Just over 2,000 years ago, the Romans invaded Britain. They brought with them roads, fortifications and a link to Europe that has never been severed. Travelers to the United Kingdom who are interested in ancient history will be fascinated to see that many of important Roman sites have been preserved over the years and can still be visited today.
Take for example, Hadrian’s Wall. When you are staying in Edinburgh, try to find hotels near this ancient border that divided the Roman Empire from the then-mysterious north. Built in about the first century A.D. during Emperor Hadrian’s rule, this was once the most heavily guarded place in the entire country. Now a crumbling reminder of the Romans’ rule, you can see portions of it that have been preserved. Originally, it was more than 110 kilometers long and up to six meters tall, but the surviving pieces are only about three meters tall. If you have the time and inclination, many tourists enjoy walking along it on part of the National Trail between Wallsend and Bowness-on-Solway in the summer.
If Hadrian’s Wall seems too far from the attractions you’re visiting in Scotland or Northern England, from Edinburgh you can also reach the Antonine Wall and Rough Castle Fort, Roman ruins closer to the Firth of Forth.
Caerleon Roman Fortress and Baths
If Wales is a stop on your itinerary, don’t miss the Caerleon Roman Fortress and Baths in Caerleon. The fortress, originally called Isca Augusta, was the base for Roman legions from 75 to 300 A.D. The surviving complex includes the barracks, baths and an amphitheater. Recently, a Roman harbor was discovered there. This harbor would have served the town and fortress.
While visiting Caerleon, don’t skip the attached National Roman Legion Museum, which displays artifacts from the fortress in various exhibits.
You don’t need to make special trips to Scotland or Wales to view artifacts from the Roman occupation of the British Isles. Even if London is the only city you plan to visit, you can experience some British-Roman history. To get the most out of your trip, book London hotels in the original Roman city walls; visit this link for more information about convenient places to stay at.
The Museum of London offers plenty of information about the capital as it was during Roman times, including maps that show prominent landmarks of yesteryear. Take an excursion to the Guildhall Art Gallery to see the remains of a Roman amphitheater, unearthed in the 1980s.
While the actual castle called Portchester is medieval in origin, it was built on an older fort from the Roman era. Both fortifications in Hampshire are thought to have been built here because of the proximity to Portsmouth Harbor, a strategic natural port. Visitors to Portchester can explore the fort’s ruins, go inside the castle itself and enter a church on the premises.
Perhaps the most famous Roman ruins in the United Kingdom are those in Bath. After all, the city in Somerset was named for the spas built by the Romans who wanted to take advantage of the area’s natural hot springs. The Romans built baths here and fortified the city with a wall during the Roman Empire’s last years. In the years following the empire’s decline, the baths were left unused for centuries. Finally, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the spas became popular once again.
Nowadays, visitors can explore the Roman baths with an audio guide, but can’t actually swim in them. Visitors can, however, see the curse tablets, which are small sheets of lead that someone who was wronged inscribed a curse and then threw into the springs. Many of these tablets found in Bath curse thieves for having stolen a swimmer’s clothes. The museum of the Roman Baths also features a large collection of Roman coins.
Author Louise Vinciguerra enjoys matching her fonts with her moods. When this Brooklyn native is not on Facebook, WordPress or Twitter, she’s traveling in search of fun food, dabbling in urban farming or planning nature trips from her resident city of Rome.