To follow the Stanegate is a journey along two river systems and across the watershed of England. It is a geological exploration with a strategic twist. This is a road that archaeologists and historians have long wanted to be a frontier. Its life as a Roman road began in the AD 80s, with the construction of a Roman fort at Corbridge to pair with the existing base at Carlisle (which we know from dendrochronological studies of its timbers was built in AD 72).
Both Corbridge and Carlisle were on main north to south routes but now they were linked across the isthmus by this new road. New? Almost certainly not. Unlike most Roman roads, the Stanegate does not boast many long, straight stretches (although it has a few) and some bits are downright tortuous. The valleys of the Tyne and Irthing offer a natural route across the country and it is probably prehistoric in origin (it certainly remained popular after the Roman period, as we shall see later).