Third century Birdoswald Roman Fort (called Banna by the Romans) was both a fort and a civilian settlement. Perched on high land above the river Irthing and close to the Willowford bridge, the fort was a milecastle protecting the bridge and Hadrian’s wall. The fort provides spectacular views of the wall.
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The early turf wall, built in 122 AD, is visible. Much of the site, especially the civilian area, is still not excavated. Some of the buildings are only partially revealed with their walls reaching down six feet below the ground. The east gateway is particularly imposing with its pivot holes for a wooden gate still surviving. Huge 3rd century granaries were an important feature of the fort.
Covering five acres, Birdoswald was home to 500 cavalry and 1000 foot soldiers. It was in operation for 300 years. After the withdrawal of the Romans, the site was plundered, as was much of the wall, for building material. Subsequent centuries saw farmhouses built on the property and land used for cattle grazing. One medieval farmhouse was built around a 16th century bastle.
An interpretive centre is located in the farmhouse within the fort platform. In it are explanations of the history of Birdoswald and the archaeological discoveries made here. Further finds are located at the Tullie House Museum in Carlisle.
Birdoswald is unique because it is the only place along Hadrian’s Wall where all of the Roman frontier components come together in such a compact area. A stretch of wall between the fort and Harrow’s Scar Milecastle is of particular note.
Managed by Cumbria County Council on behalf of English Heritage
Tel. 01697 747602
Open: April-end Sep, 10am-6pm, daily; Oct, 10am-5pm, daily; Nov-March, weekends, 10am-4pm
Visitor Centre; refreshments
Located at Gilsland and signposted off A69, 5 miles east of Brampton, 2¼ miles west of Greenhead on minor road off B6318.
Photos courtesy of Graeme Dougal