The Antonine Wall - History and Facts | History Hit

The Antonine Wall

High Bonnybridge, Scotland, United Kingdom

The Antonine Wall was a Roman defensive wall, the remains of which can now be seen across Scotland's central belt.

Amy Irvine

09 Apr 2021
Image Credit: Wikimedia - Rosser1954 / CC

About 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.

History of The Antonine Wall

Scotland lay on the northwest frontier of the vast Roman Empire. In 142 AD, under the orders of Emperor Antoninus Pius (Emperor Hadrian‘s successor), the Roman 6th and 20th legions began building The Antonine Wall under the command of the Governor Lollius Urbicus. They would complete it a mere 20 years after Hadrian’s Wall was built.

The Antonine Wall mainly served a defensive function – it was a military zone with an estimated total force of 9,000 auxiliary and legionary soldiers, mostly there to offer protection from Caledonian tribes (such as the Damnonii) and bring some order to that troubled outpost of the empire, but the Wall may also have served as a customs station.

The Antonine Wall was occupied until the late 160s AD when, under Marcus Aurelius, the Romans began to retreat to its more famous counterpart. (In 208 AD, Roman Emperor Septimius Severus marched into Scotland with his army and re-established The Antonine Wall as the Roman border. However, this proved only temporary until his death in 211 AD).

The Antonine Wall today

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. All the routes are easy going and suitable for families with young children.

The best preserved stretch of ditch, the 8km long Watling Lodge, is set in attractive countryside with oak woodland in Falkirk. Another good viewing point is near Bonnybridge, where the line of the Antonine Ditch and Wall can be seen running through Seabegs Wood, to the south of the Forth and Clyde Canal. Callendar House also has free permanent displays which tell the story of The Antonine Wall.

Some of the wall’s approximately 16 forts can also still be discerned today. Amongst them are Bar Hill Fort, Croy Hill and the Bearsden Bath House.

Getting to The Antonine Wall

The main map for The Antonine Wall is located at the former Roman fort of Rough Castle, the earthworks of which can still be seen. Although one of the smallest forts, this is also considered one of the most intact sections of the Antonine Wall, with a visible ditch and rampart (and follows the official Antonine Wall trail).

By car, Rough Castle is located along a quiet side road from the B816 between Bonnybridge and High Bonnybridge. Alternatively, Rough Castle can be reached on foot from the Falkirk Wheel, via a signposted path from the visitor centre. The walk takes about 15 minutes.

The Antonine Wall is under the care of Historic Scotland.

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Roman Sites in Scotland

Dive into Scotland's ancient past by discovering a range of its Roman ruins, from The Antonine Wall, to Bar Hill Fort, and more.