banks. Every so often the path crosses a field or re-enters onto the roadway to allow the path to progress round a house or farm. There are some good sections of wall and turrets closer to the village of Banks.

Banks with village green ahead

Banks is a small Cumbrian village sitting to the north of the Irthing River directly on the line of Hadrian's Wall. There is a short walk on the road as it curves in a semicircle away from the wall then back across its line at the village green. Continue down this road for a further 100 metres then take the right hand fork as waymarked to pick up the section to Walton. Alternatively stop in Banks and split the distances of this section and the next to Carlisle in almost equal lengths.

Looking to the route north from the Roman Wall

This section of the Way sees within the first hour a significant change in the route. It turns north and picks up the waymarking of the Pennine Way, and it leaves behind the Roman Heritage of Hadrian's Wall as the walker heads into "Caledonia and the land of the warring Picts". From the safety of the south side of the Wall the route north through the Wark Forest can be identified. (Red dots on the photo)

Junction point as route turn North

Whether approaching from the West (Bowness - Yellow line) or the East (Wallsend - Red line) the initial walk is on the line of the wall above the crags. Between Hotbank and Cuddy's Crags there is a dip and a path leading north across the line of the Wall and out onto the lower and flatter moorland to the north is the one to follow.

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