The present road junction with the curious name of Scotch Corner is of great importance to all northern traffic, and was so, too, in Roman times, for from this point one can continue northward to eastern Scotland and Edinburgh or turn north-westward over the relatively easy Stainmore Pass on the Pennines to Carlisle and western and central Scotland, as this road did, and indeed still does, for most of it is a fine route for fast modern traffic.

The Roman road branched from the northern main road (8c) at a point about 300 yards north of the present roundabout at Scotch Corner, but its course across the fields to Kirklands, ¾ mile on, cannot at first be seen, though it appears as a large agger through the fields as it approaches Kirklands. From this point nearly all the way to Brough, save in a few short lengths, the road is still in use. It is a very beautiful route, running in impressively long straights, first through some fine wooded scenery which contrasts richly with the wide moorland views which are seen to perfection beyond Bowes when the weather is suitable. The alignments were chosen with great skill to give a practicable and direct route across country which could have been very difficult if wrongly approached, and with wide views especially on the south. At first the road is well raised, by 2-3 feet, but this is not generally a noticeable feature. Save for bends at Newsham House and near Greta Bridge, dictated probably in both cases by convenience for the river crossings, the road follows one alignment as far as Rokeby Park, just beyond Greta Bridge. Here it turns due west, and so continues to Bowes and over Bowes Moor to the Stainmore Pass. It is joined at Bowes by a direct road from Binchester, through Barnard Castle (820), from the north-east. Right on the summit of Stainmore, at Rey Cross, the road passes through the banks of a large Roman marching camp which is older than the road, for this changes direction slightly upon entering it.

Where the present road commences its descent from the pass it departs for ¾ mile from the Roman line, which can, however, be clearly seen continuing straight on to a somewhat higher point, after which it descends by a zigzag, also plainly visible as a bright green strip of turf, coming back finally, with a field wall along its north-western side, to the present road at a sharp angle just east of Palliard Farm. The derelict road is generally about 30 feet wide, and its kerbstones are clearly visible at some points. Near the highest point the road passes just to the north of a Roman signalling-post, now called Maiden Castle, one of a series along this road which will be further referred to.

At Banks Gate, 1½ miles west of Palliard, the modern road leaves the Roman line until 2 miles beyond Brough, and it must be admitted that for once it takes a much improved and easier route than the old one. The Roman road here turned slightly south-west, following a little ridge through very broken country to the south of the present road, which keeps on a higher level throughout. The Roman line is traceable as a terrace beside field walls between Leonard's Crag and Augill Castle, and is still in use as a rough lane east of Leonard's Crag, but much of the route here still needs tracing in detail. The road was making for the site of the Roman fort Verterae, at Church Brough, ½ mile to the south of the main portion of the town, where the ruined castle stands.

It is probable that the road continued westward across the lower ground, ¼ mile south of Lowgill Farm, until it reached an isolated hill, a suitable spot where a turn was very likely made on to the north-western alignment, which is then followed from Brough Hill to Coupland, near Appleby, by the present road. A small deviation to suit the ground is made at Walk Mill, but otherwise the line is closely adhered to. A slight turn more to the north occurs ¾ mile before Coupland, and this alignment was rigidly followed for 7 miles to Kirkby Thore, although beyond Coupland the main road now leaves it in order to pass through the outskirts of Appleby, the Roman line running as a terrace high above the town on the east. A short piece of the agger appears to remain in the field just as the roads part at Coupland, but there is then little trace of it through the fields for ½ mile, until a narrow by-road follows it for 2 miles past Appleby. Then a green lane marks it for a further 2 miles until the railway comes on to its line almost to Kirkby Thore. Here there was a Roman settlement, and a branch road, Maiden Way (84), led off northward to the Wall zone at Carvoran.

From this point the present road follows the old course for the rest of the way to Brougham with three short alignments through and beyond Temple Sowerby to take the crossing of the River Eden conveniently. Then at Winderwath the road straightens on a westerly course all the way to Brougham, 2 miles south of Penrith, aiming direct for the castle which stands in the site of the Roman fort. Here it met the western main road to the north, 7, which passes the east wall of the fort on the line of the present Mill Lane.

Some mention must now be made of the interesting series of signal stations which has recently been identified along the central part of this road, over Stainmore. They are small oblong enclosures, about 60 by 47 feet overall size, consisting of a ditch, interior rampart of turf, and an upcast mound outside the ditch, and with a rectangular platform within the rampart. Those found so far are situated upon high sites, from which semaphore or similar signals could be well seen, and were evidently part of a series for the passing of routine messages, not just emergency signals, probably from the Headquarters at York to the fort at Stanwix, Carlisle, which was the principal station upon Hadrian's Wall.

One of these posts can be very readily seen upon the north side of the present road over Bowes Moor, about 250 yards east of the Hotel. There is a precisely similar one, called Roper Castle, about a mile to the south west of Rey Cross and rather inaccessible over boggy moorland, placed there because it could signal both to Bowes Moor and also north-westward to Maiden Castle, another, slightly larger, post of the series perched upon the crest of the long descent to Brough on the west. Other posts of the type have been identified between Appleby and Carlisle.

The Antonine Itineraries II and V cover this road as part of routes, given in opposite directions, between Carlisle and Catterick. The stages are somewhat different in each Iter, but the distances correspond well with the actual mileage generally:

II V Actual

Cataractonium (Catterick Bridge)   

Lavatrae (Bowes) XVI XVIII 19

Verterae (Brough) XIIII XIIII 13

Brovonacae (Kirkby Thore) XIII — 12¾

Brocavum (Brougham) — XX 19½

Voreda (Castlesteads) XIII — 13½

Luguvallium (Carlisle, Stanwix) XIIII — 12¾

Luguvallium (Carlisle, Stanwix) — XXII 19¼


1. I. A. Richmond, A Roman Arterial Signalling System in the Stainmore Pass, Aspects of Archaeology (ed. by W. F. Grimes) (H. W. Edwards, 1951), 293


Roman Roads in Britain by Ivan D. Margary (1973)

Roman Roads in Britain (1973) by I. D. Margary has been registered by RRRA as an Orphan Work with the European Union Intellectual Property Office, .File no. 821_2801, allowing us to legally reproduce the text here. Our  thanks are due to Scott Vanderbilt, who digitised the book.