Cawdor (Roman fort)

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Cawdor Roman Fort is located near Inverness, at the northern tip of the Scotland Lowlands.

Cawdor (Roman Fort), located near the small village of Eastern Galcantray (15 miles east of Inverness), is suspected of being one of the northernmost Roman forts in Great Britain, though this evidence is controversial.[1]


In 1984, a strong candidate for a Roman fort was identified at Easter Galcantray, south west of Cawdor, by aerial photography.[2]

The site was excavated between 1984 and 1988 and several features were identified which are supportive of this classification. Roman pottery similar to the one found in the great Inchtuthil Roman fort has been positively found.

Jones (1986a) interpreted the main structural phase within the (Cawdor) site’s history as potential evidence for the presence of a Roman military work. This assumption was based on a number of salient factors. These include: the rectilinear form of the enclosure ditch, with its V-shaped profile; the associated timber gate and corner tower; the presence of possible contemporary rectilinear timber buildings, which appear reminiscent in both size and form to barrack blocks; and finally, the dating evidence. This, based on the one sigma calibrated range, suggests the slighting of the site during the late first century AD, which would correspond to the governorship of Agricola, or possibly his unknown successor.[3]

If confirmed, it would be the most northerly known Roman fort in the British Isles.[4] The possibility that Agricola reached the northernmost area of Scotland can be confirmed by discoveries north of Inverness. Specifically at Portmahomack [5] and Tarradale in northern Beauly Firth.[6]

Indeed, the Roman legions in the first century established forts at Ardoch, Strageath, Inchtuthil, Battledykes, and Raedykes, taking the Elsick Mounth on the way to Normandykes.

Agricola's Fort?[edit]

In the summer of 84 Agricola defeated the massed armies of the Caledonians, led by Calgacus, at the Battle of Mons Graupius.

Satisfied with his victory, Agricola extracted hostages from the Caledonian tribes and instructed his fleet to sail around the north coast, confirming for the first time that Britain was in fact an island.

He then may have marched his army to the northern coast of Britain,[7] and reached the Inverness area where his army could have made the Eastern Galcantray Fort.

A single fragment of Roman coarse ware was found in the bottom of the ditch outside the south-west gateway along with burnt material; this pottery has very similar fabric to that found at Inchtuthil. In addition to this sparse pottery evidence, the demolition deposits in the western ditch yielded a piece of charcoal which has been radiocarbon dated to A.D.80-130 (Calibrated).[2]

Indeed, a radiocarbon test of material found in this Roman Fort gave a possible date of construction during the Agricola campaign.[8]

The fort was dismantled, according to the research done by Jones and Keillar, after only one year of use, confirming the sudden withdrawal of Agricola from Roman Britain in 85 AD.

Cawdor Roman Fort is located near Inverness. It was considered the northernmost place of Roman conquest and presence in Britannia, until the recent discovery of Roman military presence at Tarradale and Portmahomack.

Furthermore some scholars, like Roy,[9] Surenne,[10] Watt,[11] and Hogan[12] believe that the Battle of Mons Graupius was fought in 82 near the Roman Camps of Raedykes [13] or Glenmailen.[14]

But Vittorio di Martino (author of "Roman Ireland", about a possible Roman expedition to Ireland) believes that this Roman victory happened in the area southwest of Cawdor.[15]


  1. ^ Roman Fort discovery at Cawdor/Eastern Galcantray
  2. ^ Hanson, W. S., 1988 Roman campaigns north of the Forth-Clyde isthmus: the evidence of the temporary camps. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 109: 140-50
  3. ^ Excavations of Jones and Daniels at Easter Galcantray, Balnageith, Thomshill e Boyndie. p.204-205
  4. ^ Roman fort near Inverness
  5. ^ RCAHMS: Port A'Chaistell
  6. ^ Google Book: Tarradale, a possible roman camp. p. 176
  7. ^ Stan Wolfson 2002. THE BORESTI : THE CREATION OF A MYTH In the manuscript of Agricola 38.2: "In finis Borestorum exercitum deducit - He led his army down into the territory of the Boresti" may be emended to: in finis boreos totum exercitum deducit - He led his entire army down into the northern extremities"
  8. ^ Excavations at Cawdor 1986
  9. ^ William Roy, The Military Antiquities of the Romans in Britain, 1793
  10. ^ Gabriel Jacques Surenne, 1823 Correspondence to Sir Walter Scott
  11. ^ Archibald Watt, Highways and byways around Kincardineshire, Stonehaven Heritage Soc., Scotland
  12. ^ C. Michael Hogan, Elsick Mounth, The Megalithic Portal, ed. A. Burnham. [1]
  13. ^ Raedykes
  14. ^ Glenmaillen: Roman Camps of Agricola and Septimius Severus
  15. ^ Di Martino, Vittorio. Roman Ireland p. 14


  • Di Martino, Vittorio. Roman Ireland. The Collins Press. London, 2003.
  • Jones and Keillar. Excavations at Cawdor. University of Manchester, 1986
  • Hanson, William S. "The Roman Presence: Brief Interludes", in Edwards, Kevin J. & Ralston, Ian B.M. (Eds) (2003) Scotland After the Ice Age: Environment, Archaeology and History, 8000 BC - AD 1000. Edinburgh. Edinburgh University Press.
  • Hanson, William S. Roman campaigns north of the Forth-Clyde isthmus: the evidence of the temporary camps, Proc Soc Antiq Scot, vol.109 142, 145 Edinburgh, 1980.
  • Macdonald, G (1916) The Roman camps at Raedykes and Glenmailen, Proc Soc Antiq Scot, vol.50 348-359
  • Maxwell, G S (1980) Agricola's campaigns: the evidence of the temporary camps, Scot Archaeol Forum, vol.12 34, 35, 40, 41
  • Moffat, Alistair (2005) Before Scotland: The Story of Scotland Before History. London. Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-05133-X
  • Pitts, L. Inchtuthil. The Roman Legionary Fortress. Britannia Monograph Series 6 (1985)
  • Robertson, A S (1976) Agricola's campaigns in Scotland, and their aftermath, Scot Archaeol Forum, vol.7 4
  • St Joseph, J K (1951) Air reconnaissance of North Britain, J Roman Stud, vol.41 65
  • Woolliscroft,D. and Hoffmann,B. The First Frontier. Rome in the North of Scotland (Stroud: Tempus 2006)

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 57°30′44″N 3°59′21″W / 57.51213°N 3.98907°W / 57.51213; -3.98907