The best of Roman Britain

BY Fiona Hicks

1st Jan 2015 Travel

The best of Roman Britain

Delve into the remnants of Roman Britain with our handy guide and discover the quieter corners of the country that were once central to an empire. 

Brading Roman Villa, Isle of Wight

Brading Roman Villa, Isle of Wight

Positioned in the middle of an Area of Outstanding National Beauty, this large Roman villa and courtyard contains some of the best-preserved (and recognisable) mosaic floors in the country. There’s also a huge array of artefacts, exhibits, and interactive displays, which are great for keeping even the littlest visitors engaged.

When you’ve had your fill of Roman history, check out the additional gallery space that hosts collections from other museums, or meander up the meadow trail that shows off the surrounding countryside. 

Arguably the best feature of all, however, is the Forum Cafe. Here you can enjoy home-made cakes, baguettes brimming with fillings and, should you so fancy, a pint of locally brewed cider—all while looking over the rolling landscape down to Sandown Bay.


Antonine Wall, Scotland

Antonine Wall, Scotland

Twenty years after building the famous Hadrian’s Wall, the Romans decided to extend their territory even further, fashioning the magnificent Antonine Wall 99 miles north.

Stretching from Old Kilpatrick on the west coast to near Bo’ness in the east, this wooden construction, 37 miles in length, took 12 years to complete—overseen by the governor of Roman Britain at the time, Quintus Lollius Urbicus.

However, despite their ambitions, the Romans weren’t able to conquer the hardy Caledonians; the Antoine Wall suffered many attacks before being abandoned just eight years after completion.

Although not as well-preserved than its more southern sibling, the Antonine Wall still provides a fascinating, historical route for a ramble, bike ride or leisurely drive. The Rough Castle is particularly worth a visit, featuring the tallest surviving portion of the Antonine Wall rampart.


The Roman Bath Inn, York

There are plenty of places to see Roman baths in Britain—not least the city in Somerset—but there are few that offer a pint in the process. In 1930, it was discovered that this unassuming pub in the centre of York had been built on top of some remarkable Roman ruins.

“You have to make a decision when you walk through the front door of the pub—turn left into the bar, or straight down the stairs into the museum,” says the pub’s manager Graham Harris. 

With visible foot indentions in the tiles, the bath is impressively restored but, as Graham remarks, “Roman remains are found at an average depth of 13 feet under the modern city, so what we have is part of the paltry two per cent of Roman York excavated so far. There’s so much work for future archaeologists.”

Something to mull over as your enjoy your pint.


Caerleon, Wales

Carelon Wales

This pretty Welsh town held great significance from 75AD to 300AD, acting as the headquarters for Legio II Augusta. “Caerleon was one of only three permanent fortresses in Roman Britain,” says local Dai Price, and it’s unique in that many of the remains lie undisturbed.

For this reason, it’s easy—indeed tempting—to imagine yourself as a Roman centurion, wandering round his settlement, during a visit. Pass the sturdy fortress wall, pause at the magnificent amphitheatre and stroll back to the barrack buildings. The latter is the finest-preserved example in Europe, displaying the centurion’s expansive quarters at the front and the legionaries’ smaller rooms at the back.

The National Roman Legion Museum houses further artefacts from the region, and puts on a variety of events (Roman-themed and others) throughout the year.


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