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ANTONINE WALL : an overview

ACCESS : The Antonine Wall crosses the isthmus of central Scotland. It can be accessed to varying degrees along its length. See the sections on forts below for local conditions. 

Scheduled Monument and World Heritage Site.

///magnitude.refers.crisp  This is the easiest start / end point if you walk the Wall. WARNING! This area for parking is miniscule and the kerb has been badly washed out, making it almost unusable. 

 https://w3w.co/instructs.debut.downsize Western start / end point of the Wall right on the river bank.

///ladder.chase.expect Eastern start / end of the Wall within Western Dunbartonshire. It does of course run all the way to / from Bo'ness.

If you wish to walk the route in part or completely, a good place to start is at the Old Kilpatrick Fort, but an easier starting point is at the gas governor north of the A82 motorway. To get here : From Station Road in Old Kilpatrick proceed up Station Road. This passes under the A82. Head past the gas governor to the very small parking area (not the area beyond it). From there look for signage. You then head eastwards. This is mainly a grass track that follows the original wall. The route passes across the well defined Golden Hill fort site. From then on it becomes difficult to trace. The West Dunbartonshire section bypasses the site of the Cleddans Fortlet and heads through suburbia and then open terrain again until terminating at Castle Hill, on the very edge of East Dunbartonshire and Bearsden. You can of course walk all the way from here to Bo'ness where the wall ends. 

The walking route follows the field boundary which in turn had been set following, but not actually on the Wall's edge. This view is of the path as it leaves the carpark as described above. At this point the Wall is running a little to the left (north) of you. 


Old Kilpatrick is at the westernmost end of the Antonine Wall. There was already a fort here before the Wall, but that was enlarged. Those Romans seem to have felt a need for a stronger and more intimidating means of defending their Empire against the local tribes. The Wall was located here as it served as a barrier between north and south and acted together with the Forth Firth and the Clyde Firth. West of here and to the north was a terrain much less conducive to the control by Roman troops. The Romans will have explored further along the coast, certainly to Dumbarton Rock and very likely to Ardmore Point. But to all practical purposes, Old Kilpatrick was the very edge of the Roman Empire in this direction. 

West Dunbartonshire residents smugly like to think that the Romans couldn't get past them. This is evidently not true. It is very possible that the locals alternated between compliance, even trade, and rebelliousness. The terrain from this point north proved a more forbidding barrier to the Romans. This though is a very different picture to that on the east side of Scotland. Those Romans had managed to penetrate far northwards.

The building of his Antonine Wall was ordered by Emperor Antoninus Pius in AD 140. Construction under the Roman general, Quintus Lollius Urbicus, started two years later and took six years to complete. The Wall consisted of a bank of turf almost 3m high and 4m wide, topped with an imposing wooden palisade. Alongside it was a ditch as an added barrier and a road along which to move troops and supplies. Sixteen forts (possibly up to nineteen) were built along the length of the wall to house the many hundreds of Roman soldiers that manned it. Here in West Dunbartonshire, we have the sites of three forts and some smaller fortlets. 

Perpetual harassment by the locals and the need to redeploy troops elsewhere in the Empire induced the Romans to abandon the wall in about AD 165, less than twenty years after its completion!

In the next sections we will discuss the main features along our length of the Wall from Old Kilpatrick to Golden Hill and from there to Castle Hill which borders East Dunbartonshire at Bearsden. 

Historic Environment Scotland (HES, at the time Historic Scotland, HS) liaised with local authorities along the Wall (including West Dunbartonshire) and had it raised to a UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE (WH). The whole process required intensive research and mapping and the results can be seen in the form of a publication in our local libraries. While the benefits of greater monitoring and promotion from higher authority are evident, each local authority undertook to have its own projects and an enhanced degree of planning intervention where that is required. This latter aspect means better control where new development proposals are within or in close proximity to the Wall. The WHS requirements included a better defined barrier zone along the whole Wall within which development had to be either denied or meet very stringent criteria. At a local level, this is controlled by the West Dunbartonshire Council Planning Department. 

Community consultations were held at the time of the WHS application and followed up in subsequent years. Community suggestions included improved signage, improved route surfaces and written guidance, both in hard copy and online. 

The Rediscovering The Antonine Wall Project took place between October 2018 and March 2023 with the findings published that spring.

Historic Environment Scotland and East and West Dunbartonshire councils will host consultations in each local authority for members of the community to present their views about the future management of the UNESCO World Heritage site. That for West Dunbartonshire is set for January 24 2024 at OKFP Napier Hall, between 6pm and 8pm.

It is a particular challenge to realise those ideals locally. History and heritage is so often hidden. This is the case with Old Kilpatrick Fort, the site of which is under buildings, and much of the "wall" is hardly discernible. But that make it no less important to our history. There is so much still to do, but some signage and an improved car park at a westerly point from which to start walking it have now been realised. 

A great deal has been published on the subject and is available online. For a more locally relevant source, the Antonine Wall Heritage Trail published by the West Dunbartonshire Council is recommended. It can be downloaded as a pdf from the link below. 

A visit to the Huntarian Museum at the University of Glasgow is highly recommended. Amongst its collection are distance slabs from our end of the Antonine Wall. 

For those intent on a more thorough knowledge of Romans in Scotland and the Antonine Wall, a look at Historic Environment Scotland's publications is advised. 

The signage at the point that many people head off to the hills or along the route of the Wall.

West Dunbartonshire residents generally have a pride and interest in the Antonine Wall where it passes through their local authority area. In spite of this and the fact that the council signed up to its promotion and future, promotion is far from sufficient. That sign in the picture above is indicative of that. It indicates a significant walking route from Old Kilpatrick Fort to the next one at Golden Hill. We need more promotional signage, way markers and a proper carpark. The Antonine Wall is so important and so interesting, but is difficult to find. 

A suggestion has been to erect steel silhouettes of Roman soldiers along the length of the Wall at strategic points. This would encourage visitors to find them all and enable them to envisage those who manned it.

The Wall runs up from Old Kilpatrick Fort (now under a warehouse) to the very edge of the gas governor fence. From there it turns a sharp right / eastwards and runs through farmland almost parallel with the path shown in the top picture. 


Horsley writing in 1732 in his Britannia Romana or the Roman Antiquities of Britain.notes the following. The pages numbers are shown with the prefix "n" and there are some other strange annotations picked up from the autotranscription. Note the old spellings that uses for Dunglass. What we read as "f" was actually used as "s". You should be able to make our some familiar names such as Alt Clut shown as Alcluith. Caer-ridden appears to refer to the caer = fortress and Ridden = Rydderch, Hael Rydderch being its ruler in the 6th / 7th centuries.

Page n260

Before wc can determine the exad length of this wall, wc muft enquire where it has ended both on the eaft and the weft. Mr. Gordon fupDoles Cacr-ridden (ufually called Carinn) to be the eaftern limit of the vv'all, and Old Kirkpatrick the weftern'. Others think it has reached farther weft, and not ib far eaft 5 fuppofing T>imglafs to be the weftcrn limit, and Kinmel the caftcrn. The common opinion and tradition of the people there is in favour of 'Dmiglafs. They talk of ftriking fometimes upon the foundation of the Roman wall at the Clofe, not half a mile north-eaft from Old Kirkpatnck -, and then if the wall has proceeded nearly in the fame line, it muft have gone as far as 'Dimglafs before it reached the frith. At 'Dunglafs there is a fort of promontory, and the land juts out into the frith, which is deep here clofe to the Ihorc ; v/hereas near Old Kirkpatrick the bottom is flat, and the river Ihallow, fo that at low water there would be room enough to pafs by the end of the wall. Befides, the military way has certainly been continued as far as 'Dnnglafs, for it is ftill very vifible zx.'T)unnerbuck within half a mile or little more of T>unglafs. This at leaft makes it evident that there has been a ftacion at 'Dunglafs, whether we fuppofe the wall to have been fo far continued or not. The principal arguments againft the opinion of the wall's being continued fo far as '\Dunglafs, are thcfe ; that there are no certain vifible remains of it farther weft than Old Kirkpatrick, the Teeming faint appearance of the ditch near T>unnerbtick not being fuch as can be depended on ; and that the mountains on the north fide, along the skirts of which it muft have been carried on to 'Dimglafs., would render the continuation of it almoft entirely ufelefs. To thefe may be added the authority of Bede '', who fays '■ it ended at the town " of Alcluith ;" near Old Kirkpatrick.

Page n265

I Have already faid, that it has been made a qucftion, whether the wall began at 'Dunglafs or at Old Kirkpatrick ; and have hinted at the rcafons on both fides. Old Kirkpatrick and Caer-ridden are made the termini by Mr. Gordon, and upon the whole I rather incline to his fentiment. However there has been in all probability a Roman fort at Tiunglafs, the ruins of which might eafily be buried in the modern fort creded there by Oliver Cromwelly which alfo is now become ruinous. From Dunglafs to Old Kirkpatrick is near two miles. And this, if I am not miftaken, has been for the moft part obferved as the regular diftance between the forts in this feries ; in which refpect it dift'ers from that on the wall of Severus, the forts in general alio ftanding clofer on this wall, than on that in the north of England.

Page n914

Dunglafs. 159, 164.

Page n918

182,277,278,279. Drummond Caftle, an infcription there. 20J. Ducenarii, officer sin the empire. 475. Dulcitius, general in Britain. 73. ■ Duni pacis, an account of them. 175. Dunglafs, afiation there. 164. Dunftable, the

ANTONINE WALL website : https://www.antoninewall.org/ and https://www.antoninewall.org/world-heritage/managing-antonine-wall/west-dunbartonshire-council

HERITAGE DAILY : https://www.heritagedaily.com/2021/01/vallum-antonini-the-antonine-wall/136706 This has a useful map and aerial photos. 

HISTORIC ENVIRONMENT SCOTLAND publications : https://www.historicenvironment.scot/archives-and-research/publications/?searchPubText=antonine+wall

HORSLEY : Britannia Romana or the Roman Antiquities of Britain.1783 : A copy of his book can be found here. The free version has gaps in the text though . https://archive.org/details/britanniaromanao00hors/page/362/mode/2up?view=theater&q=dunglafs

HUNTARIAN MUSEUM : https://www.gla.ac.uk/hunterian/collections/permanentdisplays/theantoninewall/

WEST DUNBARTONSHIRE COUNCIL website : General information : https://www.west-dunbarton.gov.uk/council/newsroom/news/2020/nov/antonine-wall/ and Antonine Wall Heritage Trail booklet as pdf : https://www.west-dunbarton.gov.uk/media/2619055/antonine.pdf

WIKIPEDIA : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonine_Wall

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