History

 

Introduction

 

Callander is situated at the point where the Eas Gobhain and Garbh Uisage converge into the River Teith. These waterways have cut a deep valley through the area, known as the Pass of Leny, which provided access to and from the Highland massif. The area has been occupied for thousands of years and today the remains of two fortifications can be seen in close proximity.

 

Dunmore Hillfort

 

Dunmore Hillfort occupies the summit of a steep hill overlooking the Eas Gobhain. It is not clear when it was first built but is likely to have been founded no later than the Iron Age and remained in operation well into the Dark Ages. The central enclosure was oval shaped and probably included a number of round houses. On the exterior, the eastern side was protected by a sheer drop whilst the west, which was approached via a shallower gradient, had an elaborate system of ditches and ramparts. Access into the fortification was via a hornpipe arrangement, similar to a medieval barbican. An annexe, perhaps for housing livestock, was located to the north of the fort.

 

The multivallate defences, consisting of four ditches and ramparts, not only provided security but also acted as an articulation of the owner's power and status. Stone footings found on the site suggest that each rampart originally had its own curtain wall and such a structure would have been visible for miles around adding further gravitas to the site. It is likely Dunmore, at least towards the end of its occupation, was home to an important tribal leader.

 

The name of the site derives from Gaelic - Dun meaning fort and Mhor meaning large - which became corrupted into Dunmore. The hillfort has also been known as Dun Bochaistel (Fort Bochastle). In the immediate proximity is Samson's Puttin' stone; allegedly dropped by a giant of the same name but more likely moved into place by a glacier around 10,000 years ago.

 

Bochastle Roman Fort

 

The Romans established the fort at Bochastle around AD 85 as part of a complex military deployment designed to contain any insurgency originating from the Highland massif. Two years earlier Gnaeus Julius Agricola had led his forces to victory at the Battle of Mons Graupius and he inevitably would have expected the Caledonian tribes to resort to guerrilla warfare. A new Legionary base was established at Inchtuthil along with the associated network of forts, roads and watchtowers. Bochastle, situated at the eastern end of the Pass of Leny, was one of a number of so-called Glen Blocker forts controlling key access points from the Highlands.

 

The fort was sited at the point where the Eas Gobhain and Garbh Uisage converge into the River Teith, the latter being the primary means of accessing and resupplying the site. It was built upon the remains of an earlier marching camp, probably dating from circa-AD 80, and enclosed an area of around five acres. It was configured in the standard 'playing card' arrangement with a Headquarters building in the centre which was surrounded by barracks, workshops and granaries. A pair of defensive ditches surrounded the outpost. Archaeological investigation suggests the fort may have had an annexe to the west of the main fort.

 

It is not clear how long Bochastle Roman Fort remained in use. Shortly after Bochastle had been established, the Romans constructed the Gask Ridge frontier consisting of a series of forts (including Doune and Ardoch) inter-spaced with watchtowers. The exposed Glen Blocker forts, including Bochastle, may have been abandoned at this time in which case the fort may only have been occupied for a single winter. Alternatively, it may have remained in use until AD 90 when the Romans started to withdraw troops from Scotland. The site was not re-occupied during the later Roman excursions into Scotland and the site survived as earthworks until partially destroyed by the construction of the Callander to Oban Railway in the 1840s. The railway was dismantled after its closure in 1965 and the former path of the track is now a foot/cycle path enabling good views of the site.

 

 

Bibliography

 

CANMORE (2016). Bochastle Roman Fort. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.

CANMORE (2016). Dunmore. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.

Connolly, P (1981). Greece and Rome at War. Black Cat, London.

Fields, N (2005). Rome’s Northern Frontier AD 70-235. Osprey, Oxford.

Hobbs, R and Jackson, R (2010). Roman Britain. British Museum Company Ltd, London.

Konstam, A (2010). Strongholds of the Picts; the Fortifications of Dark Age Scotland. Osprey, Oxford.

Maxwell, G.S (1989). The Romans in Scotland. Mercat Press, Edinburgh.

Rivet, A.L. F (1966). The Iron Age in northern Britain. Edinburgh.

Shotter, D (1998). The Roman Frontier in Britain. Carnegie Publishing Ltd, London.

Southern, P (2011). Ancient Rome - The Empire 30BC to AD476. Amberley Publishing, London.

Stevenson, J B (1985). Exploring Scotland's heritage: the Clyde estuary and Central Region, Exploring Scotland's heritage series. Edinburgh.

Tabraham, C (2000). Scottish Castles and Fortifications. Historic Scotland, Haddington.

What's There?

Dunmore Hillfort is the most impressive such site in the Trossachs and offers superb views from the summit. Only slight earthworks remain of Bochastle Roman Fort.

Callander Fortifications. The two fortifications demonstrated very different concepts of defence. Dunmore Hillfort relied on strong natural defences whereas the Romans prioritised logistics and accordingly occupied the lowlands by the river.

Dunmore Hillfort. The fort as viewed from the west. The central oval enclosure was protected on this side by three additional ramparts.

Dunmore Hillfort. The steep natural scarps on the north and east provided strong natural defences. There were no additional ramparts or ditches on those sides.

Samson's Puttin' Stone. The stone was allegedly dropped by a giant called Samson. An alternative theory is that it was shifted into place by a glacier around 10,000 years ago.

View from the summit of Dunmore Hillfort.

Bochastle Roman Fort Context. As one of the Glen Blocker Forts, Bochastle guarded a major access point out of the Highland massif. With eastern Scotland under Roman rule, an insurgency from the Highlands was evidently expected.

Bochastle Roman Fort. The site of the fort (centre, distance) as viewed from Dunmore Hillfort.

Bochastle Roman Fort. Only slight earthworks remain of the Roman fort.

Bochastle Roman Fort.

DUNMORE HILLFORT

and BOCHASTLE ROMAN FORT

Callander is located at the north-west end of the Teith valley, one of the key routes to and from the Highland massif. In the Iron Age Dunmore Hillfort, which is sited in a strong defensive position on Callander Hill, was built to dominate the area. Later Bochastle Roman Fort was constructed to contain an insurgency emanating from the Highlands.

Getting There

Neither fort is sign-posted but both can be found off the A821 near Callander. Dunmore Hillfort has a lay-by directly adjacent to the footpath towards the site. For Bochastle Roman Fort use Kilmahog car park and follow the cycle-track. Further access details are described below.

Dunmore Hillfort Car Park

G83 8EG

56.238251N 4.256071W

Dunmore Hillfort

No Postcode

56.240112N 4.258399W

Bochastle Fort Car Park

G83 8EG

56.246081N 4.247838W

Bochastle Roman Fort

No Postcode

56.243572N 4.238934W

Access to Dunmore Hillfort. From the lay-by head to the information panel then turn left following the path to Brig o'Turk. The route to the summit is just before a large rock on the right. Thereafter follow the unpaved path to the summit.

Access to Bochastle Roman Fort. From the A821 enter Kilmahog Car Park. Thereafter follow the cycle-track until you see the earthworks.