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Antonine Wall

The 37 mile Antonine Wall in Scotland was constructed by the Romans, construction started in 142AD at the order of Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius and took around 12 years to build. It became then, for period, the revised northern frontier of the Roman Empire. After 20 years the wall was abandoned and the northern frontier reverted to Hadrian's Wall. 

In 208AD Emperor Septimius Severus re-established legions at the wall and ordered repairs; this has led to the wall being referred to as the Severan Wall. This use ended only a few years later, and the wall was never fortified again.

The location chosen was for much of its length utilising the high ground along the southern edge of a valley. This valley is formed by the River Carron, flowing eastward into the Forth, and the River Kelvin, a tributary of the Clyde in the west. Together, these rivers helped to create a boggy foreground to the Wall before the land rose up to the Campsie Fells to the north.

The design, as often happened with Roman constriction changed several times, with the original design being a stone wall with few forts to a turf wall on stone foundations with a far larger number of forts.

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This was not a peaceful area, then after their struggles with the barbarians, they would create decorative slabs, and 20 of these still survive.

Unlike Hadrian's Wall where large sections survive, little of the Antonine wall survives today. Most of these remains are now under the care of Historic Scotland, and is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage listings as a part of the Roman Frontiers. See World Heritage Sites and World Heritage Sites in the UK.  

You can get an idea of what can be seen by looking at the photos below and following up the other links to photographs at the bottom of the page.

The wall was about 13ft (4m), made of layers of turf, with some earth in places. On the north side there was a large ditch and to the south a Roman road known as the Military Way. The spoil from the ditch was used to form a wide low mound to the north. It was built and maintained by soldiers of the three legions of Britain the II Augusta (from Caerleon in South Wales), the VI Victrix (from York), and XX Valeria Victrix (from Chester). Other inscriptions show that some Forts and repairs were done by both legionaries and auxiliary units.

The original plan was to have forts every 6 miles but this was changed to be every 2 miles. There was a total of 19 forts along the wall. One of the best preserved and also one of the smallest is Rough Castle Fort. As well as the original forts there were 9 smaller fortlets, which was probably part of the original plan, but most of these later were changed into forts. The best example you can see today of a fortlet is at Kinneil. The position of the known forts is shown in the map below.

Supporting the wall there were a number of coastal forts including in the east Inveresk and to the West Outerwards and Lurg Moor). A number of other forts further north were brought back into service in the Gask Ridge area, including Ardoch, Strageath, Bertha and probably Dalginross and Cargill.

Throughout history it has been seen and written about, often by other names, these include the Wall of Pious, Antonoine vallium, and Grims Dyke. Grims means devil and there are a lot of grim or devils ditches both in Britain and other countries.

It was not until 1764 that the wall was mapped and this was undertaken by William Roy of Ordnance Survey, some of what he mapped has since been destroyed by later developments.

Today you can visit some parts of the wall including some sites that are in the care of Historic Scotland (HS), open to the pubic and Free to visit. These include:-

  • Bar Hill Fort HS

  • Bearsden Bath House HS

  • Castlecary HS

  • Croy Hill HS

  • Dullatur HS

  • Rough Castle HS

  • Seabegs Wood HS

  • Watling Lodge east and west HS

  • Westerwood HS

The best points to see today are said to include:-

  • The location especially the central sector, running over Croy Hill and Bar Hill near Kilsyth. The ditch here is well preserved, as are the beacon platforms on Croy Hill and the fort on Bar Hill.

  • The fort at Rough Castle where the earthworks of the fort and annexe are visible, together with a stretch of the rampart and ditch, and the Military Way with some quarry pits.

  • The bathhouse and latrine at Bearsden where the Roman authorities provided two forms of bathing as well as central heating for their soldiers.

  • The Iron Age Fort on Castle Hill next to Bar Hill where there are good views towards both Forth and Clyde.

However I would suggest you look at the links to the Historic Scotland pages on each of these sites and explore the photographs below and links from our other photo links below, before planning a journey, as the amount to see in any of these locations is very limited compared to Hadrian's Wall  and other Roman and historic remains.

The article on Hadrian's Wall  contains both information and a chart showing the history of both walls. Also the article Roman Frontiers  may give a wider view.

Remains of a roman bathhouse at Bearsden,
by the wall at NS546721 Photo by Lindsay Robertson

Barr Hill Roman baths NS707759 Photo by Jim Bain.

Course of the Antonine Wall at Croy Hill  Photo by  Chris Wimbush 

Rough Castle on Antonine Wall Photo by Dan Smith 

Photo from Flicker

Left - Remains of a Fort on the Antonine Wall at Barr Hill near Twechar

Photo from Wikipedia Commons


See also:-

Roman Section

Roman Britain  Topic index

Hadrian's Wall  

Roman Frontiers   

Hadrian's Wall - Featured Places

Hadrian's Wall Further Information

World Heritage Sites

World Heritage Sites in the UK

More images

Google image search

Geograph search

Geograph - Rough Castle area

Geograph Bar Hill Fort and Baths and 2

Geograph  Seabags Wood area - Fortlet

Geograph Westwood

 


By: Keith Park   Section: Roman section Key:
Page Ref: Antonine_wall Topic: Roman Britain  Last Updated: 04/2010
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