Bar Hill Roman Fort lies near the top of Bar Hill, in a strategic location looking north over the Kelvin Valley to the Campsie Fells. It was built as one of the forts housing troops manning the Antonine Wall, which was for a while the north-west frontier of a Roman Empire. Along with Rough Castle near Falkirk, it is one of the two best locations along the Antonine Wall to gain a real impression of what the wall was like, and what life would have been like for the troops manning it.

The Antonine Wall was built from AD 142 to 144 and ran for 60km from Bo'ness on the River Forth to Old Kilpatrick on the River Clyde. Like the better known Hadrian's Wall to the south, it formed a solid barrier right across the country. A clear symbol of Roman power and authority, the wall probably served to control the movement of people and goods between the Roman-controlled area to the south and the lands to the north.

The wall was in use for around 20 years. The relatively short period of occupation and the materials used in its construction mean that it has survived less well than Hadrian's Wall: but in its day it would have been just as formidable a barrier. The wall itself was built on stone foundations, 4.3m broad, on top of which turf was laid to a height of 3.6m. The top of the wall probably carried a wooden walkway protected by a wooden breastwork.

In front of the wall a ditch was dug to a depth of 3.6m and a breadth of up to 12m, with the spoil forming a mound along the north edge of the ditch. And in some places, as can be seen at Rough Castle, the wall was additionally protected by pits containing stakes. A little way to the south of the line of the wall ran a Roman Road, the Military Way, which was some 6m wide. At intervals of around 2 miles a fort was built to house the troops manning the wall. There were probably 19 of these along the wall, though only 17 have been found on the ground.

Bar Hill Roman Fort was unusual in that its north wall does not form part of the Antonine Wall itself. Instead, while the Antonine Wall follows a course a little way down the shoulder of the north side of Bar Hill, the fort is draped over the summit of the hill and built on its upper slopes. The Military Way passed between the fort and the wall.

It has to be said that the Antonine Wall as it runs along the flank of Bar Hill is not as well preserved as it is at Rough Castle, though here you do get more of a sense of how it would have commanded the landscape. Perhaps the best reason to visit is that, after excavations between 1979 and 1982, the plan and some lower levels of stonework of some of the buildings were left on view.

The largest visible building is the headquarters, placed on the south-facing slope of the hill, presumably with an eye to maximising sunlight. But in many ways the most impressive building is the bathhouse, which originally stood close to the north wall of the fort on the fairly steep northern slope of the hill. Here enough remains on the ground to give an impression of the function of what, for many who lived here, would have been one of the most essential buildings in the fort.

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Founded: 142-144 AD
Category: Prehistoric and archaeological sites in United Kingdom

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User Reviews

Grant French (8 months ago)
Great walk. Simple to start up the road and through a few walking gates. In the actual monument area you have two choices at the sign for Bar Hill by the ruined, overgrown cottage. Right up the hill past the sign is John Muir way which takes you down then up the hill. It's quite steep with a v shaped ditch on the right. Boggy at bits in the middle but good fun if steep. Did I mention steep? Very steep and I'd advise uphill if it's snowing unless you like butt-sledging. Leads all the way up to the iron age hill fort. Then to the Roman fort. Left at the sign takes you up the straight military road with a smaller fort part way up. Easy to walk with lateral bumps to make it easy to walk up or down. Leads up to the Roman fort straight ahead or to the iron age fort to the right. Lots to see in the Roman fort area but didn't get yo see it all due to the Snow. If you're with wee ones, give yourself 3 hours for the walk and explore.
derek shephard (8 months ago)
Interesting place and the views are spectacular from castle hill.
Fiona McNicol (10 months ago)
Cold and windy. Just make sure to dress up warmly. A great place to have a Christmas lunch.
John McBride (12 months ago)
Lovely site with great views. Very well kept considering and quiet, plenty of space for kids to run around and doesn't take long to get to from the car.
Pete Cocking (12 months ago)
A nice wee hike for small kids. Took me and my three year old 45 mins to the top. We slowly toddled up while munching on the abundant blackberry bushes. Fairly decent views from the top.
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