The AD122 must be one of the most picturesque bus routes I have encountered in Britain. It is a relatively new creation following an ancient path, running the 84 mile route of Hadrian’s wall as it crosses Northumberland and Cumbria from central Newcastle (not quite the end of the wall, which is at Wallsend, reachable by Tyne and Wear Metro) to the small villages on the Solway Firth beyond Carlisle along the A69. Outside of these two major conurbations the bus passes through landscape where the human imprint is almost invisible.
Hadrian’s wall, and the AD122’s route along it.
Run by Alba Travel and Classic Coaches as a predominantly summer service, the route takes its name from the year in which the wall demarcating the extent of the Roman Empire during Hadrian’s reign was completed. The clean single-decker buses offer plenty of space for rucksacks and bicycles, and some services come complete with a guide offering free audio commentary on the expansive timeless vistas visible from the modern conveyance. The guides are also a very friendly source of local information.
The unchanged landscapes along the AD122’s route (image: Claire Hill)
A trip on the AD122 is a great way of getting away from the wall, particularly its most interesting central sections between Housesteads and Birdsoswald. It’s only by getting some distance from the stone structure on the ridge that its immensity and majesty becomes apparent. Walking within touching distance of the ancient stones, it is easy to forget the bigger picture: an 84 mile wall built 2000 years ago, 4 feet thick and 8 feet high, by foreigners in little leather kilts.