The best preserved Roman fort in Britain

Take an atmospheric wander around the best-preserved Roman fort in Britain.

Housesteads Roman Fort was once garrisoned by 1,000 soldiers. It is aligned towards sunrise, making the east gate the main gate. You can still see the deeply worn wheel ruts here. Vercovicium or Borcovicium were how the fort was known in Roman times.

The museum and its introductory film give great insight about these astonishing ruins. The steep walk to the remains is worth it for the history and spectacular views.

Reivers

From 1663, Housesteads was the home of the Armstrongs, notorious Border Reivers. Nicholas Armstrong bought the farm in 1692, only to have to sell it again in 1694 to Thomas Gibson, of Hexham, for £485.

The Armstrongs remained as tenants. They were well-known horse thieves and cattle rustlers, who used the old Roman fort as a corral for their stolen livestock.

They “traded” all over. At one time, every male member of the family had been outlawed by English or Scottish authorities. Nicholas was hanged in 1704, and his brothers fled to America.

The Armstrongs lived in a typical 16th century defensive bastle house of two storeys: the ground floor for livestock and the upper level for living quarters.

Its ruins remain built up against the south gate of the Roman fort and clearly show its defensive nature, with external stone steps and narrow loop windows. A corn-drying kiln was inserted into the gate’s guard chamber in the 17th century.

Getting there

Car

From the A1, follow the A69 west before turning right onto the A6079 at Acomb. Follow the A6079 and then turn left onto the B6318. Follow the B6318 to you destination.

Bus

The Hadrian’s Wall Bus takes you to the fort.