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Drumlanrig, Roman fort and annexe 400m south east of Drumlanrig Castle

A Scheduled Monument in Mid and Upper Nithsdale, Dumfries and Galloway

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Latitude: 55.2711 / 55°16'15"N

Longitude: -3.8042 / 3°48'15"W

OS Eastings: 285465

OS Northings: 598918

OS Grid: NX854989

Mapcode National: GBR 17WH.58

Mapcode Global: WH5VG.JSP0

Entry Name: Drumlanrig, Roman fort and annexe 400m SE of Drumlanrig Castle

Scheduled Date: 31 October 2018

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13711

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Roman: fort

Location: Durisdeer

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Mid and Upper Nithsdale

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire


The monument comprises the upstanding and buried remains of a Roman Fort and annexe, dating to the 2nd centuries AD. The monument has been recorded as parchmarks visible on aerial photographs. The fort is rectangular on plan with an annexe attached on the northeast. The remains of ramparts survive as low banks and ditches around the south side of the fort. The monument occupies a level terrace above the River Nith, at about 70m above sea level.

The fort measures around 240m NW-SE by about 150m. A complex ditch system of up to five parallel ditches is visible on aerial photographs on the northeast and northwest. Parchmarks record up to three banks and ditches around the south of the fort, which survive as low ramparts and slight terracing above the steep slope of the terrace edge. Elements of the internal street plan, comprising roads and blocks of buildings have also been recorded as parchmarks and through geophysical survey. A number of ditches to the northeast of the fort recorded on the aerial photographs and detected by geophysical survey indicate the presence of an attached annexe, measuring at least 200m NW-SE by about 60m.

The scheduled area is irregular, to include the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling specifically excludes the above ground elements of all post and wire and wooden fences and stone walls and the top 30cm of the parking area and all paths to allow for maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The cultural significance of the monument has been assessed as follows:

Intrinsic Characteristics

The monument is a Roman fort which has been recorded as parchmarks on aerial photographs. It survives as both buried deposits below the soil and the upstanding remains of banks and ditches. Although features survive above ground only on the south side of the fort, the overall plan of the monument is clear and understandable. Geophysical survey has added greater detail to the picture provided by the parchmarks, while small scale excavation has shown that significant archaeological deposits survive across the fort.

The geophysical survey was completed in 2004. It confirmed the plan of the fort and identified entrance gaps through the defences on the northeast and southwest sides and midway along the northwest end. The survey provided details of the street plan and the main blocks of buildings within the fort, including the locations of the barracks and headquarters buildings. It also detected anomalies associated with the annexe. Small scale excavation in the interior of the fort revealed the stone walls, beam slots, possible postholes and floor surfaces of a number of buildings as well as metalled surfaces representing the edges of some of the internal streets. A trench across the defences on the northeast uncovered a ditch 7m wide and 3m deep, along with the remains of a turf rampart with stone foundations. The excavation uncovered evidence for more than one phase of construction and use in places. It showed that the abandonment of the fort was preceded by its deliberate destruction involving the demolition and burning of the structures.

The evidence therefore indicates high potential for the survival of archaeological deposits, including occupation and abandonment debris, artefacts and environmental remains such as charcoal and pollen within, beneath and around the remains of the fort and annexe. The archaeological deposits have the potential to provide information about character, layout and functioning of the fort as well as the lives of Roman soldiers while in the field. Any artefacts and environmental material would enhance understanding of contemporary economy, land-use and environment.

Artefacts recovered during excavation demonstrate that the fort dates to the Antonine campaign of AD 139 to 165. It has been suggested that a fort was first constructed at Drumlanrig during the Flavian period (AD 77-90). While no firm evidence for this was uncovered during excavation, two phases of construction were identified within the headquarters building and the rampart excavated on the northwest of the fort may also have had two phases. This could possibly indicate the construction of the fort on the site of an earlier establishment. An earlier phase therefore cannot be discounted but equally has not been demonstrated. Scientific study of this site would allow us to develop a better understanding of the nature and chronology of the fort, including its date of origin, the character of the remains and the development sequence. It has the potential to add to our understanding of the character and nature of Roman forts in southern Scotland during the Roman occupation.

Contextual Characteristics

A network of forts and fortlets were constructed in southern Scotland following the Roman invasions of the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. Forts were permanent or semi-permanent bases for Roman soldiers controlling an area of territory. They were linked by military roads and played a key role in the military control of Scotland. The Roman fort at Drumlanrig formed part of this wider network. Durisdeer Roman fortlet (scheduled monument SM670; Canmore ID) lies around 7.5km northeast, the probable fortlet at Sanquhar (Canmore ID 45490) around 14km northwest and Carzield Roman fort (scheduled monument SM673; Canmore ID 65890) around 20km southeast.

A Roman temporary camp lies around 90m southeast (Canmore ID 65201). It has been recorded only partially and it is possible that the features noted relate to two separate camps. Although its date is not known, it may have provided temporary accommodation for soldiers working on the construction of the fort or could be related to military campaigning in the region. A further camp is known at Islafoot on the other side of the river Nith (Canmore ID 128582). It may have been occupied at the same time as the fort at Drumlanrig, but its position on the opposite bank of the river Nith suggests it was not directly connected. The fort at Drumlanrig is therefore an important and well preserved example of a Roman fort which formed a key part of the wider network of Roman military control in southern Scotland. It has the potential to tell us about the nature and logistics of Roman military control in this region and the differing roles of Roman military establishments.

Roman forts were constructed in strategic locations, usually on communications routes and close to river crossings. The fort at Drumlanrig occupies a prominent position overlooking the River Nith. It was built on a raised terrace and made use of this topographic feature within its southern defences. The main Roman road from the south followed the east bank of the River Nith. The branch road to the fort probably forded the river below it. The road may then have continued past the fort towards the fortlet at Sanquhar. The fort was probably positioned here to control movement along the road and to monitor the river crossing. The monument therefore has the potential to add to our understanding of Roman military strategy. It can tell us about the nature of Roman occupation in southern Scotland and the impact of the Roman presence on the local people and the landscape of Scotland.

Associative Characteristics

There are no known associative characteristics that contribute to this site's national importance.

Statement of National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it can make a significant addition to our understanding of the dating, development and function of Roman forts and related structures in Scotland. Previous archaeological work indicates that the fort is particularly well preserved and that there is significant potential for the survival of archaeological deposits. As such it can significantly enhance our understanding of the Roman army on campaign and the daily lives of Roman soldiers. It formed an important part of a wider network of Roman roads and military establishments in southern Scotland. The loss or damage of this monument would diminish our ability to appreciate and understand the nature and character of Roman forts and related structures in southern Scotland. It would reduce our understanding of Roman military logistics and the impact of the Roman presence on the local people and landscape of Scotland during the 1st and 2nd centuries AD.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 65200 (accessed on 29/08/2018).

Dumfries and Galloway HER Reference MDG5660 (accessed on 29/08/2018).

Frere, S. S. (1985) Roman Britain in 1984. I. Sites Explored, Britannia, vol. 16, p. 237.

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

Maxwell, G.S. and Wilson, D.R. (1987) Air reconnaissance in Roman Britain 1977-84, Britannia, vol. 18, p. 19-20.

ScARF (2012) Hunter, F. and Carruthers (eds) Scotland: the Roman presence. Scottish Archaeological Research Framework: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. Available online at (accessed on 29/08/2018)

Wessex Archaeology (2005) Drumlanrig Roman Fort, Drumlanrig Castle, Dumfries and Galloway. Archaeological evaluation and assessment of the results. Report reference 55755.


HER/SMR Reference


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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