Bearsden's Roman Baths can be found a couple of hundred yards east, or downhill, along Roman Road from Bearsden Cross, the centre of the town. A gate in a low stone wall on your left gives access to a remarkable example of the survival of ancient archeological remains despite later development. It was part of the Antonine Wall built between AD 142 to 144. One of wall forts was sited in what is today called Bearsden. Antiquarians had long known of its location, but the dramatic growth of Bearsden following the arrival of a railway line from Glasgow in 1863 meant that it was lost, many thought forever, under a series of large Victorian mansions. All that remained was the road that followed the line of the Antonine Wall's Military Way, which became known as Roman Road.
In the early 1970s plans were approved to replace the old houses in this area with a series of apartment blocks. Demolition of the Victorian mansions revealed that much of the Roman archaeology remained in place, covered by the fill the Victorian builders had used to level up their sloping site. A major archaeological dig got under way in 1973, which uncovered most of the ground plan of the fort.
Especially well preserved were the remains of a bath house found in an annex at the east end of the fort (ie the end furthest from the centre of Bearsden). This turned out to be one of the best surviving examples of a bath house ever found in Scotland. Although development plans originally involved building on this part of the site, it was left vacant and gifted to the nation by the developer. The remains of the bath house are cared for by Historic Scotland.
All this gives the site of Bearsden Roman Baths rather unexpected surroundings. The south side of the site is bounded by the stone wall that separates it from the pavement on Roman Road. But the other three sides of the site comprise a series of apartment blocks constructed from dark red brick, with those to the west overlaying the site of the rest of the fort.
The bath house itself was a long and fairly narrow building aligned east-west, in effect running down the hill from left to right when seen from the Roman Road side. The far, north, side of the bath house had two rooms projecting from it, while a further room projected from the middle of the south side of the bath house. A few yards to the south east of the bath house is the site of the latrine block, also very well preserved.
The nearby information board gives a very clear idea of the different components of the bath house, and this is supplemented by discreet signs attached to the foundations of the various rooms that help you identify exactly what you are looking at.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.