Less than two thousand years ago, large parts of the world were ruled by the Roman Empire. From Europe to Africa, to the Middle East, it’s estimated that one in every four people on the planet lived under Roman law.
The Roman army first arrived on Britain’s shores in August 55 BC, armed with 12,000 soldiers. Julius Caesar’s men landed on a beach near Dover, but they were quickly defeated by a well organised British army. A year later, Caesar returned to Britain with an army three times the size, successfully taking over large parts of South East England.
Not content with just occupying the South East, Emperor Claudius sent a further 40,000 men to take control of the entire island in 43 AD. Most tribes in the South quickly surrendered after seeing the size of Claudius’ army. However, tribes in Northern England and Scotland took on the might of the Roman Empire and were never fully conquered.
Settling in Britain for over 400 years, the Romans founded towns and cities that still thrive today - including London, York and Lincoln. The Roman Empire left Britain with a rich and varied legacy, and you don’t have to look far to find evidence of their presence.
Here at Parkdean Resorts, we’ve looked at some of the best Roman sites and ruins around our holiday parks that would make for a great family day out.
Burgh Castle, Great Yarmouth
Just a stone’s throw away from our holiday parks in East Anglia, Burgh Castle is one of the most impressive Roman forts in Britain. Built in the 3rd century, the castle was originally surrounded by the Waveney Estuary. The fort was part of the ‘Saxon Shore’, a series of castles that were built to protect South East Britain from German and Danish seaborne raiders. At the time of construction, ships would have been able to dock outside the fort, before sailing up the river to reach important Roman settlements in Norwich.
Video sourced from TheMarkyShow
Covering roughly six acres, you can walk alongside the castle walls that are still visible on three sides of the fortress, and are in remarkably good condition. Roughly 15ft high, only the parapets are missing from the walls that would have protected the patrolling soldiers. Inside the fortress, you’ll find numerous towers that were used to defend the castle against intruders.
After exploring the castle, take a minute to appreciate the stunning views across the water and over the neighbouring village of Halvergate. There are also several brilliant pubs and restaurants nearby, where you can take a well-deserved rest.
Antonine Wall, Scotland
The magnificent World Heritage Site of the Antonine Wall, the most northerly frontier of the Roman Empire, is near three of our holiday parks in Scotland. Roughly thirty-seven miles long, the Antonine Wall stretches from Bo'ness on the Firth of Forth to Old Kilpatrick - just outside Glasgow on the River Clyde. This historic landmark is one of the most impressive Roman military monuments in Scotland.
Built using turf rampart, the wall was 10ft high and 13ft wide and was reinforced with a wooden picket fence. Behind the wall was the Military Way Road, allowing the Romans to quickly move men to areas under threat. There were also 16 to 19 forts along the Antonine Wall to defend the Romans from raids by Caledonians, a local tribe who were notorious for robbing their richer Southern neighbours.
Unfortunately for the Romans, the Antonine Wall wasn’t strong enough to withstand constant attacks and in 181 AD, Northern tribes poured over the wall and pushed the Romans back to Hadrian's Wall. The Romans tried to retake control of the territory between the two walls, but they were forced to abandon the Antonine Wall in 196 AD.
One of the best-preserved stretches of the wall can be found to both the east and west of Watling Lodge, along Tamfourhill Road in Falkirk. Here, you can walk the wall like the Romans did, admiring the beautiful woodlands that surround it. Another fantastic viewing point is near Bonnybridge, where the remains of the Antonine Wall can be seen running for a quarter of a mile, through Seabegs Wood to the South of the Forth and Clyde Canal.
Video sourced from mrtimelliott
Caerleon Roman Fortress and Baths, Newport
Constructed in 75 AD and covering 50 acres of land, Caerleon Roman Fortress was locally known as Isca and was home to Roman soldiers for nearly 200 years. Under an hour from Trecco Bay Holiday Park, the site was the launchpad for the Roman conquest of Wales and was used to fend off the most powerful tribe in South Wales, the Silures.
Just outside the fortress walls, stands the most complete amphitheatre in Britain. The amphitheatre is 184ft long and 136ft wide and would have accommodated nearly 6,000 people, who would have visited the arena to watch gladiators in combat. Open to the public, walk into the centre of the amphitheatre and imagine being a gladiator in this period.
Video sourced from SkyEye Britain
The site also boasts the most complete Roman barracks in Europe, offering you a wonderful insight into life at a Roman base, on the edge of its Empire. Roam large sections of the fortress walls, and check out the remains of the gate, corner turret and cookhouses. After you’ve finished exploring the grounds, the nearby Baths Museum will give you a glimpse into leisure time in the Roman fortress.
Portchester Castle, Portsmouth
Standing proud on the north shore of Portsmouth Harbour, Portchester Castle is a menacing Roman fortress that has long protected the local area. The castle is the oldest building in Hampshire, and boasts the most complete walls in Europe, which are roughly 20ft high.
Under 30 minutes from Hayling Island Holiday Park, spend the day exploring the castle perimeter, where you can see the Roman bricks that were used to build the wall. Located in the south east corner of the castle, head over to St Mary’s Church - an Augustinian priory that was built in the 11th century.
Inside the grounds, visit the magnificent Ashton's Tower - which is the most impressive feature of all. Constructed between 1376 and 1381, the tower is roughly 100ft high - and the views from the top over the surrounding countryside are breathtaking. During the Napoleonic Wars, from 1803 to 1815, the tower was used as a prison. Evidence of this can be found on the second floor, where you will find paintings that were left behind by French prisoners.
In the keep, there’s also a fascinating audio tour that brings the history of the castle and Portchester village to life, giving an insight into what it was like to live there over the centuries. After you’ve explored the castle, the surrounding grounds provide the perfect setting for a family picnic.
Video sourced from Dan Winkworth