You cannot possibly visit the North East of England without stumbling over a bit of Hadrian’s Wall. It’s true magnificence long since dwindled this memory of our Roman forefathers stands proud, in places, defiant in its endurance of time. Living in Durham for over ten years means I have visited a lot of the sites along the wall, however I had not visited Vindolanda. What a treat was in store for us.
The courtyard that acts as an entrance to the site is beautiful in itself with a fountain and gently flowing water to relax the weary traveller.
Walk through the courtyard and you can see the site laid out before you in the distance.
Vindolanda wasn’t abandoned until the 9th century and was thought to be occupied by the Roman army for about 400 years. It was built before the wall by the army themselves and encompasses a village. The tavern in the centre of the site is the size of almost three house showing it isn’t just modern-day England that loves a good pint.
Owned by an independent charitable trust the most wonderful thing about Vindolanda is that it’s constantly evolving. New finds are recovered ever week as fresh excavations begin. The peat heavy soil in the area means many of the finds are well-preserved and
In the museum you will find some of the artefacts from the digs that have taken place on the site. There is the most fascinating array of Roman shoes showing the diversity of the community that lived at Vindolanda as well as a headdress for a horse, which has allowed the museum to create a wonderful replica. In addition you will find what is referred to as Gladiator Glass which is a beautifully painted piece of glass thought to have been imported from the Rhineland.
The most famous finds are the Vindolanda tablets. Small, thin pieces of perfectly preserved wood that show hold the letters of those who lived in Vindolanda. Some are bills, others of legal import and some are letters to loved ones. They are truly fascinating. The low lighting means the photo is not the best quality but you can see just how small these precious artefacts are.
Beany had great fun exploring the ruins although there’s lots uneven ground so we had to keep a fairly close eye on her. The cafe has delicious food and the staff are very pleasant and friendly. Vindolanda is a fascinating place to visit and full of links to our past. There are plenty of other sites close by too if you’d like to see more of the wall and we stopped at Steel Rigg on the way back to show Beany the ancient remains.
There’s a phrase that’s quoted in our family when someone’s complaining about the past – ‘What have the Romans ever done for us?’ It comes for a Monty Python film and the irony is clear. This is never more evident than in Vindolanda. We need only walk in the shoes of a Roman for mile to see where some of our, what we consider to be modern, traditions and beliefs come from.
Vindolanda gets 5/5 from us:
Have you visited Hadrian’s Wall or the ruins along it? We’d love to know if you have so don’t forget to let us know below.