Monday, May 28, 2012


INVADERS are crossing the North Sea in an onslaught on Hadrian's Wall which would have impressed even the Emperor Hadrian, who saw many wonders while traveling the length and breadth of his Empire.

Antinous is believed by many experts to have accompanied Hadrian on the Emperor's visit to Britain in 122 AD to oversee construction of the Wall.

But this time it's not Roman soldiers or barbarians, it's friendly day trippers from Amsterdam who have taken advantage of a special North Sea ferry tour to make the crossing and visit Hadrian's Wall.

This first-of-its-king DFDS Seaways' tour, called the "Edge of Empire" tour, was first launched on a trial basis last year. Due to the popularity of the trial crossing – 300 passengers took the tour in 2011 – this year the Edge of Empire tour to Vindolanda and the Roman Army Museum has been introduced.

Passengers travelling from Holland to England disembark the ferry at North Shields, just north of Newcastle, in the morning and spend the day in the region. They are collected on arrival by a taxi from EastCoast Tours and driven along the scenic route along Hadrian's Wall to the Roman Army Museum where they put on their glasses to watch the only 3-D film being shown about the World Heritage Site.

It's then off to Vindolanda to see the extensive excavations and artefacts including the famous Vindolanda Writing Tablets from 300 years of Roman occupation. 

The Vindolanda Tablets (photo lower left) are actually very thin chips of wood on which soldiers wrote messages which were then mailed home to Rome -- rather like postcards.

The first visitor to take the tour was Sacha Spoor and her son Yona Fokker. She said: "Yona’s father is currently touring Scotland on his motorbike, so we wanted to come and visit some of the places he has spoken about. Seeing Vindolanda on the 3-D film from above was breathtaking and then visiting the excavation site brought it all together. I am sure the visit will help Yona when he comes to study this at school. Meeting the archaeologist and having our own guided tour made the visit very special."

Yona added: "The 3D-film was 'cool', although I wouldn't want to be a Roman Soldier!"

Since undergoing a $10 million redevelopment project over the last three years, The Vindolanda Trust's two sites, Roman Vindolanda and The Roman Army Museum, have seen an increase in visitor numbers from people from all over the world.

DFDS Seaways is marketing the themed tours to its continental European audience as part of its minicruise breaks package from Amsterdam to Newcastle. 

Christine Burke, Contracting and Accommodation Manager at DFDS Seaways says: "We bring 200,000 Dutch visitors to the North East each year. It is important for us to develop the visitor experience and work with attractions and suppliers to show them what this region really has to offer. I'm sure our Dutch visitors will be fascinated by in what Roman life was like on the edge of the empire 2,000 years ago."

For Vindolanda & Roman Army Museum information and online tickets visit .

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