Elslack (Olenacum?)

Elslack fort lies buried beneath a cattle field, bisected by the Victorian railway line, along which you can walk from the road to visit the fort. There is little to see other than topography and vague earthworks. The fort site is discernable, and one can imagine the bath house at the corner above the valley with its stream. A small sign covered with peeling paint explains what you are looking at. Of course, visiting Elslack (a few miles SW of Skipton next to the A56) you are on a win anyway. If you can see little of the fort, you can at least appreciate its position and the surrounding landscape, and for those with even the faintest interest in industrial archaeology, walking the railway line is fun in its own right.

Remains: 1/5    Atmosphere: 3/5   Access: 2/5    Overall: 2/5

Bearsden

The fort at Bearsden, of whose Roman name we are unaware, lies buried beneath housing. It was a fort with a turf rampart, and a turf wall also divided the enclosure into a main fort and an annexe. The fort’s north wall was the Antonine wall itself. Internal buildings were of both stone and timber.

One edifice has survived, though, and has survived well, remaining one of Scotland’s best preserved Roman sites. In the fort’s annexe was a bathhouse and latrine, constructed of both stone and timber. This has been excavated and consolidated and sits sandwiched by housing blocks by the appropriately named ‘Roman Road’. It is a lovely site and well maintained. Moreover, despite being on the edge of the Glasgow conurb, Bearsden is actually rather pleasant. All in all, Bearsden is one of the best sites to visit on the Antonine wall.

Remains: 3/5    Atmosphere: 2/5   Access: 4/5    Overall: 3/5

Ardoch (Alauna?)

Originally dating from the time of the 1st century campaigns of Agricola, Ardoch is an impressive sight. The first fort, which was part of the so-called ‘Gask Ridge’ system, was replaced after a period of inactivity by a second, Antonine fort. The first fort was of timber and earth, though the second contained a number of stone buildings within. Although no stonework is visible today, Ardoch remains one of the most impressive Roman sites in the British isles.

The remains, which consist of some of the most striking rampart and ditch defences in the entire Roman world, were enclosed by the local landowner centuries ago, protecting them from the usual ploughing that would have ruined the site. What we are left with is simply breathtaking. The south and west ramparts are impressive enough, but the north and east are incredibly pronounced. The site lies just outside the village of Braco. Parking is easy enough, a little uphill from the fort on the road side, from where you can walk back downhill towards the village and cross the gate into the field to explore the ditches.

Remains: 3/5    Atmosphere: 3/5   Access: 3/5    Overall: 3/5

Ambleside (Galava)

The auxiliary fort of Galava is a Hadrianic construction atop the remains of a Flavian fort. The home of an unknown auxiliary unit who may have been the same unit that practiced with slings at Burnswark, since similar discard piles of sling bullets have been found at both sites.

Galava is in a stunning location. At Waterhead, from the Windermere ferry terminal, walk past the Waterhead hotel (just past it, for now!) and across the Borans field park. At the far side of the park you will find the site of Galava. It is freely open to visit. The fort platform is clearly visible and the few parts that have been excavated are enclosed within fences. These consist of the south and east gates, and the central range of stone buildings (commanding officer’s house, headquarters building and two granaries). From the fort there is a pleasant view over the bushes south across Windermere.

The stone remains are well preserved and surprisingly well-kept considering they are in a field and clearly largely untended. Of particular interest are the two granaries built in slightly different forms, and the headquarters strongroom. Walking the fort area is very pleasant and Ambleside is a stunning location anyway. From Ambleside, if you’re feeling brave enough and your car’s not an old banger, head for the Hardknot pass and the fort nestled on the pass top there. On the way back into town, you’ll pass the Waterhead Inn again. NOW you go in… 😉

Remains: 2/5    Atmosphere: 4/5   Access: 4/5    Overall: 3/5