Before checking out we walked down the street to a grocery store with an ATM so we could withdraw cash to pay our bill, thereby getting a 5% discount. After settling up and bidding farewell to Robin (I told him they had the best B&B ever), we went to extricate the E-Class from the tiny carpark. Unfortunately there were two other cars parked next to us now and it was physically impossible to get the car out, so we called Robin and had to wait for some other guests to come and get their car.
We finally set off at about 10 am for our drive south to
After parking at the main visitor center just off the B6318, we hiked about ten minutes through open sheep pasture to the museum and the fort, which is spread over several acres, its crumbling walls and towers exposed to the ravages of time and weather. It had rained off and on all morning, but it stopped raining long enough for us to spend an hour or so exploring the fort and admiring the views of the surrounding countryside, including an impressive span of Hadrian’s Wall itself, which extended down the hill from the fort and disappeared over a crest in the distance (photo, above). Excavations have revealed many artifacts which are housed in the small museum, and well-designed interpretive signs scattered across the site help recreate the scene of a bustling Roman fort, describing the construction and purpose of the granaries (which had elevated floors to keep the grain dry and protected from vermin), the barracks, the hospital, the colonnaded headquarters building adorned with the stumps of stone columns, and the commandant’s house, which featured a heated floor (the floor slabs were elevated on stone pillars so heated air could circulate underneath). At the two gates on either side of the fort you can see the deep depressions carved into the stone by the passing of countless cart wheels. The best-preserved structure is the public latrine, located at the lowest point of the fort (the southeast corner) to allow for the best water flow. You can clearly make out the well-engineered system of stone troughs that funneled water into the stone channel circling the rectangular seating platform (photo, right).
At the gift shop I decided to buy a translation of Seutonius’ biography of the first twelve Caesars, since I really enjoyed reading the biography of Augustus. When I went to pay for the book I saw a photograph for sale by the cash register of a tall sycamore tree in a very distinctive gap between two hills, which I immediately recognized from a scene in the 1991 movie “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” starring Kevin Costner. I turned the photo over and sure enough, it was “Kevin Costner’s Sycamore Tree” (the spot is also known as Sycamore Gap). I had never realized that the wall they climb around on in the scene was
We made good time to
We finally settled on a casual Italian restaurant called Bella Italia and were seated by the front window. We were waited on by a very nice woman who was actually Italian and the food was surprisingly good. We both had Caesar salads; John had a pizza with pancetta, arugula, mozzarella and olives and I had baked penne pasta with chicken, bacon, cheese, tomatoes, and red onion. We shared “The Godfather” for dessert – a chocolate brownie topped with vanilla and chocolate ice cream, chocolate crunch topping, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream. With a bottle of wine it came to about £50; not too bad considering the value of the dollar! The streets were filled with young partygoers on the way back and the police were out in force. Apparently