Finding Ancient Rome in Hadrian’s Wall country

This wasn’t a difficult mission as the Romans left an imprint on this part of northern Ireland with the  80 mile wide Hadrian’s wall crossing Britannia.  There’s a lot to see, and this report comes from a visit spread over two days: there’s obviously much more left to explore, but that’s for another day and blog.

We started our journey in Carlisle, ancient Lugovalium of old. It was one of the many forts dotted round Hadrian’s Wall, and the magnificent castle is built roughly on its site.

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The view of the castle above is taken from the Tullie House Museum lookout point which also depicts how the site would have looked in the 1st or 2nd Century AD.

Tullie House is a fascinating little museum that covers a lot of ground in terms of subject matter, and beautifully presents artefacts found in the town.  There’s even a chance to handle some of the Roman-era jewellery and keys found around the site,  a real highlight of the trip.

Below there’s workmanship in gold, bone and glass..

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Some of the fort’s stone  was also used to build the Norman-era cathedral…

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Moving further east, stands the remains of the fortof Vindolanda, home of the Vindolanda tablets, which (since the 1970s) have been telling us fascinating little details of life on the Roman frontier.

The ruins of the fort, and its neighbouring village or vicus, speak for themselves, with archaelogists completing their work throughout the summer months.

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The view from this bathhouse may just about have made up for some of the weather that visitors from more southern climes may have had to endure!

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There’s also a replica of a Hadrian’s wall watchtower, in both the later stone and earlier wood and turf version.

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The site also hosts a small museum and garden, the latter containing a replica Roman temple, and a heartfelt memorial to the Roman citizens from the many lands who served at this site. The museum also presents a fascinating exploration of the Vindolanda tablets, and how they are still being discovered.  These tablets were written by individuals living around the fort, and give fascinating details about daily life in this part of the Empire.  The tablets themselves can be viewed in the British Museum.

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Jewellery, glassware, shoes, socks, and other remnants of daily life seem to be in abundance here, including this lovely example of a betrothal brooch.

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Further along the line of the wall stands the Roman Army Museum, built on the site of a  IMG_0742fort which has largely vanished from view, Magna. It’s in walking distance of one of the most impressive parts of the wall at Walltown Crags.  This little museum isn’t something you’d expect to find in rural England, and would be equally at home in Rome itself. It gives a brilliant explanation of the Roman Army, how it was constituted, and the differences between auxiliaries and citizen members. It’s also a great opportunity to hear from Hadrian himself, and see an excellent 3D film of an “eagle’s eye” view of life on the wall. Watching the trailer below makes me want to go back and explore more of the stunning scenery along the length of the Wall.

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