Five Roman sites in Northumberland you may not know about

An exposed section of Roman road at Holystone.
An exposed section of Roman road at Holystone.

Northumberland has its fair share of famous Roman sites – Hadrian’s Wall, Vindolanda and Housesteads Fort chief among them – but here are five that you may not know about.

This information all comes from Alnwick author Ian Hall’s new book, Edge of Empire – A Guide to the Roman Remains in the Northumberland Landscape, which can be purchased for £5.50, including UK postage and packing. Visit www.wildsofwanney.co.uk

1. Roman bridge, Corbridge: The remains of a bridge that was built to cross the Tyne at Corbridge are visible around 400m upstream along the riverside path from the car park at the modern bridge. The bridge abutment has recently been relocated to avoid the risk of damage in the event of flooding.

2. Swine Hill Camp, Ridsdale: The whole area of Dere Street (the Roman road from York to Scotland which is followed today by the A68) is littered with the remains of temporary camps. This one is notable because it is easy to access – parking is available at the entrance to The Steel. Near here is Robin of Risingham, a Roman shrine to a Celtic god which was deliberately damaged by the landowner in the 19th century to deter visitors. A half-sized replica has been installed, but the site is not readily accessible to the public.

3. Risingham Fort: This is at West Woodburn and was called Habitancum. Today, its outline can be clearly seen along with the foundations of some of the internal buildings. Access is currently permitted by the landowner.

4. High Rochester: This is the site of Bremenium, which was the last Roman fort on Dere Street before the Cheviot Hills as well as the junction of the Roman road to Learmouth, near Whittingham. At the fort, there is a permissive path which allows access to the complete perimeter as well as a public footpath through the middle of the site. The exterior boundary is very clear and the walls and parts of the gates are well-exposed.

5. Holystone: The Roman road between Bremenium and Whittingham runs just past Holystone and has left two key remains. It is very rare in Northumberland to be able to see an exposed section of roadway, but this is possible by following the forest track west from the village’s car park. It starts to follow the route of the Roman road and 800m after passing through a gate, the exposed section can be found in the heather at the point where the track bends to the right. Signposted from the village is Lady’s Well, which has a history dating back to pagan times and is now a Christian shrine, but was likely adopted by the Romans as a wayside shrine.