Andrew Birley

Update: 04/08/2020

Due to the continued prevalence of covid19 the Vindolanda via Roma fundraising vespa ride to Rome and back is having to be reimagined. It is a decision we have not made lightly and we are extremely grateful for all of the support and encouragement we have received during the planning for the journey. However, covid19, new UK government travel restrictions, EU lockdowns in regions and areas and the inability to be able to get proper travel insurance make this an impossible and inadvisable journey.

While covid19 has struck, the environmental issues at the fort of Magna, next to the Roman Army Museum, have remained and the site continues to dry out, its precious archaeological landscape further degrading. It is because of this pressing need that the Vindolanda via Roma riders are determined to not to be completely defeated by covid19. We are transforming the via Roma challenge into a via Britannia challenge and will embark on an a journey of celebration of some of the very best that Roman Britain has to offer at the end of this August.

Vindolanda Via Britannia

Vindolanda via Britannia will retain the core spirit of the original via Roma journey. It will be a voyage of discovery that will cover more than 1500 miles, a greater distance than it takes to get from Vindolanda to Rome. The Vespa’s will come out of storage and we will set off from Vindolanda on the 31st of August with a mission to take in as many of the iconic Roman sites in Britain as we can in 6 days. Although we cannot visit every place in Roman Britain we will cover a very large area.

By camping as much as possible, maintaining responsible social distance and safely weaving our way through Britain we aim to highlight some of the very best that Roman Britain has to offer.

Our route will take us from Vindolanda to Inchtuthil, the most northerly Legionary base in Britain, and then to back to the Antonine Wall.  

  • To Chester and parts of Roman Wales, Exeter, Bath, Richborough, London, Colchester, Lincoln, York and many more places between.
  • Daily routes and destinations may vary depending on local or regional lockdowns.

Our mission remains the same, to raise awareness and funds towards the preservation of an important part of the Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site at the Roman fort of Magna, and we hope that you will enjoy following this journey through the lands of Roman Britain.


Find out the original aims and objectives of the Vindolanda Via challenge and why it is so important to Andrew and Gary.

Andrew and Gary both have a passion for Roman Archaeology along the Wall. Andrew has worked around Vindolanda and Magna for most of his life and is the third generation of his family to work at Vindolanda, he is currently the CEO and Director of Excavations. Gary is the Vice Chair of the Vindolanda Trustees and has been volunteering on the excavations for over 20 years. Andrew and Gary have been friends since university. They feel like this is an exciting cause that will help archaeologists across Hadrian’s Wall to understand more about this amazing frontier.

As an experienced rider it was Gary’s idea to put the modern way of travelling to the test and see if he and Andrew could beat the ancient postmen’s’ time getting from Vindolanda to Rome and back in under 2 weeks. The Roman postal service, the Cursus Publicus had riders that could potentially travel over 100 miles a day, the equivalent of a Vespa on a full tank of fuel.

There is the potential for Magna to contain texts that may have made the same journey that Gary and Andrew will take. Similar to those found at Vindolanda that shed huge light on the people who lived at the fort 2000 years ago. In order to protect this in September* 2020 Gary and Andrew will climb onto their Vespas and leave the Roman site of Vindolanda, embarking on a 3,500-mile round trip to Rome over 13 days. Their aim is to raise £20,000 towards the excavation and preservation of the fort at Magna.

Along the way they’ll visit the homes of the Nervians, Gauls, Vocontians, Reatians, Tungrians, Batavians and many others – travelling through the lands of the ancient peoples who made Vindolanda and Hadrian's Wall their home almost 2000 years ago. Like many of the soldiers they will be carrying with them most of what they’ll need on the journey, tents, supplies, maps and documentation to navigate borders, all the while dealing with whatever the weather throws at them. The route will follow many Roman roads including 13 major Roman highways and passing through 9 Roman provinces and over 600 miles of Roman frontier.

You can help us to reach our goals by donating and supporting us. All of the money raised for this appeal goes directly to the Vindolanda Trust, the costs of the trip have been covered by Andrew and Gary themselves.

If you donate £35 or more (£1 for every 100 miles) you can receive an exclusive Vindolanda Via Roma patch.

Keep in touch, follow the journey, go behind the scenes with Andrew, Gary and the team by following them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Andrew Birley