A Saturday night at Illuminating Hadrian’s Wall

Carlisle's Heliosphere and fireworks at Illumination Hadrian's Wall

A complete spur of the moment decision yesterday to shoot up the M6 and be part of the Illuminating Hadrian’s Wall event – the celebrations designed to light up the 84 mile wall from coast to coast with flaming torches for the first time since 1600 years ago, in 410AD, when the Romans buggared off back to Italy, leaving behind them only Pizza Margherita and Nancy Del Olio. My sixth form Ancient History teacher, Mr Royle, would be gob-smacked to learn that I remain fascinated by all things Roman as I didn’t pay the slightest bit of attention in class, very naughty, but something must have clicked because I adore Italy and can’t get enough of all things gladiatorial.

It was just like the old days, Veronica, me and a bag stuffed full of M&S goodies, though I did spit out the cupcake – who puts jam in cupcakes for god’s sake, disgusting. Popping two co-codamol (driving with a bad back was preferable to ending up in Gloucester, with Veronica loose at the wheel :-)), we arrived mid-afternoon and faced a bit of a quandry. Did we stay on Hadrian’s Wall at a less than brilliant vantage point (as our last minute planning hadn’t allowed for tickets to the top viewing spots), or head into Carlisle? In the city was a Welcoming the Light event as the torches, lit first over in Newcastle, then every 250 yards along the wall, arrived into Carlisle, then left again for the coast. The latter option won, but first we had a little stroll in Hadrian’s mens’ footprints. Two minutes I left her alone, just to get a lens, and the gorgeous Veronica had man fans already!

Ou view along the wall mid-afternoon, with us daydreaming about hunky Italian soldiers 😉
Si and Veronica do Hadrian's Wall

There wasn’t much going on when we were there, the torch lighting teams were waiting for their torches to be delivered:

Illuminating Hadrian's Wall team at Gilsland

So we plumped for Carlisle, where we discovered that for just £4 you could take your life into your own hands. I read this week that the Cooper’s Hill cheese rolling competition has been cancelled due to safety fears. When faced with the hundreds of wax-dripping, spark-flying, heat-spitting, smoke-spewing torches in the main square in Carlisle, this did strike me as quite funny as the torches seemed completely lethal, but it must have been rehearsed and was utterly the right decision as we didn’t actually see any human torches or third degree burns.

The melee for the torches
Once upon a time we scrounged lights for our Silk Cuts, now it's needing a light for a giant torch. We got old!

The fiery engines from Pandaemonium led the way:

Darkness fell and the procession got underway:

Veronica was dangerous with that torch, I started to regret having hairspray on
Carlisle's main torch lit street during the Welcoming the Light procession

Everyone followed the spooky white Casper looking thing down to the castle, I’m not quite sure what it was supposed to be but this is a great image of it by dandhphotographers, who are based in Carlisle:

"Casper' leading the way in the Welcoming the Light procession, Image by D and H Photographers, based in Carlisle

In the castle grounds, the view was spectacular, hundreds of people with flaming torches, gathered around to see the central torch being lit as part of the line of lights along Hadrian’s Wall. There was a fabulous fireworks display, with an ethereal Heliosphere floating around in the sky. Really glad we went along. My sister did comment that once upon a time I spent my Saturday nights chasing lights around the countryside looking for Acid House Raves…. how times have changed eh? 🙂

A bit sad that we didn’t see the wall lit up as we hadn’t learned about the  event in time to get good tickets, and as the torches only burned for about 40 minutes, it was impossible to get out of Carlisle in time to drive out and see them. What we did do was great, though and I’m so glad we took part.

Here is a wonderful link to aerial footage images of the wall lighting up:


A blog by Epic Fireworks with images and videos here:


And some brilliant images of the torches on Hadrian’s Wall:


6 thoughts on “A Saturday night at Illuminating Hadrian’s Wall

Add yours

  1. Now that is an event I wish I had been at! The video from the air on the Telegraph website doesn’t look like it does justice to the sheer scale of it all.

    Taking photographs in the dark is not an easy task even with hundreds of torch flames, so well done on the photography.

    I can only assume that the emergency services were out in force.


    1. It was fabulous! I am usually crap at nighttime photography, it’s all the gin, gives me the shakes ;-), so I’m glad they turned out ok. I didn’t see one fireman and had left mine at home, very brave of the organisers!

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