The Roman Road from Ambleside to Ravenglass, Margary 740

The definitive work on the course of this Roman road was carried out by Professor Ian Richmond over 70 years ago. His findings still stand today but the two extremities of the road, west from Ambleside and east from Ravenglass could only be surmised in his day. Lidar has enabled progress to be made at the Ravenglass end but the eastern end (Ambleside to Wrynose) is still very much "work in progress".

This a spectacular road and travelling it today is still an adventure with Wrynose and Harknott passes to be overcome.



Eastern Route Map

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The suggested route begins at Clappersgate, south of the River Brathay. Between the Ambleside fort and here, it would appear no trace has survived and suggesting its course would be pure speculation.

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Lidar Image - Bog Lane

North of the minor road Bog Lane are traces of Roman like aggers. If this is our road then it the first evidence west of Ambleside fort. North of Skelwith Fold there are a couple of options for the road (see main map).

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Bog Lane

Lidar Image - Colwith to Little Langdale

The Roman line coincides with the A583 for a while until the descent to Colwith Bridge is where it separates. The Roman descent is clear on the Lidar and is north-east of the modern road.


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Lidar Image - Little Fell

West of High Park Coppice, across the north side of Little Fell, there are clear traces of the probable Roman agger visible.

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Little Fell

Lidar Image - Little Langdale

The obvious route would appear to be south of Little Langdale Tarn marked on modern maps by a footpath. However, this shows no Roman characteristics and has been discounted by previous researchers. On balance therefore is believed the road headed north of the tarn and there is some Lidar evidence for this route. There is also a possibility that the road kept north of the Brathay from Colwith (dotted).

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3D Lidar Image - Wrynose Bottoms, looking west.

One of the best surviving stretches on the whole route. Just where you would expect it have been washed away, it is still remarkably clear and visible from the modern road. No ploughing here of course so the agger is still prominent.

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Wrynose 3D

Wrynose Pass Roman Road - Richmond 1947

Richmond's map and 1947 is still the definitive route here. Surprisingly little of the modern road follows it.

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wrynose map

Lidar Image - Route Wrynose Pass

The Roman road is the faint flattish feature on the left side of the modern road. We are looking west towards Hardknott and Ravenglass.

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wrynose pass


Lidar Image - Route Wrynose Bottoms

The road oddly kept to Wrynose Bottoms as long as it could before its ascent to Hardknott pass. The modern road is actually more direct.

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Wrynose plan

Route Map - Hardknott Fort.

The route here is again based on Richmond and RCHME (1993) with a few adjustments as to what is visible on the aerial photograph.

Sadly no lidar data is available for Hardknott fort..



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View from Hardknott Pass - looking west

From the top of the pass the modern and Roman lines coincide but at the end of the hairpin bend that swings to right in the picture, the Roman road diverges and takes a higher line to the fort.

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Western Route Map

The situation from Eskdale Green to Ravenglass has now become much clearer with the route of the road determined with high confidence.

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Lidar Image - Woolpack Inn to Eskdale Green

From the foot of Hardknott Pass to Eskdale Green the Roman and modern roads coincide. There are one or two deviations such as Spout House Farm/Hillin Head (see next image) but generally there is nothing now visible.

The modern and Roman road finally separate at Eskdale Green. It would appear that later movement of the River Esk has destroyed the Roman line and the modern road has had to divert further south.

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Agger - Hollin Head Cottage

Hollin Head Cottage is on the modern road near Spout House Farm. Here the modern road and the Roman road diverge for a short section. The Roman agger is pronounced and clear but has been washed away beyond the trees by movements of the river.


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Agger - approaching The Green

Again the modern road and the Roman road diverge approaching The Green. The Roman agger is pronounced and is now heading for Forge Hills but the river has destroyed a long section.


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Lidar Image - Forge Hills

West of Eskdale Green the agger resumes. It is clear where It crosses Forge Hills (SD1432 9931) and passes north of Muncaster Head.


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Forge hills

Lidar Image - Eskdale Green to Ravenglass

Alongside Muncaster Fell, the Roman line mostly coincides with a modern track, but again several deviations occur here and there such as at Birks Coppice. This stretch passes close to the Muncaster Roman kilns.

The final run in to Ravenglass is very clear on the Lidar (see next image).


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ravenglass lidar

Lidar Image - Ravenglass

Recently, as part of the Romans in Ravenglass Community Archaeology Project, the road in the vicinity of Ravenglass fort was found. Lidar also shows this clearly and has extended the line into Eskdale.

Until the Romans in Ravenglass project, it was generally believed that this road emanated from the fort's east gate. The project found that it actually lay around 150 metres north of the fort. In addition, Lidar indicates that there was possibly another road branching from this one towards the bath-house and fort (dotted). The main route from the fort environs is very clear and again across Muncaster Chase (SD1030 9685). Quite why the alignment of the road is so obviously north of the fort remains a puzzle.


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3D Lidar Image - Ravenglass Fort setting.

View is from the south-west.


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NEW - 3D Lidar video from Ravenglass Roman Fort following the Roman road up Eskdale





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Last update January 2018

© David Ratledge