Willie’s View: Walk To Roughcastle

Shutterstock / alanf © walk to roughcastle

This week, Willie takes a walk to Roughcastle on the Antonine Wall.

The John Muir Way – one of Scotland’s long distance trails – runs for 134 miles. Coast to coast, between Helensburgh in the west and John Muir’s birthplace, Dunbar, in the east.

Today, I took a walk along a small length of it from the gigantic Falkirk Wheel that connects the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal. I’m visiting a part of the Roman Antonine Wall at Roughcastle.

In 1790, when the Forth and Clyde Canal opened, it connected the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

It was the world’s first sea to sea canal and, with all its tunnels, swing bridges and locks, was quite an impressive engineering feat.

Roman times

Over 1800 years ago, an equally impressive project was constructed and named after Emperor Antonius Pius. This was around AD 142.

The 38 mile long Antonine Wall, built from turf, stone and timber, marked the northern extremity of the Roman world.

Or at least it did for twenty odd years. They soon realised how futile it was to try to subdue the folks of the north. Then they retreated south of Hadrian’s Wall!

The Antonine Wall was well guarded with forts spaced along it every couple of miles. Roughcastle is the best preserved of these forts with the outline of its ditches and principal buildings still clearly to be seen.

So, too the “lilia” – a maze of pits that would have been filled with nasty sharpened spikes.

Creature comforts

I certainly wouldn’t have been out walking this way back in AD 142. The fort was manned by about 500 Nervians – warriors Julius Caesar described as “a savage people of great bravery”.

Wandering through the principia, barracks, granary and bathhouse, you can’t help but admire their achievements.

Especially the home of Commander Flavius Betto. His house, all that time ago, had glazed windows, private baths and even central heating!

If you’re thinking of bringing a dog with you on this walk, though, maybe best brush up on your Latin.

As it says on the gate: Cura ut canis excrementum in receptacula in area vehiculorum posita deponas. Or, in English: Please clean up after your dog, using the bins in the car park!



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Willie Shand