Walking on an increasingly downhill slope, we continued through the ruins which included what would have been a massive bathhouse for the hundreds of Roman soldiers stationed in this distant land.
Then we followed the winding path that led sharply downhill through the trees toward the Chesterholm Museum, the former family home of the archaeologist Eric Birley — a house that now contains many of the discoveries from decades of excavations. This entire site is an ongoing excavation and volunteers can sign on during the warm weather months to work alongside the professional archaeologists on a dig. What fun it would be to bring up some ancient coin or fragment of pottery and know that you contributed to the efforts to reclaim history.
We were not allowed to take any photos inside the museum so, after viewing the exhibits and the gift shop, we began the slow uphill hike along the winding path and back into the main section of ruins — all the time walking on the ancient Roman roads.
Feeling seriously hungry by this time, we drove out of the parking lot toward the second museum on this section of Hadrian’s Wall, the Roman Army Museum. I asked at the front desk of Vindolanda for a recommendation for lunch and the charming woman on duty drew me a tiny map to lead me to a local pub with good food and accommodations where the archaeologists stayed during the summer months. The name of the town was (seriously!) Once Brewed and the name of the pub was Twice Brewed!
After a nice lunch, we drove the few miles further to the Roman Army Museum. Again, we were not allowed to take any photos within the museum — a pity since the exhibits are quite good — but we enjoyed what we saw and the 3-D film called Edge Of Empire gives you a good idea of the size and scale of the fortifications and just-outside-the-wall village at Vindolanda.
These are truly informative museums (especially the Vindolanda site), but I would recommend seeing them both in a single day to get a complete overview to life as a Roman soldier in this remote and harsh landscape. The two museums are a mere 7 miles apart and are easily visited in one afternoon. I highly recommend these sites to anyone who is travelling to this part of the North of England.
©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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