Travelling through the Northumberland National Park, along the Roman Wall, half way between Newcastle and Carlisle in the far north of England, it is easy to empathise with the poor First Century soldier - ripped from his balmy southern homeland with its gentle zephyrs and cast cruelly to serve on this craggy, windswept northern frontier - whose half-written letter home was unearthed 15-20 years ago from a 2,000 year old bonfire at Vindolanda1.
Hadrian's Wall Country has always been a popular destination for the masochistic and the frankly mad. But, buffeted mercilessly by the unforgiving wind, even the bravest and most hardened folk soon find themselves needing to drink in something more warming than the spectacular scenery.
Despair not, intrepid Researcher, for the route is liberally dotted with inns and hostelries for your succour. This is the tale of two such havens, and how they gained their names.
'Wade-ing' through the General History
Over the centuries there have been many royal visits to this unspoilt region. One of the more recent was that of Bonnie Prince Charlie who came down to Carlisle to try to drum up support for his cause. His adversary, General Wade was in Newcastle with his army when word came to 'ha'way tae Carlisle sharpish lyek tae cut Charlie off'2.
Unfortunately (or not, depending on your viewpoint), the road between the two cities was so bad the soldiers (obviously Southern softies) found it impassable and General Wade was forced to give up and retreat.
Naturally he immediately put in a planning application for a proper east-west road, to preclude the same thing happening again, but this was not approved by the powers that be until the May of 1751, three years after Wade's death.
Dugal Campbell (Sub-director of Engineers) carried out the survey and decided that the best option would be to follow the line of Hadrian's wall - and, in fact, to use much of the stone from the Wall as a foundation for the road.
Work finally commenced in July, 1751, and eventually the builders arrived at a handily-sited inn, two-and-a-half miles west of Housesteads, almost exactly halfway between Newcastle and Carlisle. Tired and thirsty, they entered said inn and ordered several pints of the local ale. Sadly, 'Neuky Broon' had yet to be invented. The ale was terribly weak. The disappointed navvies demanded that the ale be brewed again and the place subsequently came to be known as the Twice Brewed Inn.
The Plot Thickens
(Cut to the 20th Century.)
In 1934, the first Youth Hostel in England was built, 200 yards east of the Twice Brewed Inn. The grand opening was graced by Lady Trevelyan of nearby Wallington Hall, a staunch teetotaller. In her opening speech she mentioned the Inn and said 'Of course there will be no alcohol served on these premises so I hope the tea and coffee will only be brewed once.'
Henceforth the Hostel became known as the Once Brewed Youth Hostel and when the Northumberland National Park Centre was built on the same site in the late 1960s, it was also christened 'Once Brewed'.
Just west of Hadrian's Wall, you'll find Haltwhistle, the geographic Centre of Britain. Scroll down to the bottom of the 'welcome' page and click on 'location' for an explanation of the relevance of this.