3.5 The Military Way

The final linear feature of the frontier was a road, known as the Military Way, that ran immediately to the south of the Wall and served as a lateral communication link between the various frontier installations (Keppie 1976, 76–7; Robertson 2015, 22). It has been recorded sporadically from Inveravon camps to as far west as Cadder and entering the fort of Old Kilpatrick at the western end of the Wall. Its camber is visible as a field monument in the area of Rough Castle and at Seabegs Wood. Elsewhere tracks or roads lie on top of it. It ran on average some 36–46m south of the Wall rampart and was usually connected to the main road (via principalis) of the attached forts (see Forts).

Picture of an interpretation sign taken in long grass next to a busy road with blurry cars driving past. The sign, to the left, says Seabegs Wood and a paragraph of description about the site.
Interpretation sign, Seabegs Wood, Antonine Wall © HES

There is evidence from several sites, such as Croy Hill and Rough Castle, that a bypass road was also provided to avoid the need to pass through each fort (Hanson 2022 a, 30–41). The rivers Kelvin and Avon would have been crossed via bridges, as demonstrated by the discovery of possible Roman stones and wooden piles in the River Kelvin to the north-west of Balmuildy (Robertson 1974), though dendrochronological analysis of associated timbers in the 1980s indicated a medieval date.

Black line drawing showing the Antonine Wall on the right and large road on the left, running parallel to each other. The road is busy with marching soldiers, carts and cattle. The wall is guarded by two soldiers holding spiers and shields.
A reconstruction drawing of the Military Way running behind the Wall © HES
A section of the Military Way bypass road at Croy Hill © WS Hanson

There have been few excavations across the line of the Military Way. These have revealed that it was generally about 5–5.5m wide, constructed of rough stones topped by small stones and gravel, with a distinct camber, flanked by drainage ditches. At Bonnyside, west of Rough Castle, it was found to have been placed on a bed of turf (Keppie 1976, 63). Quarry pits are visible between the road and the rampart in that area, and one was found below Bonnyside East expansion (Steer 1957). This would seem to indicate that the construction of the Military Way was undertaken early in the building process. Recent research has suggested that the route taken by the Military Way may have an important part to play in our understanding of the building sequence of the frontier (Graafstal 2020, 155–6).

Aerial view of the wall, appearing as a long, grass covered feature, to the left of a modern road and river. Fields and forests can be seen surrounding the wall.
Aerial view of the Antonine Wall through Seabegs Wood (right), with the camber of the Military Way visible behind it (left), taken from the east © HES

The Military Way is also important in the definition of the World Heritage Site as it is usually the most southerly element of the frontier.

Research issues

  • Take any opportunities to identify the line of the Military Way, including the possibility of bypass routes around forts and the location of river crossing points.
  • Undertake a programme of GPR targeting the proposed line of the Military Way to identify the structure and associated features, including the potential discovery of new Distance Stones in the vicinity.
  • Investigate the relationship(s) between the Military Way and other elements of the frontier.
  • Consider whether recovery of turf from beneath the Military Way would help us to understanding the landscape of the frontier at the time of its construction.
  • Explore the possibility of a western extension of the Military Way beyond Old Kilpatrick to a ford lower down the Clyde.



Leave a Reply