Gilsland Spa “Popping-stone” and Birdoswald

Gilsland Spa “Popping-stone” and Birdoswald


Cumbria/Northumberland borders


  • Turn right out of the car park towards the village centre, passing the House of Meg tea room.
  • Turn right, crossing the bridge, and almost immediately take the footpath on the left signed for Irthing House 1/2 mile.
  • At Irthing House walk ahead and go through a wicket gate followed by two stiles to a minor road. 
  • Turn left and in a quarter of a mile take the drive on the left signed for Wardrew House.
  • Take the first path left, to enter the Woodland Trust’s Irthing Gorge wood.
  • Shortly pass a footbridge on the left, an optional short-cut to the Gilsland Spa hotel.
  • At second footbridge, cross River Irthing. Turn right, walk to Sir Walter Scott’s “Popping-stone” (path often muddy), where he is said to have proposed to his wife; re-trace your steps back to the footbridge.
  • Do not re-cross the bridge but stay on the main path, ignoring linking paths joining from the right, to the Gilsland Spa hotel. Walk around the hotel and along its driveway down to the road and back into Gilsland.
  • Back at the car park you now have the option of walking 1 1/4 miles to Birdoswald Roman Fort (English Heritage). Follow the brown sign indicating Willowford 1/2 mile and cross the River Irthing over the National Trail’s award winning footbridge.
  • You can either re-trace your steps back to Gilsland or return using the AD122 Hadrian’s Wall Bus.


  • River Irthing gorge
  • Sir Walter Scott’s “Popping-stone” where he proposed marriage to his wife
  • Optional link to Birdoswald
  • Roman Fort (English Heritage)
  • Hadrian’s Wall and Roman bridge abutments

Nearby attractions

  • Bewcastle
  • Birdoswald Roman Fort and Visitor Centre (English Heritage)
  • Lanercost Priory (English Heritage)
  • New Mills Trout Farm (Brampton)
  • Talkin Tarn Country Park (Brampton)
  • Once Brewed Northumberland National Park Centre
  • Poltross Burn and Milecastle 48
  • Roman Army Museum (Carvoran)
  • Walltown Quarry
  • Willowford Roman bridge abutment

Download: Romans in Cumbria leaflet

Route image: 
Route type: 
3 1/2 miles (+ optional 2 1/2 miles)
Estimated walk time: 
2 1/2 hours plus browsing time
Suggested start/finish: 
Gilsland car park, next to village primary school (Grid Ref: NY 631 662)
Tourist information: 
Haltwhistle Tourist Information Centre Tel: 01434 322002
Public transport: 
AD122 Hadrian’s Wall Country Bus (between Easter and October); Hadrian’s Wall Country Railway Line
Ordnance Survey Map: 
Explorer (OL) 43 Hadrian’s Wall
Places to eat and drink: 
House of Meg tea room and pubs in Gilsland, Gilsland Spa Hotel, café at Birdoswald Roman Fort
Other walks in this area: 
From Gilsland to Birdoswald (see above directions). (Enquire at Tourist Information Centre)
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