Rome’s most enduring legacy is her roads which, along with shipping routes and rivers, provided the empire with a communications network unsurpassed until modern times. Even today many roads still follow the courses of their Roman predecessors. In Scotland, the Roman roads were exclusively military, linking together forts and frontier systems.

Aerial photograph of the route of Dere Street.

The line of Dere Street, revealed by later field boundaries and tracks.
© SCRAN/J Dent/Borders Council

The course of a Roman road is often revealed by the later roads, tracks, or field boundaries which have followed it. Here the line of Dere Street, Rome’s main route into Scotland, is clearly seen emerging from the snow-covered northern foothills of the Cheviots, heading towards the Forth.

Photograph of section through Roman road along the Gask Ridge.

The road along the Gask Ridge is visible here as a heavily cambered mound, or agger, running through a gap in the trees. In the foreground a cross-ditch has exposed some of the stone bottoming. Originally the road would have been surfaced with gravel, and a steep camber was necessary to reduce erosion by throwing off surface water.
© Colin Martin

Aerial photograph of quarry pits assicoated with Roman roads.

Even where the remains of a Roman road have been destroyed by ploughing, quarry-pits dug beside them to provide material for their construction sometimes show as crop-marks. Here, at Wester Drumatherty some 2 km north-west of the legionary fortress at Inchtuthil, crop-marks identify a junction of two Roman roads. One is apparantly heading towards the sandstone quarries on Gourdie Hill, while the other follows a level contour into an adjacent valley, perhaps to facilitate timber extraction.

The only Roman milestone known in Scotland (right) was found near Ingliston in the seventeenth century. It is now in the National Museum of Scotland. Though fragmentary, its text can be restored to incorporate the name and titles of Antoninus Pius, probably (though not certainly) at the time of his third consulship, in 140-44. The stone records an unknown number of miles to Trimontium (Newstead), and was set up by the First Cohort of Cugerni. Of particular interest is the fact that two lines have deliberately been erased. This part of the inscription would almost certainly have included the name of the provincial governor, and the erasure indicates his official disgrace. It can hardly have been Lollius Urbicus, the governor of Britain under Antoninus Pius recorded as ‘driving back the barbarians’ and ‘building another wall, of turf’ (the Antonine Wall), for he went on to complete a distinguished and unblemished career. His successor is not known, but a possible candidate is Cornelius Priscianus who, in 145, was disgraced for misdemeanours while governor of part of Spain.

© SCRAN/National Museums of Scotland

Photograph of a Roman milestone found near Ingliston.

Back to top



Garrison Life


Medical Services

On Campaign


Site Map

Start again