Cycling the length of Hadrian’s Wall Cycleway, also known as National Cycle Route 72, is a wonderful undertaking throughout much of the year. The best time to cycle Hadrian’s Wall is between May and September, when the weather is drier and the days are longer.
The chance to cross the country from coast to coast, between the Solway Firth west of Carlisle and the tidal River Tyne at Newcastle, is an opportunity to enjoy some seriously stunning views of the rugged Cumbrian and Northumberland countryside. Then there’s the rich history that you’ll ride through on this Cycleway, with plenty of opportunity to delve deeper into the story of Hadrian’s Wall, built in the 2nd century AD on the instruction of the Roman Emperor Hadrian to protect the furthest reaches of the Empire.
Hadrian’s Wall by Season
Make the most of this journey by cycling during the summer when you’re giving yourself the best chance of dry days. Of course, England has the chance of rain at any time, especially in the far north of the country where the wall lies. It’s best to come prepared for all conditions, whichever month you’re considering the ride. After all, there’s no such thing as bad weather as long as you have the right clothing and gear.
Officially things open up along Route 72 in early March, with the weather improving through spring. The number of people on the Hadrian’s Wall path and at the various Roman forts, museums and historic sites increases as you get closer to summer. June to August are the busiest periods on Hadrian’s Cycleway before the shoulder season of September sees numbers start to dwindle again. The cooler months of the rest of the year don’t render the ride unfeasible; autumn and winter on Hadrian’s Wall will just be a different experience. You might find tourist facilities and accommodation harder to come by along the length of the route.
When planning your trip, it’s worth noting that because you will be riding through some of the emptiest parts of England on your Hadrian’s Wall cycle, there aren’t the annual events or traditional festivals to time your trip around that you find on some other trails. That’s not to say you won’t stumble on something interesting, but it’s unlikely to determine your chosen season.
The springtime from April to May is a wonderful time to visit Hadian’s Wall. With the countryside emerging from winter and life returning to the pastures and fields, grasses turn green, and wildflowers begin to bloom.
Bright and beautiful daffodils add a burst of colour to the countryside along the Hadrian’s Wall cycle route. Newborn lambs appear in the fields you pass alongside. There’s plenty of birdlife in places like the Solway Firth, with migratory birds passing through and breeding birds taking advantage of the coastal reaches and agricultural land behind them.
Facilities, attractions and accommodation options typically open their doors for guests in time for Easter. School holidays then bring greater visitor numbers and the first busy period of the year. On the flip side, be prepared for rain showers and make sure to bring waterproofs and warm layers as average temperatures are between 8-14°C (46-57ºF).
The summer months provide the best opportunity for drier days, longer periods of sunshine and decent temperatures, reaching around 16-19°C (60-66ºF). Later in the season, the heather across the Northumberland National Park starts to bloom, and swathes of fragrant purple flowers cover the hills and crags in parts.
All this makes for optimum exploring, which means that visitor numbers are high, with the most people walking and cycling Hadrian’s Wall at this time of year. July and August are the peak periods on Hadrian’s Wall, so expect to share the sites and towns with plenty of other people during these months.
If you enjoy the company of other cyclists and walkers, summer is the best time of year for you to travel. It means you’ll be able to form comraderies with like-minded travellers and cyclists. But do be aware that the busy season can also make finding accommodation and somewhere peaceful to eat and drink harder at this time of year.
The shoulder season sees visitor numbers decline as the weather begins to turn. September remains a fantastic time to enjoy cycling Hadrian’s Wall, with an optimal balance of seasonal weather conditions, smaller crowds and the arrival of autumnal colours along the bike route.
Wildfowl and wading birds use the wetlands in the west for roosting and feeding, with the chance to see plenty of whooper swans, barnacle geese, pink-footed geese and other wintering migrants. It can be windy at this time of year though, so bring a windproof jacket and warm layers. Typically when riding Hadrian’s Cycleway west to east, you’ll have westerly winds at your back as these are the prevailing winds, but be prepared for swirling gusts and headwinds as well. And take solace in the fact that you can warm yourself in a cosy country pub by a crackling fire at the end of the day’s ride if needs be.
By the end of the autumn, in October and certainly by November, facilities and accommodation may start to close up for the winter, making finding a room or suitable place to eat harder.
Riding along Hadrian’s Wall in winter is a different sort of challenge, and very few people attempt the entire crossing of Route 72 at this time. In fact, the National Trail authorities in charge of maintaining the Hadrian’s Wall path request that walkers don’t attempt the trail from October to April. The reason is that the days are shorter and the weather is inevitably colder and wetter, which can render the path muddy and at serious risk of damage from trekking boots.
Undoubtedly, the frosted landscape, misty horizons, or frozen remnants of Hadrian’s Wall can look spectacular at this time, and you’ll certainly have long stretches of the cycle route to yourself.
However, you will struggle for accommodation options, and the promise of a log fire and hearty pub grub might not be as easy to fulfil as lots of places will be closed for the off-season.