Travel in 2021 has changed drastically, so while I try to keep up posts to date please follow advice from your government's official website about travel abroad, and make sure you have adequate travel insurance which covers COVID disruption*

YHA The Sill at Hadrian’s Wall Review

Northumberland is one of my favourite places in the UK.  Its landscapes are wild and rugged, seeming untameable except for an epic wall that the Romans built across the country.  Hadrian’s Wall stretched 73 miles across England, and the remnants of the wall, and the footpath alongside it,  attract visitors from all over the world.  But where to stay when visiting Hadrian’s Wall?  I was invited by YHA to spend a few nights getting to know YHA The Sill at Hadrian’s Wall, and here’s why I think it’s the best Hadrian’s Wall accommodation.

*This site contains affiliate links. If you click through the links on this page and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you for supporting Tales of a Backpacker.[Learn more]

This post is sponsored by YHA.  While I had a complimentary stay at YHA The Sill at Hadrian’s Wall, all opinions are my own and this is my honest review.

Where to Stay Along Hadrian’s Wall

If you are planning to walk the whole of Hadrian’s Wall then you will need to set aside around 6-8 days, and plan to stay in different places along the route.  YHA The Sill at Hadrian’s Wall is at the mid-point of the Hadrian’s Wall walk, so depending on how far you plan to walk each day it makes an excellent place to break your journey.

However, if you don’t plan to walk the whole Hadrian’s Wall trail, and only want to see the best parts of the wall then YHA The Sill at Hadrian’s Wall is more or less mid-way between the Roman forts of Birdoswald and Corbridge – that is slap bang in the middle of all the highlights of Hadrian’s Wall.

Northumberland is a beautiful and cheap place to visit in the UK, so it is a great choice for your visit to Hadrian’s Wall, and here’s more information about YHA The Sill at Hadrian’s Wall so you can get cracking and book your trip!

Hadrian's Wall leading down to a single tree at Sycamore Gap in the evening light
Hadrians Wall Leading to Sycamore Gap – YHA The Sill at Hadrian’s Wall Review

But first of all, let’s begin with the basics to make sure we’re all up to speed…

What is Hadrian’s Wall?

The Roman Empire had expanded throughout Europe, and when Emperor Hadrian came to power, he decided that instead of expansion he would look to strengthen and protect the Empire he already ruled. 

In AD 122 he ordered the wall to be built to form a fixed border that would prevent invasion from the unconquered Caledonia (Scotland) to the north.

Where is Hadrian’s Wall?

You may have been fooled into thinking that Hadrian’s Wall still forms the border between England and Scotland, but it is actually a fair way south of the current border.   Hadrian’s Wall crosses what is now known as Cumbria, Northumberland, and Tyne and Wear. 

A large portion of the wall runs through Northumberland National Park, which includes the most beautiful and best-preserved parts of Hadrian’s Wall and where I would recommend spending the majority of your time if you want to visit Hadrian’s Wall.

Why Stay at YHA The Sill at Hadrian’s Wall?

Visiting Hadrian’s Wall is one of the highlights of any British bucket list.  Since COVID I have been spending more time outdoors in nature, and being able to walk along it, touch it and see it stretching through the countryside is a wonderful experience under any circumstances.  So when choosing a place to stay on Hadrian’s Wall, why is YHA The Sill at Hadrian’s Wall a great choice?

Somewhere Over the Rainbow in Northumberland - Drak clouds and a rainbow over the Sill building
Somewhere Over the Rainbow at YHA The Sill at Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland

Location

As I already mentioned, YHA The Sill at Hadrian’s Wall is in the heart of Northumberland National Park at The Sill National Landscape Discovery Centre.  The hostel and the Discovery Centre are in the hamlet of Once Brewed in Bardon Mill, just off the B6318. 

There has been a youth hostel at Once Brewed since 1934, when YHA Once Brewed provided accommodation for hikers along Hadrian’s Wall.  That closed and was rebuilt as YHA The Sill at Hadrian’s Wall, which opened in 2017.

Another bonus is that the hostel is located in a Dark Sky Reserve, as Northumberland National Park has low levels of light pollution which makes it an incredible place for stargazing.

How to Get There

If you are hiking Hadrian’s Wall, the hostel is about 15 minutes walk downhill from the wall – between the highest point of the wall at Winshields and Sycamore Gap, both of which are around 30 minutes’ walk from the hostel.

If you’re driving, the route is straightforward, and there is free parking for YHA guests in The Sill car park.  

The Sill is also well connected by bus, with a regular service running between Hexham and Haltwhistle which stops at various key points along Hadrian’s Wall, including at The Sill.  There are bike racks and cycle storage available if you are coming by bike.  Easy!

BOOK DIRECT

YHA The Sill at Hadrian’s Wall Sustainable Design

One of the most striking things about The Sill is its appearance.  The Sill was designed to blend into the surrounding countryside and is named after The Great Whin Sill – a nearby geographical feature. 

The Great Whin Sill is an outcrop of rock that was formed when molten magma was pushed through the earth’s crust 300 million years ago and then solidified.  It is one of the most striking landscapes in Northern England, and the Romans built Hadrian’s Wall along the top of the rock ridge.

The Great Whin Sill in Northumberland - rocky cliff with Hadrian's Wall leading along the summit
The Great Whin Sill in Northumberland

The Sill is constructed to high standards of sustainability, and according to The Sill website, it “reflects the distinctiveness of the Northumbrian landscape in both its shape and the materials used in its construction”. 

Local building materials including whinstone, sandstone and native larch trees were used in the design, and there are solar panels on the sloping roof as well as a covering of natural vegetation which reduces surface water run-off, provides extra insulation, and creates a welcoming habitat for animals like bats and birds.

As I was hiking along Hadrian’s Wall, I knew where the hostel was but the building is surrounded by trees and I couldn’t actually see it.  The Twice Brewed Inn next door stands out in stark contrast to The Sill alongside it.  I love that so much care and attention went into the design and that it disappears into the landscape.

The Sill is Designed to Blend in with the Environment with plenty of trees outside and a low roof
The Sill is Designed to Blend in with the Environment

Facilities at YHA The Sill at Hadrian’s Wall

YHA The Sill at Hadrian’s Wall has everything you need to enjoy a great stay here.  There are 26 bedrooms, including 18 en-suite rooms, of which two are accessible and DDA compliant.  You can find YHA The Sill at Hadrian’s Wall’s access statement here.

The hostel sleeps 88 people in total, but while shared dorms are closed you can book a private dorm room for you and your family or friends.  Prices start at £29 per room for 2 people or £39 for up to 4 people which is a total bargain, especially if you can snaffle an en-suite room for that price.  If you’re looking for a cheap short break in the UK then this could well be the place for you! 

There is a large dining and social area, with plenty of tables and chairs and some sofas.  There is a shared kitchen where you can prepare your own meals, or there is the option to buy breakfast and dinner at the hostel.

Lounge Area with Artwork on the Wall of a photo of Hadrian's Wall with a poem written on it
Lounge Area with Artwork on the Wall

You can get pizzas every night, and there is also a nightly special which is on offer for £9.95 for a two-course dinner that is different every night of the week.  I had a tasty curry and fruit salad the first night I stayed, then made my own meals the rest of the time.  Breakfast varies from a bacon bap to a full English, but I didn’t sample that as I had my own fruit and porridge.

There is also a licensed bar where you can buy beer, wine and prosecco, as well as hot drinks that are available all day.  There is also the usual water refill station that I’ve seen in all the YHAs I’ve stayed in over the years, so you can fill up your water bottles at any time.

The shared kitchen was a good size and well equipped with two of everything – sinks, ovens with four hobs, kettles, toasters and microwaves as well as pots, pans and cutlery.  There was a couple of fridges and a freezer for storing food – just remember to label it properly so it doesn’t get thrown away.

Shared Cooking and Kitchen Facilities at YHA the Sill - large kitchen with which cabinets and dark work surface
Shared Cooking and Kitchen Facilities at YHA the Sill at Hadrian’s Wall

There was excellent free wifi throughout the building – even in my room right at the end of the hall had a signal strong enough to stream a film.  I also made use of the washing machine (£3 per load) and the free tumble dryer although it did take a long time to dry my clothes in the dryer. There is also a drying room where you can hang damp clothes if you just want to dry them after getting wet hiking.

Outside there were several picnic benches and a little wooded area with benches that is probably more used for groups, but I had a wander to explore.  It was too cold to sit outside but in warmer weather, it would have been lovely to soak up some sun! 

You can also access the grass roof area during the day, which has great views towards Hadrian’s Wall. 

Inside the Discovery Centre, there is a café, shop and exhibition which closes at 5pm.  The car park is free for YHA guests for the duration of your stay, but keep an eye on the check-in and check-out times as you may need to pay if you plan to spend your arrival/departure day parked up at the hostel.

The View from the Rooftop of The Sill National Discovery Centre towards green fields with Hadrian's Wall just visible along the top of the horizon
The View from the Rooftop of The Sill National Discovery Centre

My Room at YHA The Sill at Hadrian’s Wall

I had a private room with a set of bunk beds, so it could sleep up to two people.  It had been a while since I had slept in a bunk bed, so I plumped for the bottom bunk as I always used to as it’s my favourite bed in a hostel!  As Mabel was parked up just outside I brought my own cushions in as a luxury to snuggle down with at night.

The room was basic but clean, with a cupboard for storing luggage and clothes, and a bedside table that doubled as a seat. The window let plenty of light in during the day and had a decent blind which kept the room dark in the morning.

My room was on the lower floor, accessible by steps or a lift.  The en-suite toilet and shower were clean, the water pressure was good and I had everything I needed for a comfortable stay.  There was a radiator in the room and in the bathroom, so in cold weather, you can still be warm and cosy, or open the window to let in some fresh air.

What I Loved about YHA The Sill at Hadrian’s Wall

First of all, I loved the design of the hostel as I mentioned earlier.  But once I was inside, the staff were friendly and really helpful – and all wearing masks, so it was a nice re-introduction to hostel life for me.

The shared areas are spacious so I felt comfortable being around people but not too close – one thing I really miss about hostels is meeting people but with COVID I am still very conscious about keeping my distance.  I can’t wait till I feel like I can safely get close to new people again and really enjoy the benefits of hostels once more!!

The main advantage for me was the location.  It was 15 minutes’ walk to Hadrian’s Wall, about 30 minutes’ walk to the iconic Sycamore Gap, and about 30 minutes in the other direction to the highest part of Hadrian’s Wall.  I also walked to Vindolanda Museum and the regular bus service could have dropped me anywhere I wanted to go between Hexham and Haltwhistle.  I don’t think you could get any better!

BOOK DIRECT

Sycamore Gap - The Most Famous Part of Hadrians Wall, a single tree in the middle of a dip
Sycamore Gap – The Most Famous Part of Hadrians Wall

Anything I Didn’t Like?

Like most hostels, the floors in the rooms and corridors aren’t carpeted so noise travels and I could hear my neighbours coming and going in the evenings.  However, it was blissfully quiet at night.  It’s requested to be quiet between 10pm and 7am if I remember rightly, so as long as you don’t expect a long lie-in you’ll be fine. 

That is really just me being picky, if you book a stay here then you know what you’re going get: a clean hostel with comfy beds in a great location so you can sleep well and be up and out hiking in the morning!  I loved this hostel, and enjoyed exploring Hadrian’s Wall and the Roman forts all within easy reach of YHA The Sill at Hadrian’s Wall.

How to Book

You will get the best prices by booking directly on YHA’s website here.  You can also check YHA’s Hot Deals page in case there are any special offers available before you book.  

The availability calendar shows what dates are available for each room, including current prices, so take a look at the calendar to find your preferred date and then go ahead and book.

Let me know how you get on!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *