Hadrian’s wall was the outer limit of the Roman empire. The original structure, built in six years after Hadrian’s visit in ad 122, was probably some 20 feet high, of stone and studded with 80 gates or forts. Its most dramatic stretch extends from Steel Rigg three miles eastwards to Housesteads Fort.

From this vantage point, it can be seen snaking east along the escarpment of the Whin Sill ridge. This limestone outcrop, calcified as hard as granite, is part of a sill that extends for 60 miles across northern England. The landscape is sparsely populated with small farms and widely fenced fields. In a fold two miles from the wall lies the Roman town of Vindolanda. It is emerging from excavation as Britain’s most complete Roman settlement

Extracted from ‘England’s 100 Best Views’ by Simon Jenkins, to be published by Profile books in October 2013 (£25 hardback)

Photograph: Paul Barker