An article from

'The Topographical, Statistical, and Historical Gazetteer of Scotland'

Published by A.Fullarton and Co. - 1848

Roman Roads

ROMAN ROADS -The Romans have left many remarkable monuments of their power and greatness, of which the most prominent are their highways, which, commencing at the gates of Rome itself, traversed the whole extent of their mighty empire. These highways, by facilitating the communication between the capital and the most distant provinces were of the utmost importance, in many respects, to the maintenance of the Roman authority in places remote from the seat of government. —The whole of Britain was intersected by these roads; and one of them may be traced into the very interior of Vespasiana, where it afforded a passage to the Roman armies, kept up the communication between the stations, and thereby checked the Caledonian clans.

This road issued from the wall of Antoninus, and passed through CAMELON, [which see,] the Roman port on the Carron, and pushing straight forward according to the Roman custom, across the Carron, it pursued its course by Torwood-house, Pleanmuir, Bannockburn, St. Ninian's, and by the west side of the Castlehill of Stirling, to the Forth, on the south side of which, near Kildean, there are traces of its remains. It here passed the Forth, and stretched forward to Alauna, which was situated on the river Allan, about a mile above its confluence with the Forth, and which, as it is 12 miles from the opening in the Roman wall, agrees with the distance in the Iter. From thence the road went along Strathallan and at the end of 10 miles came to the Lindum of Richard's Itinerary, the well-known station at ARDOCH: which see. The road, after passing on the east side of Ardoch, ascends the moor of Orchil to the post at Kemp's-castle, which it passes within a few yards on the east. The road from Kemp's-hill descends the moor to the station of Hierna, at Strageth, from which it immediately crosses the river Earn. After the passage of the Earn, the road turns to the right, and passes on the north side of Inner-peffray, in an easterly direction, and proceeds nearly in a straight line across the moor of Gask, and, continuing its course through the plantations of Gask, it passes the Roman camp on the right. At the distance of 2 miles farther on, where the plantations of Gask terminate, this great road passes another small post on the left. From this position the road proceeded forward in a north-east direction to the station at Orrea, which is situated on the west bank of the Tay, at the present confluence of the Almond with that noble river. Having crossed the Tay, by means of the wooden-bridge, the Roman road proceeded up the east side of the river, and passed through the centre of the camp at Grassy-walls. From this position the remains of the road are distinctly visible for a mile up to Gellyhead, on the west of which it passed, and went on by Innerbuist, to Nether-Collin, where it again becomes apparent, and continues distinct to the eye for 2½ miles, passing on to Drichmuir and Byres. From thence, the road stretched forward in a north-east direction, passing between Blairhead and Gilwell to Woodhead; and thence pushing on by Newbigging and Gallowhill on the right, it descends Leyston-moor; and passing that village, it proceeds forward to the Roman camp at Cupar-Angus, about 11½ miles from Orrea. From Cupar the road took a north-east direction towards Reedie, in the parish of Airly. On the south of this hamlet the vestiges of the road again appear, and for more than half-a-mile the ancient road forms the modern way. The Roman road now points towards Kirriemuir, by which it appears to have passed in its course to the Roman camp at Battledikes. After traversing this camp, the road continued its course in an east-north-east direction for several miles along the valley on the south side of the river South Esk, which it probably passed near the site of Black-mill, below Esk-mount. From this passage it went across the moor of Brechin, where vestiges of it appear pointing to Keithock; and at this place there are the remains of a Roman camp which are now known by the name of Wardikes. Beyond this camp on the north, the Roman road has been seldom or never soon. 1n the popular tradition, this road is called the Lang Causeway, and is supposed to have extended northward through Perthshire and Forfarshire, and even through Kincardineshire to Stonehaven. About 2 miles north-east from the Roman station at Fordun, and between it and the well-known camp at Urie, there are the traces, as it crosses a small hill, of an artificial road, popularly called the Picts' road.

As the Romans had other stations in the north besides those noticed, they did not always in returning to the south follow the course of the Iter just described. They had another Iter, the first station of which from the Burgh-head was the Varis of Richard, now Forres, a distance of 8 statute miles. From Forres the Her proceeds to the Spey at Cromdale, a distance of 19 statute miles. Proceeding southward, along Strathaven by Loch-Bulg, to the junction of the Dee and Cluny, the Roman troops arrived at the commodious ford in that vicinity, a distance of 28 statute miles from the Spey. Richard does not mention the names of the two next stations, the first of which is supposed to have been at the height which separates the waters that flow in opposite directions to the Dee and the Tay, and which consequently divides Aberdeenshire from Perthshire; and the next, it is conjectured, was at the confluence of the Shee with the Lornty-water, the Her taking its course along Glen-beg and Glen-shee. The whole extent of this route amounts to nearly 40 statute miles. A variety of circumstances indicate the mid¬dle station to have been at Inohtuthel, which still exhibits a remarkable camp of Roman construction, on a height that forms the northern bank of the Tay. From the last-mentioned station to Orrea the distance is 9 itinerary miles, and the real and corresponding distance from Inchtuthel along the banks of tlie Tay to ancient Bertha is about 10 miles. At this central station—which has always been a military position of great importance —the Iter joined the one already described, and proceeded southward by the former route to the wall of Antoninus.

It would appear that there are traces of Roman roads even farther north. Between the rivers Don and Urie, in Aberdeenshire, on the eastern side of Bennachee, there exists an ancient road known in the country by the name of the Maiden Causeway, a name by which some of the Roman roads in the north of England are distinguished. This proceeds from Bennachee, whereon there was a hill-fort, more than the distance of a mile into the woods of Pitodrie, when it disappears : it is paved with stones, and is about 14 feet wide. Still farther north, in the track of the Iter, as it crosses between the two stations of Varis and Tuessis, from Forres to the ford of Cromdale on the Spey, there has been long known a road of very ancient construction, leading along the course ot the Her for several miles through the hills, and pointing to Cromdale, where the Romans must have lorded the Spey. Various traces of very ancient roads are still to be seen along the track of the Iter, between the distant station of Tuessis and Tamea, by Corgarf and through Braemar: the tradition of the people in Strathdee and Braemar, supports the idea that there are remains of Roman roads which traverse the country between the Don and the Dee. Certain it is, that there are obvious traces of ancient roads which cross the wild districts between Strath-don and Strathdee, though it is impossible to ascertain where or by whom such ancient roads were constructed, in such directions, throughout such a country.  




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