TOURIST chiefs are hoping a new movie could boost visitors to Kinneil Estate.
Roman epic “The Eagle”, featuring Billy Elliot star Jamie Bell, hits cinemas this week. It’s set in 2nd century Roman Britain, and tells the story of a soldier’s quest to restore the reputation of his father in the rugged terrain north of Hadrian’s Wall.
Much of the movie was shot on location in Scotland and VisitScotland hope the film will boost visitors to the areas featured – and spark interest in the country’s Roman sites, including the Antonine Wall, which runs from Bo’ness to Old Kilpatrick.
VisitScotland’s chief executive Malcolm Roughead – who grew up in Stenhousemuir – said the film could provide a real boost to historic sites and museums.
He said: “The Eagle is eagerly anticipated by film and book fans and offers a great opportunity for Scotland.
“Our Roman and Pictish history is fascinating and there are many places film fans can visit if their interest is sparked by the movie – from Trimontium in the Borders, to the Antonine Wall through the central belt – as well as seeing countless artefacts in many of our museums and galleries.”
Councillor Adrian Mahoney, the convener of leisure, tourism and community at Falkirk Council, said films like “The Eagle” could attract new tourists to the local area.
“We know that a large number of visitors come to areas because of film and TV productions,” he said. “I remember tourists coming to this area on the back of ‘Braveheart’, which, of course, set its final battle scene in Falkirk. The Eagle could do the same.”
Councillor Mahoney attended a special preview screening of the film last week. “It’s a good Hollywood tale, with plenty of action to keep people interested. But I’m sure it will also encourage people to find out about the real Romans in Scotland and their impact on the local landscape.”
He added: “Falkirk district – with around a third of the Roman Antonine Wall running through it – is well placed to attract visitors. We have Roman displays in Callendar House in Falkirk and Kinneil Museum in Bo’ness. There are also community events, like the Big Roman Week to attract visitors – and some fantastic Roman sites to visit, like the remains of the massive fort at Rough Castle, near Bonnybridge, and the fortlet at Kinneil Estate in Bo’ness. You can also see a substantial stretch of the turf Antonine Wall right in front of Callendar House.”
“The Eagle” follows Marcus (Channing Tatum), a Roman solider, and Esca (Jamie Bell), a Celtic slave, as they venture onto Scottish soil to recover the lost Eagle of the ninth legion. The film, which also stars Donald Sutherland, was based on the novel “The Eagle of the Ninth” by Rosemary Sutcliff, which was published in 1954.
Scots director Kevin MacDonald describes the movie as a “rip-roaring tale”. “The Eagle has a story that grabs you from the beginning, and you don’t know where it is going to take you,” he said.
VisitScotland has formally teamed up with Universal Pictures to attract visitors to Scotland on the back of movie, some of which was filmed on location around Wester Ross, Argyll, Stirling and Loch Lomond.
The company responsible for promoting Hadrian’s Wall has struck a similar deal.
A spokesperson for VisitScotland said: “The impact of Scotland’s scenery being shown on the big screen is a superb advertisement for the country. The recent trend of ‘set jetting’, where visitors go to the locations featured in their favourite films is growing, with around 20 per cent of visitors saying that seeing Scotland in film or on TV was important in their decision to book a Scottish holiday.
“VisitScotland’s partnership with Universal will tap into this trend and include joint marketing and public relations, which will showcase Scotland to potential visitors across the UK and around the world. The film will provide an opportunity to promote the locations featured, as well as use the theme of the film to highlight the vast range of Roman and Pictish heritage Scotland has to offer.”
*** The Eagle opens at cinemas across the UK on Wednesday, March 23. It screens at the historic Hippodrome Cinema in Bo’ness (close to the eastern end of the Antonine Wall) from Saturday, April 30. www.falkirk.gov.uk/hippodrome
THE ROMAN ANTONINE WALL
The Antonine Wall is the largest relic of the Roman occupation of Scotland. Built around AD 142, on the orders of the Emperor Antoninus Pius, it marked the northern border to the Roman Empire and was constructed as a defence against the northern tribes.
It stretched from Bo’ness on the Forth to Old Kilpatrick on the Clyde, and was approximately 37 miles long. Unlike the stone-built Hadrian’s Wall, the Antonine Wall consisted of a rampant of soil faced with turf, resting on a stone foundation. It originally stood 12 feet high, and was protected on the north side by a V-shaped ditch that was 40 feet wide and 12 feet deep.
South of the wall itself ran a cobbled road – the ‘Military Way’ – which linked a network of forts that were built along the wall at intervals of approximately 2 miles. These forts acted as barracks for troops who defended the frontier.
The Antonine Wall was constantly being attacked by the Picts and, by AD160, as the Roman Empire gradually became weaker, the Wall was abandoned as the Roman army retreated to the south.
On 7 July 2008, the Antonine Wall became the latest part of the Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site (which also includes Hadrian’s Wall in northern England). The decision was made by UN cultural body UNESCO in Canada. The announcement was part of a larger, international effort to see Roman frontiers across Europe recognised. A Scottish bid was put forward by Historic Scotland with the backing of both the Scottish and UK Governments.
The Wall has joined a select group of globally-important structures like the Great Wall of China, New Lanark and Stonehenge.
THE ANTONINE WALL TODAY
In many places the wall has been built over or lost forever. However, despite the passage of time, substantial lengths of the wall can be seen at various sites within the Falkirk area including Watling Lodge, Rough Castle, Kinneil Estate, Polmonthill, Callendar Park and Seabegs Wood.
You can also see exhibitions on the Antonine Wall at Kinneil Museum in Bo’ness and at Callendar House Museum in Falkirk. Both museums are run by Falkirk Council and are free of charge to visit.
Find out more at www.falkirkonline.net/antoninewall