Vindolanda and the Roman Army Museum

Vindolanda was famed as the last outpost of the Roman Empire. Sited along Hadrian’s Wall, on what used to be the border between England and Scotland, this fortified settlement defended Roman-occupied England from the untamed Picts. I went in 2016 and have never gotten around to writing about it so here it finally is.

The site of Vindolanda is split into two attractions.

There’s the (enormous) site itself, where you can see the real Roman remains of the buildings that have been excavated. This is Vindolanda and to my knowledge there’s no other Roman site as extensive or as high-quality in Britain which is publicly accessible.

The second attraction is the Roman Army Museum, which is part of the same site, shares a car park etc, and has the small finds from the excavations of Vindolanda along with displays, interactive things and information explaining the written history of the time period. This is a great place to get out of the rain which is plentiful and often unpredictable in this part of England.

I really enjoyed seeing the remains of Vindolanda. Don’t get me wrong, the Roman Army Museum is probably one of the best museums (musea, if you’re pedantic) in Britain, certainly the best Roman museum, but I’m not the biggest fan of museums due to my ADHD, so for me, my favourite part was being outside and walking around amongst the remains of the buildings, getting to see what it all would have been like, and learning from the real remains. There’s a reason I’m an archaeology grad not a museum studies grad. But the quality of finds in the Roman Army Museum are excellent, it’s incredible to see such well-preserved artefacts from the time period. My favourite thing to see in the Roman Army Museum was the wax stylus which still contained writing from its erstwhile Roman owner.

You can pay separately or get a joint ticket which makes it easy to do both sites, and there are also family tickets (for up to 2 adults/3 children). 

Getting there:

Cycling/Driving: Find the A69 (the road between the A1(M) motorway at Newcastle and the M6 motorway at Carlisle). About halfway down this road, turn off at Bardon Mill toward the B6138. The B6138 roughly follows a large section of Hadrian’s Wall which is accessible from the road, so this is a good place to do some off-path exploring. However, for Vindolanda and the Roman Army Museum, there are big brown tourist signs from the link road between the A69 and the B6138.

Public transport: There is a bus stop right outside Vindolanda. This is for the AD122 from Hexham to Haltwhistle (and back again). Check which direction you need (Hexham or Haltwhistle) as buses to each are hourly but both stop at the same bus stop (which is at the car park for Vindolanda). Hexham has a train station with a 30-minute journey time to/from Newcastle Upon Tyne station. Haltwhistle is on the same railway line which is the Carlisle to Newcastle line, but the line doesn’t stop at Vindolanda.