If you follow me on twitter you’ll know all about this story as I posted a step by step photo guide yesterday, but for those who don’t, this post is about my research road trip that I finished yesterday evening.

In the intent of getting truly inspired for this game, I decided to take 2 days out and take on an expansive research/location road trip to visit some of the most ancient sites in Britain. This trip has been little short of epic…and I don’t use that term lightly. I covered a whopping 700 miles to visit 6 amazing locations connected to the story of my game. This journey took me through valleys, over treacherous mountain trails and to the edge of the known world! All will become clear as you read on.

Day 1:

Its 9:00am and I’m packed and ready to roll. I’ve got more kit with me than a film crew! Ok so that’s over exaggerating, but I had a lot ;) I hit the road with a full belly and goal to reach what the Roman’s called ‘the edge of the known world’ or to modern day man, the incredible one of a kind, Hadrian’s Wall. This was the only wall of its kind in the entire Roman Empire, and spanned the entire 80 mile width of Britain. It was touted as a showing of Rome’s power, but was inevitably seen as a showing of fear as it was the only part of Europe that Rome just could not conquer. After roughly 100 years of continual fighting with the northern tribes, the Roman’s accepted defeated (something they’d never done before) and drew a line in the sand…a 12ft high, 8ft thick and 1500 soldier manned line! These guys were certainly scared of what lay beyond!

After 4hrs I arrived at my first location along the wall, the amazing Roman Army Museum, which had recently commissioned a superb short film (with very high production values I must say) to re-create life on the wall in 120AD. This film and museum gave me a spectacular insight into the world back then and really got me in the mood.

After a short walk it was then onto site two, the Vindolanda Fort ruins and attached museum. This place was awe inspiring to say the least!

Vindolanda Fort

Vindolanda was the most expansive Roman outpost to the north and was home to what equated to not only a full garrison but also an entire village. It was gigantic! I actually recorded some video here, but the howling wind and driving rain made it all but inaudible. Doh! What this site brought home to me was how much the Roman’s meant business. They set up shop here and weren’t budging…or so they thought. I can’t imagine how desolate it must have felt living up here during winter as these people would have been weeks’ worth of a trek away from the nearest town. No wonder the fort walls were immense. They even had specialised turrets to hold catapults! So that goes to show how much they lived in fear.

After this the light was starting to fade, so I figured I’d best take a quite jaunt down a section of the wall before the light died out entirely. I drove for another 30 mins to a great spot, donned my walking boots, packed up the camera kit and set off…20 mins later I was back in my car, dripping wet, freezing cold and calling it a day. The wind and rain was intense and I was soaked to the core. I did get one reasonable photo though.

Hadrian's Wall

Oh and before you think me a big softy, I’m a northerner, I’m used to our weather and I do a lot of walking/mountain biking, but the weather today was just too much ;)

So, after a very long day I started the long haul back to my hotel. Steak pudding, followed by sticky toffee pudding rounded the day off nicely, warmed the cockles of my wintry heart and sent me off into a solid nights sleep.

Day 2:

EPIC is defined by today’s planned excursion! Its 8:30am, I have belly full of locally farmed eggs and Cumberland sausage and am ready to take on the Hardknott Pass in search of Rome’s most remote outpost, the Hardknott Fort! This pass (unbeknown to me at the time) is widely known as one hell of a mountain trail to take on, on your own. Especially in the pouring rain on a cold, howling winter’s morning! But being set in my ways and warned by the hotel manager that this pass isn’t for the faint hearted, I started up my Land Rover and set forth!

As I draw near to the main pass I am greeted by a sign pre-warning me in layman’s terms, ‘don’t try this if you scare easily’. Well, I carry on regardless. If you look below in the first image, there is a V shape in the far right on the distant mountain…that’s where I’m heading.

Approaching Hardknott Pass

After 20 mins I’m thinking to myself, this aint too hard, in fact, it’s pretty easy…then I see the monumental climb ahead of me and how I am about to climb a 1,289 ft mountain path. Oh mamma, this is looking scary…but exciting! The path gets narrower and narrower reaching points where its 6ft wide at its absolute widest and in places there are sheer drops literally feet away from the edge of my wheels. ‘What the hell am I doing’ I think to myself. I’d got to a point where turning back was no easy option, so onward I went. The road was THAT steep at points (turning in on itself with crazy hairpins that took full lock in 1st gear to only just manage) that I couldn’t even see the road ahead as it was that high up and beyond the view through my windscreen! Scared? Hell yes, but the adrenaline kept me going.

Luckily I’ve done off road training in my 4×4, so I knew what to do to keep on going safely. I can see why so many cars end up crashed on this pass.

Finally, I reach the peak! Good god, the view back was AMAZING! I’d stuck my handbrake on big time and shoved it in 1st before getting out as I was terrified of the car rolling backward under the pressure of the incline. Just look at that view. See the tiiiiiiiiiny line snaking off in the distance, yeah, that’s the path I just took.

The Hardknott pass peak

As I started my descent, I decided that another shot looking forward was now called for. This looks like nothing I know, but what you can’t see here is the fact that the path drops drastically down, via ultra-tight hairpins right the way to the bottom. So much so I was almost stood up in my car trying to see over my bonnet to see where the hell the road was! It was THAT steep.

Hardknott pass descent

So after this incredible drive, disaster struck. I couldn’t bloody find Hardknott fort! The mist, low cloud and horrendous rain made finding the walk-able/climbable path invisible. Damn it! On the upside, I got a real life experience of what it must have been like to be up there, and man, it was horrible. I sure wouldn’t want to live there through a harsh British winter! I pity the poor souls manning this outpost.

At the bottom I took a moment to rest, reflect on that great hour long journey and then head to Castlerigg Stone Circle!

1hr later I arrived at one of my most favourite places in the entire world. This stone circle is awe inspiring in every respect.

Castlerigg Stone Circle

Its location just blows your mind as its set overlooking the meeting point of a number of spectacular mountains. The pilgrimage that the ancient Britons must have made to reach such a place would have been overwhelming. This world has little to no true magic or spirituality left in it (as science makes a point of explaining everything away), and this place can still strike a chord deep inside you! Goodness knows how incredible Castlerigg must have been to the Pagan worshipers back then.

I spent a good 40 mins just walking around here as it was so incredibly peaceful. Quite the contrast to Hardknott!

Onward once more back to Harridan’s Wall. While it was still raining and rather dank, I was determined to walk a section and get some shots.

Finally I managed a 45 minute trek up and down a section of the wall before a bad-ass weather front was threatening to make my walk back rather nasty. I got a few shots, stood in the foundations of one of the watchtowers and just spent time taking in the feel of the land. What an amazing experience. Life on this wall, keeping watch over the barbarian hordes of the north must have been a bloody awful job.

Hadrian's Wall

So, upon reaching my Land Rover again, cold slightly wet and ready to see my family again, I set back on the long haul home. If I could describe the whole experience, I’d say grim, brutal, harsh and depressing…but all in an incredibly inspiring way. I have a solid vision for the game now and cannot wait to get the artwork in full production!

Stay tuned for the next update!