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Scotland Travel Vlog February 2019

"Behind Enemy Lines"

This month is going to be our first attempt at a Video Diary (or "Vlog" if you prefer). Hopefully you'll like them and, if you do, will give the videos a "Thumbs Up" on our YouTube Channel so we know if we're giving you the sort of stuff that you want to watch.

We sometimes get requests for customised tours that include a visit to Hadrian's Wall, but the wall isn't actually in Scotland and most of it doesn't even run that close to the modern frontier between the 2 countries. There are, however, some Roman sites in Scotland, although none that are as impressive and intact as you will find along Hadrian's Wall, or in the regions of England that were subjugated by the Roman Invasion.

The Roman activity north of Hadrian's wall was largely dictated by the Guerilla warfare tactics of the Caledonian tribes. This was a type of warfare that the Roman army was ill suited to fight as there were no strategic centres in Scotland that they could dominate and control. The Caledonian tribes would not engage the enemy in large set piece battles and were widely dispersed throughout the land so the Roman invaders struggled to control their movements. As a result, most of the Roman sites in Scotland are small forts scattered along lines of communication. There are very few stone structures to be found so most of the places of interest are just grassy mounds that once would have had temporary wooden structures and defenses built on and around them. 

One of the best preserved examples of a Roman hill fort in Southern Scotland is to be found just outside of the pretty little village of Durisdeer, about 20 miles North of Dumfries. The earthworks of this fort have survived relatively undisturbed as the land is really only suitable for sheep farming so, unlike some other forts, no farmer has ever driven a plough over this ground. You can still clearly identify the fort's inner rectangle (approx 32 metres x 18 metres) and its outer defensive embankment (~9m wide and 4 metres high) which is in turn surrounded by an outer ditch that would probably have contained wooden stakes to impede would be attackers. 

Archaeologists have deduced from digs at the site and the distance between this fort and neighbouring Roman sites, that this hill fort was most likely to have been a base for a cavalry unit that would have patrolled a communication line running between the Nithsdale Valley and Clyde Valley.

We combined the hike to the Hill Fort with a visit to Durisdeer where you can explore a charming little church that is most noteworth for the "Queensberry Aisle", which is a mausoleum with an ornate marble memorial to  the 2nd Duke of Queensberry (1662 - 1711) and his wife. There is an interesting story and rather morbid story related to the Duke's son and we tell you more in the video.

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