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    Tour of the Antonine Wall, Scotland

    Welcome to Roman Scotland and the Northern frontier of the Roman Empire!

    Tell me a little about a Tour of the Antonine Wall

    Catswhiskerstours is pleased to provide customised tours of the Antonine Wall which runs in a line approximating that of the modern-day Glasgow-Edinburgh axis.

    Summary information on the Wall is provided below to assist guests in determining appropriate focus during their visit.

    Tell me more about a Tour of the Antonine Wall

    The Antonine Wall is a turf structure stretching east-west between the rivers Forth and Clyde (Edinburgh and Glasgow) and covering a distance of 37 miles (59 Km). It is named after the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius who ruled from AD 138-161. Construction of such a wall may have been politically inspired to enhance the status of Antoninus who had succeeded the ‘consolidator’, Hadrian.  In July 2008 the Antonine Wall was designated a part of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site.

    The 51 year old Titus Aurelius Antoninus (born Titus Aurelius Fulvus Boionius Arrius ) was the second choice of the childless Hadrian to become Emperor. As an administrator with no military experience it is thought that Hadrian viewed Antoninus as a sound choice to continue his (Hadrian’s) non-expansionist policies.

    There is no meaningful evidence of a military imperative for the abandonment of Hadrian’s Wall (built about AD122-130) and relocation of the frontier in Britain a modest 100 miles (160 Km) north to the Forth-Clyde region. The initiative may well have driven by the need to provide Antoninus with a military triumph at the commencement of his Emperorship and thereby secure his standing in Rome.

    The Roman presence in Britain lasted from AD 43 to AD 410. The Antonine Wall venture was neither the first nor last excursion into what is now Scotland which at the time was occupied by tribes including the Caledonii from where the name Caledonia emanates. Moving the frontier to the new Antonine Wall entailed reoccupation of sites and forts built around the period AD 77-AD 84 (possibly earlier) when the Emperor Vespasian established the Gask Ridge frontier in, mainly, modern day Perthshire.

    The Antonine Wall dates from the period AD 139-142, with the latter date coinciding with the abandonment of Hadrian’s Wall to the south. It was built from east to west, ran from Bridgeness on the banks of the river Forth to Old Kilpatrick on the river Clyde and covered a distance of 37 miles (40.5 Roman miles). Constructed on a 14 ft. wide stone base, the turf built rampart was probably 10ft. high and 6ft. at top width.

    Construction of the Wall (a term which includes the Military Way, ditch, rampart and other structures) was undertaken by soldiers from the legions II Augusta, VI Victrex pia fidelis and XX Valeria Victrix. It is estimated that the construction force may have totalled some 8000 men comprising a mix of legionaries and auxiliaries who between them possessed the full range of specialist skills necessary for such a project. From this era we have a legacy of some 20 Distance Slabs which are elaborately embellished carved inscriptions on stone tablets which record individual stretches of construction by detachments of the three legions. Studies of the Slabs suggest that the construction project was divided into 15 sectors.

    Here is a video clip of the distance slabs on display at the Hunterian Museum, Glasgow

    Along the line of the Wall there may have been 26 forts (of which 17 are known) with the six principal ones at Barr Hill, Carriden, Mumrills, Castlecary, Balmuildy and Old Kilpatrick. Other sites are: Bishopton, Duntocher, Cleddans, Castlehill, Bearsden, Summerston, Wilderness Plantation, Cadder, Glasgow Bridge, Kirkintilloch, Auchendavy, Croy Hill, Westerwood, Seabegs, Rough Castle, Watling Lodge, Camelon, Falkirk, Inveravon and Kinneil. The garrison complement of the six primary forts may have been 4000 soldiers. Refer this video clip for a view of the ‘mine field’ or lilia at Rough Castle.

    From the time of the Wall construction, forts dating back to the Gask Ridge era, such as Ardoch, Strageath and Bertha, were brought back into use.

    There appears to be no agreement on the precise date for abandonment of the Antonine Wall although there is a consensus that AD 158 witnessed the start of what may have been a progressive withdrawal. This time coincides with rebuilding work on Hadrian’s Wall which was reoccupied from about AD 160.

    During the last 13 years of his reign Antoninus effectively shared power with Marcus Aurelius, his adopted son, son-in-law and chosen successor. Antoninus died on March 7th 161 AD age 74 years at Lorium after an Emperorship lasting 22 years and nine months during which period the Empire is generally acknowledged to have experienced a period of peace and prosperity-perhaps vindicating Hadrian’s succession planning!

    Here is a video clip of a section of the Antonine Wall where it runs close to the Forth & Clyde Canal at Bonnnybridge.

    Further  information  can be obtained by visiting:

    • The Hunterian Museum, Glasgow which has a gallery  dedicated to the Wall.
    • Sister web page covering Roman Britain.

    How can Catswhiskerstours help with a Tour of the Antonine Wall?

    • We can arrange customised tours to suit groups of all sizes. 

    For more information and help contact Nigel-
    T  44 (0) 141 638 5500
    E Or

    We look forward to hearing from you!

    Back to Scottish Tours  

    Foundations of Antonine Wall at Bearsden, ScotlandRough Castle at Bonnybridge, ScotlandCastlecary to Croy Hill section of Antonine Wall, ScotlandReplica Antonine Wall Distance Slab at Cumbernauld, ScotlandBarr Hill Roman Fort, Antonine Wall, Twechar, ScotlandLilia at Rough Castle, Antonine Wall, ScotlandAntonine Wall at Bonnybridge, Scotland