Inchtuthil Legionary Fortress and Landscape

Inchtuthil (MPK3639) is the only legionary fortress in Scotland. It was abandoned before completion and is a rare example from across the Roman Empire of a legionary fortress unencumbered by later settlement. As such, it provides a unique insight into how the Roman military operated, particularly when campaigning through new territories and consolidating gains through the military installations. Its location, in the far north of the province, is an indicator of the Roman ambition for the province of Britannia. It can provide a comparator with other frontier fortresses, including those which did further develop into regional capitals, expanding beyond the military. The Inchtuthil peninsula has been extensively surveyed through geophysics and the fortress itself has been partially excavated (Abercromby 1902; Pitts and St Joseph 1985).

Oblique aerial photograph of farmland and forest, with green and yellow ground surfaces. Cropmarks in light brown can be seen across the landscape, over multiple fields and travelling into the dense forest.
Aerial photograph of Inchtuthil cropmarks ©️ HES
Digital plan of a fort, which is sub-rectangular, with tanged lines representing long bumps in the ground from the top to bottom of the image, across the whole site.
Plan of Inchtuthil Roman fort ©️ HES

In addition to the fortress itself, aerial survey has revealed extensive Roman activity outside the fortress, ranging from temporary camps to annexes, a Roman bathhouse as well as scatters of Roman artefacts suggests the presence of an extramural settlement. Inchtuthil also lies in a rich non-Roman cultural landscape; the barrow at Women’s Knowe (MPK6943) has produced a contemporary 1st century AD date, which demonstrates continued use during and after the Roman presence (see Winlow 2010). There is also a multivallate promontory fort (MPK3644) at the western end of the plateau, while the current Delvine house (MPK11264) occupied the site of a medieval and early modern castle. 

Antique pencil drawing of a fort plan. The main structure is a large square, and labels written across the plan highlight Baths, River, Vallum, Loch, Garden and House.
Plan of fort and wider landscape of Inchtuthil ©️ HES
Digital plan of a bathhouse, which is an L-shaped structure with outwardly curving walls in some places and eight separate areas or rooms within the building.
Plan of the bath-house at Inchtuthil ©️ HES

To the north of the fortress, aerial photographs suggest the presence of a metaled road, which led to the upland road to upper Strathtay. The Roman remains have been truncated at several points by riverine erosion (Woolliscroft and Hoffmann 2006, 62–71). On the hill of Gourdie to the north of the fortress, several stone quarries from different periods have been identified. While some can be assigned to the medieval and modern periods, others have been claimed to be Roman without any dating evidence. On this upper plateau of the hill is the Roman site of the Steedstalls, which consists of deep U-shaped sunken features of unknown function. Aerial reconnaissance has identified a temporary camp enclosing the site, as well as a number of further possible ‘stalls’, no longer open. 

Colour image of a large pile of iron nails, all stacked head up, facing the camera. The nails look eroded and the pile contains upwards of 100 nails.
Nails excavated at Inchtuthil ©️ Perth Museum and Art Gallery
Wall plaster found at Inchtuthil ©️ Perth Museum and Art Gallery