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Dere Street, Roman road, Soutra Aisle to Turf Law

A Scheduled Monument in Midlothian East, Midlothian

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Latitude: 55.8026 / 55°48'9"N

Longitude: -2.8591 / 2°51'32"W

OS Eastings: 346243

OS Northings: 656923

OS Grid: NT462569

Mapcode National: GBR 81GB.TS

Mapcode Global: WH7VP.1FS0

Entry Name: Dere Street, Roman road, Soutra Aisle to Turf Law

Scheduled Date: 27 November 1970

Last Amended: 24 September 2020

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM2962

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Roman: road

Location: Channelkirk/Fala and Soutra

County: Midlothian

Electoral Ward: Midlothian East

Traditional County: Berwickshire


The monument comprises a 4km long section of Dere Street, Roman road which dates to the 1st century AD. It runs from Soutra Aisle in the north (NT 4528 5826) to the southern flank of Turf Law in the south (NT 4725 5516). It was part of a network of Roman military sites across southern Scotland. The Roman road is overlain in places by later routeways dating to the medieval and post-medieval periods.

Immediately to the south of Soutra Aisle the road is visible as a pasture-mark. Beyond this the Roman road is visible as a cambered mound with narrow ditches and quarry pits along its length. Overlaying the road are numerous medieval and post-medieval hollow ways, visible as a series of converging and diverging tracks. Visible evidence of the monument terminates at the southern foot of Turf Law. It would have originally continued southeast towards Channelkirk Old Parish Church.

The scheduled area is irregular. It includes the remains described above and an area around within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. Exclusions include all modern post and wire fences, drystone walls, gates and the top 300mm of all modern tracks to allow further maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The national importance of the monument is demonstrated in the following way(s) (see Designations Policy and Selection Guidance, Annex 1, para 17):

a. The monument is of national importance because it makes a significant contribution to our understanding or appreciation of the past, as part of a Roman, medieval and post-medieval road network. It adds to our understanding of Roman military expansion into Scotland; the spread of Christianity in the early medieval period and its associated ecclesiastical foundations; medieval warfare and post-medieval trade and transport.

b.  The monument retains structural, architectural and other physical attributes which make a significant contribution to our understanding or appreciation of the past. In particular there is potential for the preservation of buried features and deposits relating to the Roman road, its use, re-use and abandonment. Significant upstanding remains provide evidence of the route's, construction techniques and its reuse during the medieval and post medieval period.

c.  The monument is a rare example of a Roman road in Scotland where significant upstanding remains survive in the form of a low wide bank with narrow ditches and quarry pits along its length. Overlaying the road are numerous medieval and post medieval hollow ways, visible as a series of converging and diverging heavily eroded paths.

d.  The monument is a particularly good example of a Roman road which has been re-used into the medieval and post-medieval period. It is therefore an important representative of this monument type.

e.  The monument has research potential which could significantly contribute to our understanding or appreciation of the past. It contributes to our understanding the earliest prehistoric uses of the route way, the Roman occupation of Scotland and spread of Christianity. Investigation of the road's post-medieval period would provide information on its later use and reasons for subsequent abandonment.

f.  The monument makes a significant contribution to today's landscape and our understanding of the historic landscape by continuing to provide a navigable route with significant upstanding remains. It connects Roman military sites and medieval ecclesiastical sites.

g.  The monument has significant associations with historical, traditional, social or artistic figures, events or movements including the Roman occupation of what is now Southern Scotland, and individuals from that period such as the general and Governor of Britain Gnaeus Julius Agricola and Emperor Antoninus Pius. Due to its significance as a route, it is mentioned in the early medieval poem 'Y Goddodin' and was used by significant figures such as St Cuthbert; Malcolm IV of Scotland; Edward I of England and Bonnie Prince Charlie. 


Assessment of Cultural Significance

This statement of national importance has been informed by the following assessment of cultural significance:

Intrinsic characteristics (how the remains of a site or place contribute to our knowledge of the past)

The monument heads south from Soutra Aisle (scheduled monument SM3067) at NT 45286 58260, visible as a pasture-mark until it meets a modern field boundary at NT 45290 58048, where it is visible as a series of earthworks and quarry pits. The road has been specifically engineered to overcome the challenging natural topography of the Lammermuir Hills to provide the straightest route.

Archaeological investigation has identified physical evidence of Roman road's construction and adaptive engineering solutions. On a terrace on the west side of Dun Law, a metalled surface 8.08m wide by 1.07m deep over 0.36m of gravel was identified at NT455, 573 and on the northwest section of Turf Law at NT 466 562 the road was found to be 8.22m and 0.2m thick with a kerb on the downward slope of the hill (Willy and Gilbert 1964, 24). Further archaeological excavation at NT 4643 5663 has identified a rare example lattice of timbers and brushwood bundles used as a foundation layer for the road allowing it to span an area of boggy ground in a former paleochannel without sinking (O'Connell 2014, 5, 9). Radiocarbon dates from this excavation of 40 BC to 220 AD confirmed the construction of the monument during the Roman invasion and occupation of southern Scotland (O'Connell 2014, 13).

These excavations also suggest that attempts had been made to repair the metalled road surface (O'Connell 2014, 6). These attempts were eventually abandoned and later routes are clearly visible as an intricate series of overlapping hollow-ways which cross the original line of the Roman road eroding it in several places. Roy's Military Map of the Lowlands 1752-55 confirms that the road was still in use from Soutree (Soutra) Hill to Chingle Kirk (Channelkirk).

Contextual characteristics (how a site or place relates to its surroundings and/or to our existing knowledge of the past)

The Roman road and subsequent hollow-ways continue to provide a clear navigable route through the Lammermuir Hills.  Close to the southern end of the monument the line of the road lies between two Iron Age hillforts Kirktonhill, Fort 400m WSW of (scheduled monument SM4628) and Hillhouse 250m NNW of (scheduled monument SM4627). These forts may have controlled a prehistoric north/ south routeway that predated the construction of the Roman road.

This section of Dere Street was part of a much longer route which linked the legionary fortresses of Eboracum (York) and Inchtuthil (scheduled monument SM1606) near Perth (O'Connell 2014, 1-4). This section of road enters a Roman temporary camp (Canmore ID 54587; 54620) at Channelkirk before heading south to the Roman fortlet and camps of Oxton (scheduled monuments SM4378 and SM2837). These camps straddle the line of the road between the earlier Iron Age hillforts and may have been established as a demonstration of Roman authority and to maintain a vital line of communication with northern forts such as at Inveresk (scheduled monument SM3285) and Cramond (scheduled monument SM2526) (HES 2011, 1).

This section of road also connects two medieval ecclesiastical sites - Channelkirk Church (Canmore ID 54590) and the medieval hospital at Soutra (scheduled monument SM3067 and SM7573). The Roman road continued to be part of a wider road network which in the early medieval period assisted the spread of Christianity to sites such as Old Melrose (scheduled monument SM3536: Low 2000, 14).

During the middle ages the route was known as the 'King's Road' (Mackay 1998, 61). It has been suggested that the northern end of the monument joined with the Girthgate, another medieval road (Mackay 1998, 29). By the mid-18th century William Roy's a 'Sketch of Agricola's camp near Channel Kirk' identifies this route as the 'Old Road to Edinburgh,' and from 1760 it was replaced by a new turnpike road, now the A68 (Mackay 1998, 61). As a result, Dere Street was latterly used for driving livestock.

Associative characteristics (how a site or place relates to people, events, and/or historic and social movements)

The monument is associated with several significant historical figures and events. The Roman road was constructed during the 1st century AD and is associated with the Roman General and Governor of Britain Gnaeus Julius Agricola and the Roman invasion of Scotland. It was used during the Roman advance northward in AD 139 and the establishment of the new frontier, marked by the Antonine Wall – this helped consolidate the reign of the Emperor Antoninus Pius (Breeze 2006, 21). 

Dere Street gained its name in the early medieval period, and is said to derive from the 6th century Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Deira through which it passed (O'Connell 2014, 4). It is recounted in the old Welsh poem Y Gododdin that around the year 600 AD it was used by a warband of the Gododdin who left Din Eidyn (Edinburgh) to battle the Angles at Catraeth, which may be  Catterick in Yorkshire (Clancy 1970). In the 7th century the monument became associated with St Cuthbert, who was known to have used the road during his pilgrimages. St Cuthbert may have been particularly familiar with this stretch of Dere Street as he is said to have ministered to the people of Channelkirk and undertaken journeys through the Lammermuir Hills (Allan 1900, 107).

In the mid-12th century Dere Street was used by Malcolm IV of Scotland during his foundation of Soutra Aisle (scheduled monument SM3067; SM7573) (RCAHMS 1929, 69). It was used again by Edward I of England during his march to the Battle of Falkirk in the late 13th century and by Bonny Prince Charlie's army who camped at Channelkirk during the Jacobite uprising of 1745 (Allan 1900, 122-132, 215-216).

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 71766; (accessed on 31/01/2020).

Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 71890 (accessed on 31/01/2020).

Allan, A. (1900), History of Channelkirk. Edinburgh: James Thin.

Breeze, D. (2006), Roman Scotland Frontier Country. London: BT Batsford.

Clancy, J P (1970), 'Y Gododdin' in Earliest Welsh Poetry. London: Macmillan.

Historic Environment Scotland (2011), Dere Street Roman Road North & South - Statement of Significance. Edinburgh, HES. [available at:] (viewed on 31/01/2020).

Jones, R.H. (2011), Roman Camps in Scotland. Edinburgh: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

Low, M. (2000), St. Cuthbert's Way. Glasgow: Wild Goose Publications.

Mackay, J.J. (1998), Border Highways. Kelso: John James Mackay.

O' Connell et al. (2014) Excavation Across The Dere Street Roman Road at Dun Law Scottish Borders. Edinburgh: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Historic Scotland, Scottish Archaeological Internet Reports Vol. 57 [Available at:] (viewed on 06/02/2020).

Willy, S and Gilbert, J. M. (1964) Berwickshire, Dere Street in Discovery and Excavation Scotland 1964, p. 24 [Available at:] (viewed on; 14/02/2020).

Ordnance Survey (revised 1892, published 1894) Edinburgh XVO.16 (Channelkirk; Fala and Soutra). 25 inches to the mile. 1st Edition. Southampton: Ordnance Survey. [Available at:] (viewed on; 14/02/2020).

RCAHMS (1929) The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland An Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in the Counties of Midlothian and West Lothian. Edinburgh: His Majesty's Stationery Office.

RCAHMS (1956), The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. An Inventory of the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Roxburghshire Volume II, Edinburgh: Her Majesty's Stationery Office.

Roy, W. (1793) Military Antiquities of the Romans in North Britain. London: W. Bulmer and Co. [Available at:] (viewed on 14/02/2020).
Historic Environment Scotland Properties
Dere Street Roman Road - North
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Dere Street Roman Road - South
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Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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