Fancy a Roman holiday? Explore the legacy of that mighty empire in Britain with a visit to these amazing locations.
A farmhouse owner laying cables in Wiltshire recently uncovered largest Roman villa ever found in UK. Sadly, with conservation work just getting started, it may be many years before the public is able to visit the amazing remains.
And although we might not all be luckily enough to find a villa in our gardens, Britain’s Roman legacy can still be felt all around us; the suffixes ‘chester’, ‘caster’ and ‘ciester’ on the names of our town and cities all signify Roman origins, while many of the country’s important sites have been conserved and are open to the public.
Here, we round up 10 of the country’s most fascinating Roman spots.
Roman Baths, Bath
One of the best preserved Roman sites in the world, the ancient thermal spa at Aquae Sulis, now modern-day Bath, includes the Scared Spring, the Roman Bath House and the Roman Temple.
The Romans constructed a complex of bathhouses above Bath’s three natural hot springs. The temple was constructed in 60-70 AD and the bathing complex was gradually built up over the next 300 years.
The baths’ museum collection also contains thousands of archaeological finds from pre-Roman and Roman Britain.
For around three centuries, Hadrian’s Wall was a vibrant, multi-cultured northern frontier of the Roman Empire sprawling almost 80 miles coast-to-coast.
Built by a force of 15,000 men in under six years, it was an astounding achievement with milecastles, barracks, ramparts and forts.
Houseteads Roman Fort, Hadrian’s Wall
Housesteads is the most complete Roman fort in Britain, set high on a dramatic escarpment on Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site.
Today Housesteads lies in an empty landscape, but in Roman times there was a busy garrison of 800 men and, outside the fort walls, a settlement of civilians and traders. The visible remains include four imposing gates, and a complete line of curtain wall and interval towers.
Wander the barrack blocks and the hospital. Peer into the oldest toilets you’ll ever see, and admire the stunning panoramic views from this ancient fortress.
Museum of London, London EC2Y
The Romans built the city where London now stands, bridging the Thames and creating Londinium. From around AD 50 to 410, this was the largest city in Britannia and a vital international port.
At the Museum of London, discover how Londinium came to life and what daily life was like in the city 2,000 years ago by exploring the collection of more than 47,000 objects, many of which were recovered during building works in the City of London.
Corinium Museum, Cirencester
The Corinium Museum has one of the finest and most extensive Roman collections in the country. Corinium, Cirencester, was the second largest Roman town after London and the major administration centre for south-western Britain.
The town was the tribal capital and administrative centre or civitas for the Dobunni, the pre-Roman local tribe and it has been estimated that it had a population of between 10,000 and 20,000, which compares to modern-day Cirencester’s population of around 18,000.
The museum’s collections of mosaics, tombstones and sculpture reflect Cirencester’s importance.
Fishbourne Roman Palace, Chichester, West Sussex
Fishbourne Roman Palace is the largest Roman home in Britain. Today you can visit the excavated palace in Chichester – built in the 1st century ad – to imagine the luxury that would once have surrounded the proud owner of this lavish residence. Stroll around the recreated Roman gardens – the earliest gardens found anywhere in the country – and enjoy the largest collection of mosaics in situ in the UK.
Bignor Roman Villa, Pulborough, West Sussex
Bignor is a large excavated Roman courtyard villa with world-class mosaic floors. At the site, you you can walk among the remain and appreciate the pride and craftsmanship that created exquisite mosaic floors featuring such wonders as Venus and the reluctant Cherub Gladiators, Ganymede being carried off by the Eagle and the Four seasons.
To get a sense of the scale of the site that employed so many people, play a visit to the North corridor. With only one third exposed, it is still the longest on display in the country, which, in full, stretched the length of three tennis courts
Roman Legion Museum, Caerleon, Newport, South Wales
The name Caerleon is derived from the Welsh for “fortress of the legion” and the variety of remains on view is unparalleled within these isles. Wales was the furthest outpost of the empire. In AD 75, the Romans built a fortress at Caerleon that would guard the region for over 200 years.
The National Roman Legion Museum is one of three Roman sites in Caerleon, where you can step back in time and explore life in a far-flung outpost of the empire, along with the Roman Baths museum and the open-air ruins of the amphitheatre and barrack.
Chedworth, Yanworth, neasr Cirencester, Gloucestershire
Chedworth is Romano-British villa in lovely valley setting, with intricate mosaics and a local museum. Evidence for the first stone structure at Chedworth dates to the 2nd century AD and, over the next two centuries, the villa was extended and improved, reaching it heyday in the 4th-century AD, between 360-380AD. During this time Chedworth Roman Villa was a place of wealth, luxury and comfort.
Now in the trust of the National Trust, it was discovered by accident by a gamekeeper in 1864 and is one of the largest villa sites in the UK.
Reculver Roman Fort, Herne Bay, East Kent
The remains of this important Roman ‘Saxon Shore’ fort are now in the care of English Heritage.
During the 1st and 2nd centuries AD a Roman settlement grew up at Reculver, probably around a harbour. In the early 3rd century a fort was built – one of the very earliest of the forts of the Saxon Shore, built against Saxon raids. The southern half of the fort survives as ruined walls and earthworks.
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