It joins Hadrian’s Wall, the Pyramids and the Great Wall of China on a list of important global sites. The decision to award World Heritage Site status was made by a committee of the UN cultural body UNESCO, meeting in Quebec City in Canada.
The Wall – built around AD 142 – spans central Scotland from Bo’ness on the Forth to Old Kilpatrick on the Clyde.
“Gaining World Heritage Site status is a major achievement – and focuses international attention on our area,” said Bo’ness Councillor Adrian Mahoney, Falkirk Council’s Convener of Environment and Heritage.
“There’s no doubt the recognition by UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee will attract more tourists to the area, keen to find out more about our Roman history which can only help our local economy, particularly hotels, restaurants and tourist facilities. We only have to look at northern England and see how Hadrian’s Wall has helped to boost the profile and fortunes of that area. Hopefully, the Antonine Wall will do the same for central Scotland.”
The Wall was built by the Emperor Antoninus Pius to hold back Caledonian tribes from invading southern Scotland, then under Roman rule. Unlike the stone-built Hadrian’s Wall, the Antonine Wall consisted of a rampart of soil, faced with turf, resting on a stone foundation. It stood 12 feet high, and was protected on the north side by a wide, deep V-shaped ditch. It was abandoned around AD 160, when the Romans retreated to Hadrian’s Wall.
Today, many parts of the Antonine Wall lie under towns and settlements, built long after the Romans departed Scotland. However, evidence of the wall’s ramparts and buildings can still be found.
Councillor Mahoney said: “The Falkirk area is fortunate in having a number of highly visible parts of the Antonine Wall. As well as the remains of a fortlet at Kinneil, Bo’ness, and a fort at Roughcastle, near Bonnybridge, the wall can also be seen at Polmont Woods; Watling Lodge, Tamfourhill (near the Falkirk Wheel), Callendar Park in Falkirk; and Seabegs Woods, near Bonnybridge. We also have free exhibitions on the Romans in our museums, Callendar House, Falkirk, and Kinneil in Bo’ness.
“Of course, it’s also important that we work with partners to preserve and look after the parts of the Antonine Wall which remain. Over hundreds of years parts of the wall have disappeared. It’s now our responsibility to look after this very important structure and preserve this important piece of world history for future generations. After all, this isn’t just any Roman artefact – it’s a World Heritage Site . . . and we’re delighted to have that status.”
- Falkirk Council has published a free guide to walks along the Wall and has also set up web pages to help people find out more about the Roman frontier in central Scotland http://www.falkirk.gov.uk/antoninewall
Speaking at the UNESCO committee meeting in Canada, Dr. David Breeze – who led the Historic Scotland team leading the bid said: “I should like to thank the World Heritage Committee for extending the trans-national Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site by the inscription of the Antonine Wall in Scotland. We would like to recognise and thank the State Party of Germany for their support and collaboration in developing the Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site. We are also particularly grateful to the Scottish Government and the 5 local authorities along the line of the Antonine Wall – Falkirk, Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, East and West Dunbartonshire – for their active support in bringing this nomination to fruition.
“This current extension of the Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site will give great encouragement to other countries in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East which contain elements of Roman frontiers and who are interested in joining this significant multi-national project. The idea of creating trans-national World Heritage Sites is an excellent way of aiding international understanding and co-operation, of celebrating our shared common heritage and developing linked protection and management frameworks. Although frontiers usually divide, this particular frontier seeks to break down barriers.”
(Pictured above: A member of the Antonine Guard re-enactment group on the Wall. Pupils from Kinneil Primary School in Bo’ness, with members of the Antonine Guard at Kinneil Estate. Pictures by FALKIRK COUNCIL.)