Sunset over Chatsworth House, a 17th century country estate in Derbyshire. BELOW: Part of Hadrian’s Wall.
Sunset over Chatsworth House, a 17th century country estate in Derbyshire. BELOW: Part of Hadrian’s Wall. Jude Gadd

TRAVEL: The beauty of Hadrian's Wall

In an episode of Fawlty Towers, Basil is having renovations done to his Torquay hotel but is having trouble with a cowboy Irish builder who previously had built him a wall but never finished it. (I'm sure you are familiar with the episode.)

Basil telephones the builder and, with his signature glorious sarcasm, says: "I've waited for that wall about as long as Hadrian."

The builder on the end of the telephone obviously has no idea what Basil is referring to, so Basil says: "The emperor Hadrian. He built a wall..."

Hadrian's Wall is just one structure the mighty Romans built 2000 years ago when they marched out of Rome to conquer and build all over Europe. It was the emperor Hadrian with 15,000 men who, in AD 122, built the wall across the top of England. It stretched for 129km.

Now it is a UNESCO World Heritage site, perhaps the most major of all the many splendid attractions of Northern England, and you can walk it, or part of it, along the adjoining Hadrian Wall Path, taking in the stunning scenery of rolling fields and moorlands.

Northern England is rich in other history. It is home to famous lakes as well as historic castles, wild moors, handsome cities and stately homes, and perhaps most importantly for many visitors, it brims with cosy pubs and vibrant eateries.

So much about this part of the UK is already familiar to us through television programs such as Heartbeat (filmed in the North York Moors.)

The Brideshead Revisited television series was based at Castle Howard.

Chatsworth and Lyme Park stately homes and Stanage Edge (a dramatic rocky outcrop in the Peak District) have all made appearances in various versions of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

When the Bond villain Jaws in Moonraker bit into a cable, it was actually liquorice from Pontefract, a Northern English town that celebrates its liquorice heritage with the annual Pontefract Liquorice Festival.

Beatrix Potter bought Hill Top in 1905, where the surrounding Lake District wildlife inspired her famous children's books.

The Bronte sisters moved to Haworth in 1820, a small village surrounded by dramatic moorland. Now you can wander the cobbled streets and follow in their footsteps, visiting familiar sites like the Old Apothecary and Black Bull pub.

At the Bronte Parsonage Museum, the preserved rooms of the Bronte family home are where you'll discover some of Charlotte's personal possessions, including her dresses and the table where she sat and wrote her famous novel Jane Eyre.

You can take an iconic trip on the ferry across the Mersey (just to say you did it) and gaze up in awe at The Angel of the North in Gateshead, all 20 towering metres of it with its enormous 54-metre wingspan.

When it comes to the all-important eating, Northern England has more than its fair share of Michelin-star restaurants including the L'Enclume by the river where the sublime menu includes vegetables, herbs and fruits grown in its gardens.

In Leeds, the quirkily named The Man Behind The Curtain pairs its food with theatre and presents tasting menus to ensure you see the full award-winning gourmet presentations.

But if a more modest approach is your thing, you'll find beautiful Lancashire cheese in ploughman's pub lunches all over the area as well as at farmers' markets along with local honey, baked goods and produce. Then there are the famous Cumberland sausages, Craster kippers and potted shrimp.

Bakewell is a charming town in the heart of the Peak District famous for its Bakewell Tart.

There is much to discover in Northern England and now that spring is here (or rather, there), make your plans and head over.

Find out all you'll ever need to about Northern England at

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