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V.
THE ROMAN FORTS ON THE BAR HILL, DUMBARTONSHIRE, EX.

CAVATED BY MR ALEXANDER WHITELAW OF GARTSHORE,
F.S.A. Scot. BY GEORGE MACDONALD, M.A., LL.D., F.S.A. Scor.,

ALEXANDER PARK, F.S. A. Scot. WITH NOTE ARCHITECTURAL REMAINS, BY THOMAS ROSS, ARCHITECT, F.S.A. Scot. (Plates I.-IV.)

AND

A

ON

THE

I. THE SITE AND ITS HISTORY.

Travellers by the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway seldom fail to notice a small clump of hills that lies rather more than a mile to the north-west of Croy Station. The accompanying map (Plate I.) reproduces its chief geographical features. The twin peak so conspicuous from the train belongs to what may be called the south-easterly spur of the range. This spur is in reality a whinstone ridge, easily ascended from east or west, but sloping sharply upwards from the southern side, and still more sharply downwards on its northern face. Its heights, which attain an elevation of 511 feet, are planted, and form part of what is known as the Bar Hill Wood. From the summit one looks northward, over a green basin of arable land, to a very similar, but much shorter and slightly lower, ridge which culminates in a single rocky peak usually called the Castle Hill (507 ft.). Towards the east the green basin is open. Its western side climbs gently until it loses itself on the steep shoulders of two flat-topped hills that constitute the main, though not the highest, portion of the whole group. These latter are separated from each other by a comparatively slight depression, and to each of them is attached one of the spurs or ridges already described. The narrower and more southerly of the flat-topped hills goes by the name of Creecy Hill (486 ft.). The more northerly we shall call the Bar Hill proper (495 ft.). It is with this last that we are here specially concerned. In the course of the operations with which we have to deal, its surface was found to consist of a thick layer of boulder clay. On the southern side of its highest part the clay rests on a bed of sand.

27

VOL. XL.

The situation of the range is remarkable. Rising as nearly as possible midway between sea and sea, it also contains the highest ground along the line of the isthmus. The view from the top of the Castle Hillthe most favourable point for the purpose—is very extensive.

On the north, visible in its completeness from end to end, stretches the low valley that runs from Forth to Clyde. Across the intervening river Kelvin frown the Campsie Fells and their sister hills, forming an imposing natural bulwark to the “northern realms of ancient Caled on.” Even the uninstructed feels instinctively that this would be a position of vital importance to any military force attempting to hold

the isthmus from the south. As a matter of fact, when the spectator t urns eastward, his attention is immediately arrested by the deep depression that still marks the course of the great Ditch dug by the Roman legions. His eye would find it easy to follow the line all the way from Croy Hill to the very spot where he is standing. Some thirty or forty yards beneath him, it sweeps along the northern farce of the Castle Hill, hewn nine feet deep into the solid ro and a way to the west. Behind it are still discernible the traces of

the companion Rampart. A glance at the map will show how the conditions imposed by

the configuration of the ground were met by the Roman engineers.

Both Ditch and Rampart at this point of their course bend decidedly to the north, with the express object of enclosing the Castle Hill, a coign of vantage which it would not have been safe to leave outside. slopes of the hill itself were far too steep to afford secure the Military Way, which was thus compelled to keep some distance to the south. When the green basin already spoken of, generall y styled the Castle Hill Park, is under cultivation, the line of the

Roman road can even now be clearly made out, crossing it from east to

west, and marked by a slight elevation of the surface.

About half- Way up the western side of the basin it divides into two, one section branching northwards so as to approach the Rampart once more, the ascending directly towards the centre of the Bar Hill proper.

Passes

But the foothold for

other

There is good reason to think that somewhere within this basin, under the shelter of the friendly hills, there may at one time have nestled a civil settlement or annexe, such as was the ordinary accompaniment of every permanent Roman military station. An indication to that effect was furnished during the progress of the recent excavations. And other signs have not been wanting. An altar dedicated to Silvanus was found here in 1895. Again, about the middle of its southern side there is an excellent spring of water, near which (according to the testimony of labourers still living) drainage operations have disclosed substantial remains of stone paving. However this may be, it is certain that the Bar Hill proper was the site of a Roman fort. It is admirably adapted for the purpose. Its top consists of a wide and comparatively level expanse, but on every side except the south the descent is sufficiently steep to be a material aid in defence. To the north, more especially, the fall of the ground is rapid. An attacking party from that direction could only have got within striking distance after a continuous climb of nearly 300 feet. Finally, the discovery of a buried well showed that in the very centre of the plateau there had been in Roman times an abundant supply of water.

Two hundred years ago the remains of the buildings of the fort were still considerable. There is, indeed, no mention of them in the earliest ‘archaeological survey' of Graham's Dyke, the well-known letter of 1697 preserved among the Portland Papers. The writer has much of interest to say concerning the eastern half of the Vallum and its forts. But when he reaches the neighbourhood of Bar Hill, he breaks off with tantalising abruptness. Kilsyth, he tells us, is

a pretty good countrey town, but inferior to Fallkirk or Linlithgow ; but this I say for it, there is better entertainment for man and horse and more reasonable than anywhere upon the road. . . . When I am at leasure I will give you the rest of this.?

| The operations referred to were carried out in 1873, and the stones are said to have been carried away to be used as drain covers. Systematic search recently made for traces of paving has been fruitless.

? Hist. MSS. Commission, Portland Papers, vol. ii. p. 57.

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