Beth's conquest ofThe Antonine Wall
I’d always been aware of the Roman history around my hometown of Bearsden, but I’d never really checked it out before. This summer, my friend and I decided to take a trip right along the Antonine Wall, from west to east. Here are the best bits!
BEARSDEN BATH HOUSE
We started things off at our nearby bath house. It contains some of the best examples of Roman stone structures along the Antonine Wall, and really gives you some cool insights into the daily lives of the soldiers who were stationed here at the time. Bearsden was one of 16 known forts along the Antonine Wall, which formed the north-western frontier of the Roman Empire!
BAR HILL FORT
The longest stretch of our journey was a half-hour drive out to Bar Hill Fort. This was the highest fort along the wall, and here you could really appreciate its strategic importance! Here we saw the fort’s foundations, and we were able to spot the fort platform, the east gate, the headquarters building, and the bath house!
Did you know?
Items like shoes, coins and building columns have been found at Bar Hill, which really help us understand what life would have been like on the Roman frontier. Many of these were found at the bottom of the fort’s well, and were probably thrown down there when the fort was abandoned!
Our next stop was just up the road at Croy Hill. This one was a bit different; some of the fortifications are no longer visible, but the Romans’ mark on the landscape is unmistakeable! Croy Hill was once home to a fort, a fortlet, and a temporary camp. There are amazing views over the surrounding areas, including the Firth of Forth and the hills of Fife to the east, the Kilsyth Hills to the north, and back to Bar Hill to the west!
We stopped for lunch on our way to Croy Hill – there’s a great place by the canal between Kilsyth and Croy! You can either grab a bite at the restaurant, or bring your own – but it’s definitely worth parking here before taking a walk up the hill!
WESTERWOOD TO CASTLECARY
Another short drive further east took us to Westerwood, where we took a walk along one of the longest continuous stretches of the Antonine Wall that can be seen today! There used to be two temporary camps here, and possibly even a watchtower! It took us about half an hour to walk each way – so make sure you’ve got your walking shoes with you!
If you’ve dedicated the day to a wee adventure, and you don’t mind some more walking, we’d definitely recommend a walk through Seabegs Wood. You can walk in the footsteps of Roman troops along the Military Way – the ancient road which connected all the forts along the Antonine Wall! It’s the best place to see a part of this road. It sits on a 7m-wide mound – so you can’t miss it!
A little further up the road – just five minutes in the car actually – we stopped off at Rough Castle. It’s the second-smallest, but best-preserved fort on the Antonine Wall! Again, you can see a little more of the Military Way, but we really liked the defensive ‘lily’ pits! These lilia pits would have been fitted with a sharp stake pointing upwards and hidden in brushwood. They were there to break up attacks from the north before they reached the fort!
It’s the second-smallest, but best-preserved fort on the Antonine Wall!
Our final stop for the day was at Watling Lodge. This is the best-preserved section of ditch along the Antonine Wall, and it has survived to almost its original dimensions! You can get a really good sense of how it would have looked in Roman times, when the wall was first constructed.
Ideas for your trip!
We called it a day at this point, but we really were just scratching the surface of this amazing trail across Scotland’s central belt. There are so many sites along the Antonine Wall for you to visit, from Old Kilpatrick on the west coast right through to near Bo’ness in the east! The Antonine Wall website is really useful for planning ahead!