87. When did tourists first start to visit Hadrian’s Wall?

There is a blurred line between antiquarians and tourists, but one of the first true tourists must have been William Hutton, who visited the Wall in 1801. Not only did this 78-year-old man walk the Wall twice (west to east then east to west), he walked to it from Birmingham and back again at the end – a total distance of 601 miles (he kept a careful record of his progress). His History of the Roman Wall, promptly published in 1802, is one of the first popular accounts of the monument and includes an account of his walk from east to west. Hutton was of the opinion that he was the first and would probably be the last to walk Hadrian’s Wall, but just one month later the Rev. John Skinner did the same thing, again from east to west, providing some hint of how popular walking the Wall was to become.

Subsequent walkers who were to write accounts of their journeys included John Collingwood Bruce (who would go on to become the doyen of Wall studies and to found the Pilgrimages to the Wall), Maria Hoyer, Jessie Mothersole, and Hunter Davies.

Further reading: Ewin 2000