WHAT did the Romans ever do for us?

Fans of Monty Python might have their own answer, but we took a trip up to Cumbria to discover Hadrian’s Wall and find out for ourselves.

To my shame I have to confess to being somewhat ignorant to the history of the wall, and to a large extent to the past of that part of the region.

The Lake District regularly formed a part of family holidays as a child, but that normally stopped as far north as Keswick.

So it was that we decided to take a break in a bed and breakfast in the tiny village of Lanercost, a 15-minute drive from the M6 and close to Carlisle so we could explore Hadrian’s Wall a little more closely.

Now while the wall stretched the breadth of the country, from the Irish Sea to the coast of Northumbria when it was first built during Roman times, it is now very fragmented.

In fact the most westerly part of the wall starts just 400 metres from Lancercost Bed and Breakfast and many of the buildings in the village were constructed with former segments of the wall long after the Romans returned home.

We carried on around three miles along the breathtakingly beautiful road and onto Birdoswald, once home to one of the biggest fortresses on the 70-mile wall and now the start of the longest-surviving section.

The site is now owned by English Heritage and we made our way through the fascinating small exhibition on the wall, the soldiers who lived at the fort and Hadrian himself (he wanted the protect the Roman Empire and so started the construction project).

You can then take a tour of the ruins and imagine what the place would have looked like when at its imposing height.

We then found the wall itself, massive in height and cutting across spectacular rolling countryside with large hills and a winding river.

If anything, the up to a foot deep snow that covered the landscape during our weekend trip in January if anything made the place even more stunning.

It certainly meant we had the place to ourselves.

Feeling cold after our hour-long walk, we turned back and made our way to Lanercost to meet B&B owners Christina and Bob Lamb.

And what a treat it was to relax in this home away from home.

The farmhouse-style building has four rooms, all with plenty of space, a sumptuous bathroom with freestanding bath and shower cubicle and the free Wi-Fi throughout the property was welcome, especially given the lack of phone signal in the fields nearby.

The Lambs are experienced hoteliers having run properties in Oxford and Scotland and it shows.

They could not have been more friendly, in fact it felt more like spending a night with friends in their home rather than staying in a hotel.

Bob, a former farmer, has hens so we ate many a fresh egg as well as vegetables grown on-site and wild garlic picked from the fields.

While Christina is an AA rosette winning chef – so the ‘supper’ we enjoyed in the evening (which followed two slices of cake and home made cookies, well it was the weekend) was far beyond cheese on toast.

We enjoyed a very unusual but light and tasty egg nest, a main of lamb, rosti and broccoli from the garden followed by the largest-sized piece of pavlova I have ever seen. The B&B is also licensed.

And it was incredible. It meant by the time we called it a night, it wasn’t long before we feel asleep in the extra king-sized beds.

The breakfast was as impressive as the meal the night before, local sausages and bacon, a smoothie to ease my conscience and as much tea and orange juice as you could drink.

We decided to stay local before our trip home, visiting the nearby priory (about 100 metres away) which was once the home of Edward I and had been raided by Robert the Bruce.

It is now a mix of ruins and a regular parish church, which in the last week of June becomes a music and art venue for the Lanercost Festival.

We also enjoyed a long winter walk around the village, passing the cricket club which Bob informed me has excellent real ale when it opens on Friday nights for a village catch-up.

So for a Cumbrian holiday perspective with a difference, see how the Romans did it.


  •  Lanercost is around two-and-a-half hours drive from Warrington
  •  One night at Lancercost Bed and Breakfast, lanercostbedandbreakfast.co.uk, is £90 Supper is £20 extra but guests can dine elsewhere if they prefer
  •  Admission to Birdoswald is £5.60 for adults and £3 for children
  •  Admission to Lanercost Priory is £3.60 for adults and £2.20 for children
  •  For more information visit visithadrianswall.co.uk.