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Mid Raeburn to Craik Cross Hill, Roman road & watch tower

A Scheduled Monument in Annandale East and Eskdale, Dumfries and Galloway

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Latitude: 55.32 / 55°19'12"N

Longitude: -3.1181 / 3°7'5"W

OS Eastings: 329144

OS Northings: 603451

OS Grid: NT291034

Mapcode National: GBR 66NX.QR

Mapcode Global: WH6WR.2JGZ

Entry Name: Mid Raeburn to Craik Cross Hill, Roman road & watch tower

Scheduled Date: 15 January 1959

Last Amended: 12 August 2010

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM675

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Roman: road

Location: Eskdalemuir

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Annandale East and Eskdale

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire


The monument comprises the remains of a Roman road and watchtower, possibly of late 1st or mid-2nd century AD date. The surviving section of road is approximately 4.8km in length, ascending Craik Cross Hill as a terraced roadway before running down towards Mid Raeburn through a series of cuttings, crossing boggy ground and several hillocks. This section of road forms part of a longer route linking the Scottish Borders with Eskdale. The remains of a possible watchtower stand on the summit of Craik Cross Hill, close to the line of the road. The monument was first scheduled in 1959 but an inadequate area was included to protect all of the remains; the present rescheduling rectifies this and improves the associated documentation.

This stretch of the Roman road appears mainly as a system of several deep cuttings into the peat with a smaller number of terraces and embankments along its length. Within some cuttings it is evident that the Roman army simply exposed the natural bedrock and used this as the road surface. Along the embankment and terraced sections, a stony, metalled surface is visible in places as a broad cambered mound. While following a broadly NE-SW course, the road makes numerous small changes in direction because of topography.

On the summit of Craik Cross Hill, approximately 10m W of the road, stands a mound approximately 11m in diameter and 1m in height surrounded by a shallow ditch some 1.8m wide. A trial excavation in 1946 proved inconclusive, revealing no datable finds or characteristically Roman structures although its form is reminiscent of a watchtower. An alternative interpretation is that the mound is a late prehistoric burial cairn, a type of monument often located in prominent positions within the landscape.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, to include the visible remains and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduled area specifically excludes the above-ground elements of all post-and-wire fences, interpretation boards and the upper 300mm of all modern paths to allow for their maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

The Craik Cross to Mid Raeburn section of this road is a well-preserved example of Roman military engineering. Of particular significance is the use of substantial cuttings down to the natural bedrock for use as the road surface. These cuttings form the majority of this stretch of the road. It is likely to be a spur connecting the Scottish Borders to the main western route extending north from Carlisle into Dumfriesshire. The road probably connected the fort at Oakwood in Scottish Borders with the fort at Raeburnfoot in Dumfries and Galloway. Along its length the road displays excellent field characteristics and it is evident in places that the original Roman road served as the basis for later tracks and hollow ways. Sections of the road are overlain by modern tracks serving the forestry plantation.

The association between the road and the possible watchtower at Craik Cross gives an excellent opportunity to understand the road's function as a means to controlling and monitoring movement as well being a key line of communication. The dating of the road is not clearly understood. The association between with the fort at Raeburnfoot, established in the 140s AD, suggests a mid-2nd century AD date for the road as part of a wider network of roads in Dumfries and Galloway. Alternatively the road may date to the late 1st-century AD occupation of Scotland and was later recommissioned.

Although not currently visible, rows of quarry pits are likely to survive beyond the drainage ditches. As their name suggests, these pits provided stone and gravel for the road construction and possess good potential for the preservation of valuable environmental information that can tell us more about the local climate and landscape at the time the Roman road was built.

Archaeologists conducted a trial excavation at the possible watchtower on the summit of Craik Cross revealing a turf rampart and single outer ditch but no structural remains and no datable artefacts. The rampart and ditch are reminiscent of watchtower defences known through excavations and comprised a V-shaped ditch with an outer bank enclosing the tower. A causeway allowed access to and from the nearby road. It is likely that the bank was built of upcast from the ditch and faced with turf or was wholly constructed of turf. Typically a Roman watchtower usually took the form of a square or rectangular observation platform supported by four substantial timber posts. The upper level of the tower comprised an upper room for shelter, cooking and eating and storage of equipment with a surrounding balcony providing an area for observation approximately 10m above ground level. The upper room was probably timber framed with wattle and daub walling infilling the structural posts. Wattle and daub may also have been used to face the balcony. Watchtowers often occupied prominent positions in the landscape, enabling signalling over long distances while maintaining commanding views of the surrounding landscape.

The monument contains a high potential to reveal valuable information about the construction of Roman military roads, the function and role of watchtowers within the road network, the relationship of Roman roads with contemporary native settlement and the degree to which they were used following the Roman abandonment of Scotland.

Contextual characteristics

Roman roads usually measured around 6m wide and comprised a base-layer of large cobbles, topped by smaller stones and finished with a road surface of packed gravel. Regular maintenance was probably required to clear ditches and ensure road surfaces remained in good condition. The cambered surface of Roman roads allowed rainwater to run off the road surface into the drainage ditches running on either side. Although traditionally known for being straight, Roman roads were generally planned from high point to high point. Often geographical necessities meant that roads could not be straight, such as at river crossings where the course of the road might deviate to exploit a more suitable crossing point.

Roman watchtowers, integral to observation and cross-country signalling, are closely associated with roads across Scotland. The most complete example of this is the Gask Ridge, the late 1st-century AD frontier running through Perth and Kinross and Angus, arguably the earliest surviving man-made Roman frontier. The Gask Ridge comprises a series of forts and fortlets interconnected by a road shadowed by a series of regularly positioned watchtowers. The Roman military usually sited watchtowers to exploit natural topography for widespread views although they also fulfilled a signalling function. Towers usually possessed intervisibility with adjacent towers or larger military garrisons such as fortlets and forts. Around eight soldiers probably manned a watchtower, being drawn from a nearby fort or fortlet.

Associative characteristics

Roman forces occupied Dumfries and Galloway in strength in the late 1st century and mid-second centuries AD, suggesting that the native tribal community were hostile or regarded as a potential threat. The distribution of roads, watchtowers, fortlets and forts in Dumfries and Galloway indicates the Roman army wished to establish and maintain close control of the region.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant contribution to our understanding of the past, in particular the construction and routes used by Roman roads, the role Roman roads played in control and observation of movement in the landscape and the use of watchtowers in signalling and surveillance. The monument is well preserved with good field characteristics demonstrating the relationship between the road, the landscape it traverses and the possible watchtower on Craik Cross Hill. The loss of the monument would impede our ability to understand the nature of Roman roads, not just in eastern Dumfries and Galloway but across Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland




Richmond I A, 1948, 'A new Roman mountain road in Dumfriesshire and Roxburghshire', Proc Soc Antiq Scot 80, 111-13.

RCAHMS 1997, Eastern Dumfriesshire: An Archaeological Landscape, Edinburgh: The Stationery Office.

Wilson A, 1999, 'Roman Penetration in Eastern Dumfriesshire and Beyond', Trans Dumfries Galloway Natur Hist Antiq Soc, 73, 17, 43.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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