Sycamore Gap Walk
Exploring one of the most Picturesque Segments of Hadrian’s Wall

If you want to experience walking alongside one of the best-preserved sections of Hadrian’s Wall, then this circular Sycamore Gap walk is a must. The landscape around this section of the Roman built wall is some of the wildest and the views are outstanding - even though one of the best-known attractions of this walk is now lost to us.

This is not a flat walk. There are some short, steep ups and downs, and we'll leave you to imagine the difficulty the Romans had building Hadrian’s Wall over 1900 years ago. It’s hard to conceive that for every 100 metres of wall the Roman’s quarried, transported, and laid 96 tonnes of foundation stone, 900 tonnes of facing stones, and 1356 tonnes of core!

This stunning walk is less than four miles long, but packs in lots of interest along the way. It starts off with great views along Peel Crags with Crag Lough, a glacial lake in the distance. The walk passes Milecastle 39, one of the small Roman fortified gateways built every Roman mile along Hadrian’s Wall, then Sycamore Gap, where the lonely, beautiful Sycamore tree grew for over 200 years, and returns via grassy fields and tracks with wonderful views across to the crags. It is a truly spectacular Northumbrian walk!

The View from Steel Rigg Carpark Towards Peel Crags, Highshield Crags, and Crags Lough © essentially-england.comThe View from Steel Rigg Carpark Towards Peel Crags, Highshield Crags, and Crags Lough

Sycamore Gap Walk Map

The walk starts from the Steel Rigg pay and display car park near Once Brewed. Use the post code NE47 7AN to help guide you. If arriving by the Hadrian’s Wall bus, then the bus stop is outside the Twice Brewed Inn in Once Brewed.

The walking route is quite easy to follow, but it is best to carry a map or some instructions. If you use mapping on your mobile device, then you should be able to find our walk and follow its directions. Or, if using a GPS device, click on the “Discover more info about this tour” link to download the gpx file.

Hadrian's Wall Climbing Peel Crags © essentially-england.comHadrian's Wall Climbing Peel Crags ©

We would, obviously, recommend doing this walk when the weather is at its best, but understand that this is not always possible. After wet weather, parts of the route can be muddy and sturdy shoes or boots are necessary. There are also steep inclines and declines which could get slippery. We also remember there being several stone and wooden stiles to climb as we crossed the farmland on the way back towards the car park.

Hadrian's Wall Running Along Peel Crags © essentially-england.comHadrian's Wall Running Along Peel Crags ©

Sycamore Gap Walk

Leave the Steel Rigg car park by the gate in the corner and follow the footpath signposted “Hadrian’s Wall”. As the path meets Hadrian’s Wall, descend the grassy bank to join a paved path that climbs up stone steps to the top of Peel Crags. There are great views from the top and plenty of reasons to stop and catch your breath!

Milecastle 39 Along Hadrian's Wall © essentially-england.comMilecastle 39 Along Hadrian's Wall ©

Continue following the footpath along a great section of Hadrian’s Wall until a steep descent down to Milecastle 39.

The path then gently climbs away from the Milecastle to give fantastic views of the wall twisting and turning through the beautiful undulating landscape until it descends sharply into Sycamore Gap.

Looking Down into Sycamore Gap © essentially-england.comLooking Down into Sycamore Gap ©

There was something special about this lovely tree growing in the dip between the crags. Famous for its role in the Robin Hood Prince of Thieves film starring Kevin Costner, it was often referred to as the “Robin Hood Tree”. This was the most photographed tree in England, and in 2016 was crowned “Tree of the Year”.

And we're grateful that we got to see it on our walk, because less than a year later - on 28th September 2023 - vandals cut down this gorgeous tree.

The sycamore had inhabited this space since the late 1800s and could have lived for many more years. While it lived, it saw proposals, reunions, quite moments, and the scattering of ashes. And while twigs and seeds collected from the felled sycamore have taken root, and the National Trust's gardeners are working to grow saplings... it will be a long time until the sycamore returns to Hadrian's Wall.

Sycamore Gap © essentially-england.comSycamore Gap ©

After the Sycamore Gap, the footpath climbs steeply away to the top of Highshield Crags. With Hadrian’s Wall now on your right, there is little protection from the shear drop down into Crag Lough. The breathtaking views make up for that!

Keep to the footpath along the crags until it starts to gently descend through woodland. Here it could get a bit muddy and slippery after wet weather!

View from Highshield Crags © essentially-england.comView from Highshield Crags ©

On leaving the woodland, cross over a ladder stile and continue to a gate in a stone wall. Pass through the gate and cross the farm track to join a footpath leading to another gate. Follow the grassy footpath up the slight incline signposted “Halsteads” heading towards Hotbank Farm. On your left, just after passing the farmhouse is a wooden gate with a stone step stile.

Descent into Woodland © essentially-england.comDescent into Woodland ©

Climb over the stile, and head in the direction of the footpath sign on the gatepost, passing to the right of the farm buildings to a gate. Go through the gate and continue along the footpath to a ladder stile next to a gate.

Negotiate the stile and turn immediately to the left to cross a step stile and head across the field in the direction of the footpath sign to another stile. Follow the footpath sign across the next field and onto a farm track to a ladder stile. Head over the stile and field towards a barn building to join the footpath that runs alongside a stone wall.

Crags Lough and the Crags © essentially-england.comCrags Lough and the Crags ©

The walk is pretty much straight forward now and follows the path/track, with the stone wall on your right, all the way to a gate on to the road. To help you along the final stretch of our Sycamore Gap walk there are wonderful views of Crag Lough, the crags, and Sycamore Gap to the left!

View of Sycamore Gap © essentially-england.comView of Sycamore Gap ©

At the end of the track, go through the gate and turn left onto the road to climb the hill back to Steel Rigg carpark to complete one of the finest Hadrian’s Wall walks.

If you would like more information on Hadrian’s Wall and its many Roman sites a good place to start is the English Heritage website.

And, if you enjoy mixing fabulous Northumberland sites with some good old English detective novels, then why not try the DCI Ryan series written by L.J. Ross. In the second book of the series a body is found in Hadrian’s Wall at Sycamore Gap!

Our last sight of the sycamore...

We took the walk we described above in October 2022, nearly a year before the sycamore was felled. Below is the last image we took of the tree, late in the afternoon our our way back to Steelrigg car park. And as I wrote above, we're grateful we got to see it, walk past it, and watch other hikers enjoy it.

The walk along Hadrian's Wall hasn't lost its history, its challenge, or its outstanding views. Please enjoy it while you're visiting Northumberland and maybe - in time - we'll see the sycamore return.

Our last sight of the tree in Sycamore Gap View of Sycamore Gap © essentially-england.comOur last sight of the tree in Sycamore Gap ©

Hadrian's Wall Books From English Heritage

Where we Stayed:- Moorgair Cottage near Slaley

We stayed in Moorgair Cottage near Slaley which was very convenient for visiting Hadrian's Wall and its many Roman sites as well as Hexham, Corbridge, and Heavensfield. From the visitors book we also understand there are terrific walks out to Blanchland and back. It was a beautiful cosy cottage, and we would highly recommend to anyone staying in the area.

Are You Planning to Visit Northumberland?

Where You Could Stay

There's a reason Northumberland is one of my favourite English counties. Its landscape is utterly gorgeous with long beaches and empty sweeps of hills that just beg to be walked. In between you can find small towns and pretty villages, conntected by lanes that are great on the bike as long as you have the legs for climbing. And there are holiday cottages to suit all tastes and budgets.

St Lawrence Rest
Sleeps 4

Croft Cottage
Sleeps 4

near Hexham
Sleeps 2

To see other holiday cottages in Northumberland click here. Or check out holiday cottages in other parts of England by clicking here.

Or you could try a family orientated Parkdean Resort in Northumberland.

If you need to find a hotel, then try one of these search platforms...


What You Could See and Do

Even if you stayed a month, you'd find that you don't have enough time to explore the county top to bottom and see everything it has to offer. There's plenty of history from Hadrian's Wall near Hexham to Lindisfarne in the north with reams of castles and ruins in between. There are beaches and seaside towns like Craster, Alnmouth and Seahouses - and some of the best fish & chips in all of England. There are market towns like Haltwhistle, Rothbury, Bellingham, Berwick, Warkworth and Harbottle to explore. And there are hillsides to climb and the great outdoors to enjoy.

Are you feeling in need of a holiday yet? Here are a few more pages that might give you ideas...

And if you want to explore more of Northumberland and its martial history, check out this Northumberland Castle Tour.

For more Northumberland days out return from our Sycamore Gap Walk page to the Northumberland page.