I have visited the Roman fort at Vindolanda a few times – in fact, every single time I have visited Northumberland.
So, that’s 3 times and it’s still amazes me!
It is one of my favourite places to visit on Hadrian’s Wall.
I first visited there in 2004 when I was participating in an archaeological dig at the Arbeia Roman Fort in South Shields and we were taken on a day trip to Hadrian’s Wall.
We were lucky enough to have Dr Andrew Birley show us a few finds that they had uncovered at Vindolanda (including a perfectly preserved shoe) found that morning back in 2004. We were all completely fascinated as it was also an active dig site and they happened to be knee deep in stinky peat.
Full on wellington boot brigade!
Our dig at South Shields but pretty much drier… sandy and a bit of mud at the worst!
Back to present day…the fort site and reconstructed portion of Hadrian’s Wall as well as the reconstructed temple (in the gardens) are all very worth seeing, but for me the most interesting part of Vindolanda is the museum, slightly downhill from the fort site.
One of the most famous finds are the Vindolanda tablets – probably the oldest handwritten documents in Britain, written on wooden postcards. They provide rich information on life on the northern Roman Frontier (Hadrian’s Wall) including official military matters and also personal messages to and from the garrison at Vindolanda and their families.
The majority of the tablets are on display at the British Museum in London but some can still be seen at Vindolanda itself (separate gallery at the museum).
It is mind blowing how much has been recovered….and when you have spent a few blissful hours looking at all the amazing stuff…..head to the café for a nice bit of cake and coffee to calm down after all the excitement 😊.
Remember The Roman Army Museum (mentioned in the blog The Edge of the Empire) is also part of the Vindolanda Charitable Trust and makes a great start to any visit to the Hadrian’s Wall area. I would recommend doing that site first and then visiting Vindolanda afterwards. There is only 15 minutes drive time between them, so quite do-able in one day. Also, a dual ticket option is available.
Note: Try this from mid February 2022 as the Roman Army Museum is now closed for the season, however Vindolanda still remains open. Book your spot online here
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All images used are personal photographs taken during a visit to Northumberland in October 2021.
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