The family-run farmstead-estate of Farlam Hall is just a few minutes’ drive from one of the best-preserved sections of Hadrian’s Wall, the defensive fortification that formed the northern boundary of the Roman Empire for about 250 years. Begun in A.D. 122 and made chiefly of stone blocks, the wall took about six years to complete. Seventy-three miles long, it was originally about 20 feet high and 10 feet wide, with a fort every mile and two lookout turrets in between. The largest Roman structure in existence, it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1987.
We visited the wall at Cawfields, where it runs along a dramatic ridge and can be seen snaking across the rugged terrain for two or three miles in either direction. To the north, a windswept rolling landscape extends for nearly 40 miles to the Scottish border. (It is a common misapprehension that Hadrian’s Wall marks the border between England and Scotland, but it lies entirely within what is now England. When it was built, the Scoti people were living in northeast Ireland, and the Angles were still residents of northern Germany.) Today the wall stands five or six feet above the ground and is about four feet wide. For centuries, its stones were used in local construction and, in the 18th century, for an extensive program of roadbuilding. But despite these depredations, it is still an impressive and evocative sight. A hiking trail, the Hadrian’s Wall Path, follows alongside for its entire length.