Birdoswald, Roman Fort

Gilsland, Brampton, Cumbria

Here you will find the longest remaining stretch of Hadrian’s Wall. The fort sat astride the wall on the side of one of the stone turrets, and over 800 infantrymen were garrisoned here.

The site was set on a spectacular ridge above the river Irthing, and offers fabulous views down into the gorge below. Definitely a Kodak moment.

In 2009 archaeologists rescued part of the fort’s cemetery, before it disappeared off the edge of the cliff, rescuing several burial urns.

A lovely bastle house (a kind of fortified farmhouse) was built in the 16th century to protect against border raiders. Animals would be kept on the ground floor and accommodation on the floor above, mmm rather ripe in the summer months I would suspect.

I have to be honest, hubby and I were quite disappointed with the site and felt the entry fee was quite expensive along with the parking cost, again we both belong to English Heritage, so entry was free for us. We felt there really wasn’t a lot to see with the excavations, although there are some lovely walks by exploring the surrounding landscape, but at the time of our visit the fields were very boggy, make sure you have appropriate footwear.

The fort hosts many events throughout the summer, including guided tours, so check the website for up-to-date information. The courtyard hosts a gift shop and a lovely rustic style café, serving nice coffee and scones.

Be aware, the path leading from the car park to the ticket office is uphill, but there is a disabled parking entrance further up – to the side of the courtyard, accessed through a wooden gate.

Just four miles away is the tranquil village of Lanercost with its beautifully preserved medieval priory and cloisters, whose nave continues to serve as a parish church and can be visited independently of the ruins. The Church of St Mary Magdalene with its stained-glass windows, some designed by William Morris, is a stunningly serene sight.

The setting of this Augustrian Lanercost Priory is superb, founded in the 12th-13th century built as a house of prayer. Proudly standing close to Hadrian’s wall, parts of which were built using bricks plundered from the wall.

Unfortunately for us the priory wasn’t open until 1st April, so we could only look and take photos from around the outside of the church and graveyard. The tearoom, gallery & shop will also open in April. There is a car park which we would expect gets busy during the summer period. There are also some holiday let properties attached.

We found the priory captivating and will definitely go back during its open season, the entry is through English Heritage, check the website for entrance prices and whether or not the car park will be chargeable. There were uneven surfaces and grassy areas to contend with.

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