From the incredible Bearsden Bath House and the eye-opening Bar Hill Fort, to the astonishing Croy Hill and stunningly well-preserved Ardoch Roman Fort, Scotland’s Roman ruins are fascinating places to discover. Other Roman ruins in Scotland to discover including Kinneil Roman Fort and Trimontium Museum. Wherever your travels take you, we’ve compiled our editor’s pick of Roman sites in Scotland followed by a few hidden gems you don’t want to miss.
1. Bearsden Bath House
The Bearsden Bath House was a second century Roman bath complex which would have served one of the forts of The Antonine Wall. The Antonine Wall was itself a defensive wall built almost two decades after Hadrian’s Wall and representing some of the further incursions made by the Romans in the UK.
Today, the remains of the Bearsden Bath House – located innocuously in the middle of a modern housing estate – represent some of the best of this Roman military structure.
2. Bar Hill Fort
Bar Hill Fort was one of the forts along The Antonine Wall, a second century Roman defensive wall in Scotland.
Today, visitors can still discern parts of Bar Hill Fort – once this wall’s highest fort – including its bath complex. It is also a double treat for history buffs, as there is also a nearby Iron Age fort.
3. Croy Hill
Croy Hill was the site of one of the Roman forts of the Antonine Wall, a vast second century defensive barrier in Scotland which ran from West Kilpatrick to Carriden, along what is now Scotland’s central belt. The wall was constructed to control trade and offer protection from the more aggressive of the Caledonian tribes; it was built in just two years. The Antonine Wall would continue to be occupied until the late 160s AD when the Romans began to retreat to its more famous counterpart, Hadrian’s Wall.
Today, visitors to Croy Hill can still make out two beacon platforms and a defensive ditch which would have formed part of the original fortifications.
4. Kinneil Roman Fort
Forming part of the Antonine Wall, Kinneil Roman Fort was one of the mile-castles built to protect the borders of the Roman Empire.
Visitors can view part of the roadway and a partial reconstruction of the line of the wall. A number of artefacts from the site can be viewed in Kinneil Museum. Kinneil Roman Fort is part of the Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site. A visit to Kinneil Estate is also not complete without taking the opportunity to explore the surrounding parks, woodlands and ponds.
5. Trimontium Museum
Trimontium is thought to have been occupied by the Romans three times, with a garrison that numbered between 2000 and 5000 at any given time. First between 80 and 105 AD, then in around 140 AD as a support centre when Hadrian’s successor Antoninus Pius brought an army back into Scotland, and finally from the desertion of the Antonine Wall in the 160s AD until the withdrawal of the army in around 185 AD. After this, the fort was no longer an occupied stronghold, but may have been visited by troops inspecting the buffer zone north of Hadrian’s Wall.
Unfortunately no upstanding stones remain of the Roman fort at Newstead, but visitors to the Trimontium Museum in nearby Melrose can still get a tangible insight into life in the Roman frontiers through a wide variety of artefacts and reproductions. A guided walk run by the Trimontium Museum also points out visible features in the landscape of Newstead, such as the ploughed-out rampart and the amphitheatre, to give visitors as much of a sense of the former structure as possible.
6. Ardoch Roman Fort
Ardoch Roman Fort, also known as the Braco Fort or Alavna Veniconvm is a well preserved – many say exceptionally preserved – fort in Scotland.
The earthworks include six foot high ditches although there are now no remaining wooden or stone structures at the site.
7. The Antonine Wall
The Antonine Wall was a Roman defensive wall, approximately 3-4 metres high and 4-5 metres wide, and consisted of a stone base, a strong timber palisade fortified with turf, and a deep ditch. The Wall stretched for nearly 37 miles between the towns of Bo’ness on the Firth of Forth and Old Kilpatrick on the Firth of Clyde, at the neck (the Isthmus) of Scotland, along its central belt.
Whilst far less well-known than Hadrian’s Wall, the Antonine Wall is still a marvel of Roman engineering. Despite the passage of time, substantial lengths of the wall have survived. There are 6 locations where visitors can discover more about the Antonine Wall including Rough Castle, Kinneil Estate, Polmonthill, Callendar Park, Seabegs Wood and Watling Lodge.
8. Pennymuir Roman Camps
The Pennymuir Roman Camps, also known as the Towford Camps, are formed of the remains of three Roman temporary camps in Jedburgh, Scotland. The site consists of the remains of three Roman temporary camps, a linear earthwork, and an area of rig (a method of land tenure used in Scotland, particularly amongst the Highlands and Islands.)
The camps were temporary, and were probably used as training bases, providing tented accommodation for troops on exercise. The largest of the camps spreads some 17 hectares which would have easily accommodated two legions of men or more. It may also have simply been a temporary marching camp. The first two camps, camps I and II, are some of the best preserved in Scotland. They were first recorded in 1774 by William Roy.
Located just outside Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, Raedykes is the site of a Roman marching camp. Covering an area of around 93 acres, the site would have originally housed three full legions, or 16,000 troops. Raedykes probably dates to the 1st century AD, though it has been argued that it could originate from any time during the following two centuries. The fort was one of many which were established during the late first century AD. Many of these camps were reoccupied during the reign of emperor Septimius Severus about a century later.
The whole perimeter of the camp has been recorded, and is significantly irregular in shape because of the terrain. There were originally six gateways of which five are visible. It is situated a day’s march north from Stracathro fort, which was also a Roman marching camp. The camp remains in a remarkable state of preservation, with the rampart and ditch clearly visible for much of the perimeter. The site commands good views of the surrounding countryside, particularly to the sea at Stonehaven some 5km to the south-east.
10. Stracathro Roman Camp
Stracathro Roman Camp are the remains of a former Roman Camp in Brechin and Edzell, Angus, Scotland. It has been listed as a Scheduled Monument since 1969, and is currently being rescheduled to clarify the extent of the protected area. The fort was one of many which were established during the late first century AD – most likely some time during the campaigns of Julius Agricola in AD 78-84. Many of these camps were reoccupied during the reign of emperor Septimius Severus about a century later.
The site comprises of a large Roman fort, which was originally one of a series of auxiliary forts screening the Agricolan legionary fortress at Inchtuthill. The fort is defended on the North West and South West sides by two ditches and, on the South East side, by three ditches. The site is of national importance due to it being a good example of a Roman fort with associated annexe and temporary camp which has the potential to greatly enhance out understanding of the Roman military presence in Scotland. It also contributes to an understanding of the construction of Roman road networks.