Category: Romans

Strathclyde Park is massive. Covering land between Bothwell, Bellshill, Hamilton and Motherwell, it can be tough to figure out where exactly you are. As usual in this part of the world, the history of the place is pretty much ignored, but there’s plenty of interesting material around.

This afternoon was one of the first decent days in weeks – yesterday the weather couldn’t decide between hailstones, snow and blue skies so it attacked with all three – so we decided on a wee dauner round a part of the park we hadn’t been to before, mostly in the South Calder Glen.

There’s Roman antiquities all over the place round here, although they’re mostly invisible. The car park lies east of Bothwellhaugh Fort, we walk along the line of the Roman road (now called Watling Street) and we’ll circle back round eventually to the bath-house at the bottom of the hill. More of that later.

South Calder Glen is lovely with sandstone cliffs and winding paths, but as we walked upstream the path was mostly on the top of the cliffs so there wasn’t much to see. Except maybe the viaduct, which remained invisible to me until I almost tripped over it, much to the hilarity of everyone else. I was just too busy checking out the many lumps and bumps in the landscape. You’ve heard of not seeing the wood for the trees, but I’ve never heard of not seeing the 100 foot tall viaduct for the trees.

Further upstream the path descends to the riverbank and you can see a waterfall in the distance, which turns to be a dam or a weir. The derelict walls beside it belonged to Holm Forge – about which I can find remarkably little, except that they manufactured spades and shovels. The woods beside the Forge naturally became known as Forge Woods, and the subsequent housing estate was named Forgewood.

We crossed the South Calder at Holm Forge Bridge, an ugly beast, and headed back downstream, momentaily stunned by the aerobatics of a trio of ducks who landed in perfect formation on the river. Looking at Scotland’s Places later, I noticed an antiquity marked ‘Wallace’s Cave‘ just after the viaduct. RCAHMS says this is a mistake: there is no cave here, but the Ancient Family of Cleland describes it. We certainly didn’t notice anything, but then if you can’t see a flippin’ great viaduct in your way, a sandstone cave isn’t likely to jump out at you.

The path follows the riverbank before heading uphill and meeting Bellshill Golf Course. Nearby was located Orbiston House, and you can still see the walled garden, the doocot and the icehouse. The river loops back on itself here so there’s a bit more hiking before you cross again, most of it downhill until you reach the Roman Bridge and the bath-house.

The bath-house belonging to Bothwellhaugh Fort was discovered when Strathclyde Loch was being created, and it was subsequently moved from its original location to protect it.

The Hunterian Museum has a beautiful little bit of roof tile complete with a dog’s pawprint from the bath-house. The sort of artefact that everyone smiles at, especially people who wouldn’t smile at the word artefact (which is I suppose, most people). The tile was the Pop Up Museum’s Curator’s Choice for January 2012 (which reminded me of it)

If you look on old maps of this area, a road is marked as Roman, the current Watling Street. The continuation of this road leads back up to the car park from the bath-house. Is it still Roman? It’s certainly an old road, but how old remains a mystery.

The final tired stroll uphill was accompanied by silly stories of runaway Roman soldiers mixing up their words and calling Celts,  kilts and vice versa, complete with a dog that kept running across the potter’s handiwork.

It’s taken a long time to get out for the first time this year. Hopefully the weather will hold on another weekend soon 🙂


The first thing to say about Roman Bridge is that it ain’t Roman. It’s probably a medieval packhorse bridge, although there may have been older crossings over the South Calder Water at the same spot.

To be fair, the Roman connection isn’t far away, so the name isn’t that surprising. Bothwellhaugh Fort sits right on the top of the hill above the bridge, although it’s almost impossible to see  now, and the associated bath-house was moved up the slope when Strathclyde Loch was created. Parts of the road that lead from the bridge to the fort are marked as Roman road on old maps.

According to Scotland’s Places, various specialists have dated the bridge to anywhere from medieval times to the 18th century. The most up-to-date suggestion is that it is medieval, but that it was restored by the Hamiltons in the late 17th century.


The Langcausey was an old road between East Kilbride and Rutherglen. The 1773 Ross map of Lanarkshire clearly shows a road running from Torrance House through East Kilbride, then past Mains Castle over the Cathkin Braes, past Castlemilk House to Rutherglen Main Street.

Unfortunately, Glasgow City Council are building a huge flippin’ landfill right over the top of it (and btw, Guys, can you dump your rubbish in your own back green please?). So it’s a shame that this historic route was ruined for the future – and for me too, cos I only missed being able to walk the whole thing by a year or two. Poor me.

Roman road?

There’s a local tale that it’s actually a Roman road. Naturally this has come about because there are stretches of it that are very straight, and the road was apparently paved, while the majority of local routes were still mud and there’s also known Roman activity nearby, so it’s not an impossible story. The latest excavations suggest that it’s not, although it does seem to have been repaired on a few occasions.

Markethill Road

When the plague raged in Glasgow the people in Kilbride, and in the neighbouring parts of the country would not approach nearer the city with their marketable goods than a hill about half a mile to the north of Kilbride, on the old road to Glasgow, to which the inhabitants of Glasgow consequently resorted, as a temporary market-place, and which has ever since retained the name of the market-hill.

Rev. Henry Moncrieff, New Statistical Account, 1834


I’ve been trying to trace the route of the road right through to Rutherglen, but once it’s crossed the Cathkin Braes, it’s not obvious. There are numerous references to it being there, but it must have been one of those obvious things that required no detailed information, cos everyone knew about it, until of course, fewer and fewer people did.

If anyone in the know reads this, feel free to leave a comment.