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The remains of Isurium Brigantum, a significant Roman town between the 2nd and 5th centuries AD, lie largely under the charming village of Aldborough ('old borough'). Little of the Roman town is visible - small sections of town wall and a couple of good mosaics. There's a small museum, and it's a pleasant stroll round the site, but people expecting to see a great deal might be disappointed.
The Antonine Wall has World Heritage status alongside Hadrian's Wall to the south. It was built in 140 AD on the orders of Hadrian’s successor, Emperor Antoninus Pius. It ran 37 miles (60km) from Old Kilpatrick in the west to near Bo’ness in the east and formed the north-west frontier of the Roman Empire, but was abandoned after 20 years and the frontier shifted back south to Hadrian’s Wall. Unlike the latter, the Antonine Wall was constructed mostly out of layers of turf. These ramparts reached a height of almost 10 feet (3 m). In front, to the north, ran an enormous ditch, up to 16 feet (5 m) deep. Behind the wall ran a road to enable the movement of troops and supplies. There were 17 manned forts along the wall, plus additional ‘fortlets’. The Antonine Wall website calls it “the biggest, most awe-inspiring building project the people of Scotland had ever seen” – which is true but for the fact that Scotland did not exist at the time. There are several stretches of the wall that can be seen today – one of the best is at Rough Castle (address below). See the World Heritage website for details of all locations. The largest collection of Antonine Wall artefacts is held by the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow.
Arbeia Roman Fort stood guard on the south bank of the Tyne, guarding the sea route to Hadrian's Wall. The fort is situated in what is now a residential area, with a primary school opposite. It was originally built in the 2nd century AD and, with variations and rebuilding (the fort was destroyed in the late 3rd/early 4th century, for example), was occupied until the Anglo-Saxon period. There is a good museum, reconstructed gateway and living quarters (which are a bit tatty) and the excavated outline of the fort.
Bearsden Roman Bath House is the excavated stone remains of a bathhouse and latrine annexed to the fort that stood nearby, part of the defences of the Antonine Wall, constructed c140 AD and abandoned 20 years later. The remains were discovered when Victorian houses were redeveloped in 1973 and are now displayed, with useful information boards, surrounded by late 20th century suburban residences. The boards allow easy interpretation of the remains. It is a fascinating site, but most people will not tarry longer than about 20 minutes. The fort is buried under modern housing and roads.
The remains of a Temple of Mithras, the Persian god of light and truth, stands near what is left of the Roman fort of Brocolitia, or Carrawburgh, on the route of Hadrian's Wall. It was built in the 3rd century and subsequently desecrated, probably by Christians. There was once another temple nearby, dedicated to Coventina, a local water goddess, and a nymphaeum – a monument dedicated to nymphs - but nothing is to be seen of these now.
Brougham Castle is situated in a beautiful, but defensive, spot on the south bank of the river Eamont, next to the long-abandoned Roman fort of Brocavum. The fortress saw action in the wars between England and Scotland, and was captured by the Scots. But kings stayed here and it was one of the formidable Lady Anne Clifford's favourite castles - she died here in 1676. The ruins are fascinating - impressive and unusual gatehouse - plenty to explore and in spring the stonework is covered in aubrietia. A tiny museum displays a couple of Roman grave markers - and at least one was re-used when building the castle.
Chanctonbury Ring is an Iron Age hillfort, constructed c6-400BC, though actually in use since Neolithic times. It was probably not a fort, nor ever occupied, but more likely a religious site or, possibly, animal enclosure. 2 Romano-British temples have been found on the hill (they are not visible). In 1760, Charles Goring of nearby Wiston House planted a ring of beech trees around the hill; these, or their descendents, are still there. The hill was used by the army during WW2. There are several other prehistoric sites nearby. Chanctonbury also has a number of legends associated with it - most notably variations of the story that the Devil appears if running seven times anti-clockwise (or backwards) round the hill, alleged links with witchcraft (young ladies sleeping out on the hill are more likely to conceive), UFOs as well as suggestions that the hill is haunted and claims that spending the night on it is an unpleasant experience. Nonetheless, there are great views from the top.
The excavation of Fishbourne Roman Palace by Barry Cunliffe in the 1960s caused a sensation. It is the largest Roman residence north of the Alps, with the largest collection of in situ mosaics in the UK and the earliest garden discovered so far anywhere in the country. The palace dates from the 1st century AD and underwent various alterations in its time until it burnt down in c270AD. The first occupant was possibly Togidubnus, a local British pro-Roman tribal chieftain.
Managed by the Sussex Archaeological Society.
The North East is packed with evidence of the Roman occupation, but pride of place must go to Hadrian's Wall, which stretched 73 miles (118 km) from the Solway Firth in the west to Wallsend in the east. The Emperor Hadrian ordered its construction in 122 AD to defend the north-west border of the Empire. Troops were stationed at milecastles along its length and forts were later built at 5 mile (8 km) intervals. It was abandoned in the late 4th century. Much of it remains and it is possible to walk the entire length, if you’re that way inclined. There are multiple sites that can be visited, many of them in the care of English Heritage. The best preserved site along the wall is Housesteads Fort. At Vindolanda, where there is also a fascinating museum, excavations are ongoing and can be observed. To the far east, at Wallsend, is the site of Segedunum – which lay underneath Wallsend’s shipbuilding community until the houses were demolished to expose the foundations of the fort.
Hardknott Roman Fort was built in the 2nd century AD, probably by men of the 4th Cohort of Dalmatia, to protect the trade route across the fells to the vital port of Ravenglass. The ruins, which consist of well-marked layouts of most of the principal buildings and bath house, are in a truly dramatic spot. Access is not for the faint-hearted, whether by foot or road. If the latter, the drive through Wrynose Pass onto Hardknott is one of the best in the Lake District; also accessible from the Duddon Valley or Eskdale. The views can be fabulous.
The post code is a guide only. You will need a map and are also advised to check the weather. If driving, ensure your car has plenty of fuel and a good clutch. The roads are very steep and single-track with passing places. Take refreshments with you and a waterproof coat, even if in a car. Allow sufficient time - especially if planning a circular route. There is very limited parking by the fort and there are no facilities whatsoever.
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