We awoke to the sound of rain on the window. We had been told that the next two days would be our most difficult and to think we would do them in weather, had me a little concerned as while is was only 9 miles today...it could take a good 10 hours.
As we were getting ready to leave, stashing our lunches in our day packs...there was another hiker saying he may wait until the weather was better. Our host proceeded to tell him that if the locals waited for the weather to clear or to be better, they would get nothing done, so he might was well be on his way. Reluctantly he followed us out the door.
While it was not really raining, it was a heavy mist and we didn't want to get wet as today was something of a red letter day for us as it is on this stage that we climb to the highest point of the Wall. Our scenery changes from the windswept moors to more of the Crags which later gave way to a rolling landscape and where the river now flowed west to the Irish Sea and not east to the North Sea.
Before we hit the upper most part of the Wall we saw the remains of Great Chesters Fort or Aesica. The remains here are outer walls and an alter to the east of its south gate which is heavily eroded. Further on we encounter the 14th century Thirlwall Castle, Thirwall means "Gap in the Wall" in the local dialect and was built to protect the owners from the cross-border raids.
As we continued to climb up the crags, the wind was incredible and being close to lunch we looked for a place to eat. No wind break in sight but the wall, we found a place where on the north side of the Wall, out of the wind, where there was a little land shelf before the drop off, so we climbed over the wall and proceeded to have our lunch in the mist and rain as the wind howled. This is one of my favorite memories of Hadrian's Wall as I could just imagine what it was like to be walking the moors in a wool cloak in this weather...I am of the Scottish Maxwell Clan so I guess that is why I felt at home in this windswept land.
We arrived at the Windshield Crags at 345m the highest point on the trail and were exhausted. Standing at the top in the mist and wind, from the looks of things, the way down was going to be just as bad. The way down held the relentless up-and-down roller-coaster ride of yesterday and the only good news was, the rest of the Wall's trail is supposed to be more downhill than uphill. Wonder if that will really be the case?
Working our way down and following our map we walked through one of the few forests we encountered, and listened to the trees in the wind as we continued on coming down off the Wall again to find the Sampson Inn where we were staying for the evening. The further down we went, only getting lost once looking for an easier way down, the weather started to clear and by the time we reached our destination for the evening the sun was breaking through the dark clouds.
The Sampson Inn is a lovely little village pub with a roaring fire and was originally a coach Inn for the drovers taking their animals from Scotland to London. Taking our muddy hiking boots off, we entered the pub on the ground floor, in our stocking feet, as it was time to check it out for our "celebratory" glass of wine.
Completely exhausted, we found our bags were at the foot of the stairs and of course our room was on the second floor, so we drug each bag up, telling ourselves, "I can do this". Settled, enjoying our wine, showered and dry, we headed down later to a most lovely dinner before calling it a night.
We had survived the most difficult section of Hadrian's Wall, exhausted but in one piece and it was just as difficult as we had been told if not more.