Discover Celtic and Roman Stirling

The people that lived in Scotland 2000 years ago are often called Celts but in Stirling we know the name of their tribe: the Maeatae, because it survives in Stirling’s most prominent hill Dumyat (Dun Maeatae: Fort of the Maeatae), just look north. One of the key fortifications of the Maeatae was Stirling’s Mote Hill, which controlled the crossing point of the Forth and was destroyed by fire around AD250. Mote Hill is at the northern tip of Gowan Hill at the bottom of Lower Bridge Street, just look for the pair of cannons above Sainsburys and the Beheading Stone. The Romans tried to conquer Scotland at least three times and each time they ultimately failed and withdrew.

In the first century AD they established the first boundary in the Empire which ran from Doune to the River Tay and is known as the Gask Ridge. One of the Roman Forts on the Gask Ridge at Ardoch is the best preserved example of a timber fort in the world.

Travel north from Stirling on the A9 to Greenloaning and carry on to Braco. The fort is to the north east of the village and on the east side of the A822. There is parking in a layby on the left just after you cross the bridge and the fort is on your right. You can see the fort’s ramparts from the road and it’s easy to imagine the hustle and bustle of the legionaries and their barracks. This general location was used again in the 3rd century AD when the Emperor Septimius Severus invaded Scotland. At this point in the Roman Empire, its capital was where the Emperor was and so we can say that Braco was the capital of the Roman Empire for a few weeks!

The network of Roman roads that supplied the frontier connected Ardoch to Stirling and eventually to Rome and was the main Scottish road network for the next 1800 years, only being fully replaced in the late 1700s! A section of the Roman road runs through Stirling’s Beechwood Park on the west side of the B8051. This road was used by every army to ever invade Scotland from the Romans to Bonnie Prince Charlie and was also used by Robert the Bruce and William Wallace!

Another key Maeatae site is Torwood Broch which is the largest prehistoric building in Southern Scotland and represents the remains of a Celtic tower, built in the 1st century AD before the arrival of the Romans and surviving to over 3m high. The broch is surrounded by a series of later defences and contains a 4-5000 year old spiral decorated stone in the stair way, you have to crouch to see it. Leave Stirling from the south and take the A872, and then take the second left to Plean, you are now driving on the Roman road, built nearly 2000 years ago. Keep on this road until you get to Torwood village, take the first right in Torwood into the car park. Opposite the car park is a small wooden bridge which is the start of the path to the broch, which is just over a third of a mile long and climbs gently as it twists and turns though the dense growth of conifers. The broch is at the summit of the hill so keep walking uphill.

The Romans tried to conquer Scotland again in the second century AD when they built the Antonine Wall, the largest archaeological monument in Scotland and a World Heritage Site. The best preserved section is at nearby Rough Castle and it is possible to stand on what was the edge of the civilised world and glare into wild untamed Celtic Scotland. Leave Torwood car park and turn right, travel through the village and turn right onto the A9. Join the M876 and turn right towards Bonnybridge and the Antonine Wall is signposted at Bonnybridge. From Bonnybrudge take the B816 between Bonnybridge and High Bonnybridge which is also signposted for the wall.

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