Day Twelve - Drive to Scottish Borders - Vindolanda Roman Fort & Jedburgh Abbey   

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This was a long driving day, from Keswick in England to St. Boswell's in Scotland. 

\ Hadrian's Wall, ca. 130 AD


On the journey to the Scottish Borders we headed east from Carlisle, England, for about an hour.  Taking some back roads, we stopped at Vindolanda Roman Fort, near Hexam, England. On the map above, Hexam is near the Roman Outpost Fort at Corbridge. 

Vindolanda was a fully-occupied Roman Fort by AD 80, four decades before the work to build nearby Hadrian's Wall commenced. This Roman fort was out on the frontier, and tribes of Picts from the north were the threat. Picts had a lot of Viking blood, and were seen as aggressive savages, by the Romans. 

This is the furthest north in Europe that Roman Legions ever occupied and maintained a presence. There were temporary, later abandoned, exploratory Roman outposts as far north as Inverness, way too deep into tribal lands.     

According to the brochure, Vindolanda military fort and the accompanying village had a population as large as 5,000, of which 1,500 would have been Roman soldiers, the rest being family members, supporting crafts-persons, traders, and merchants, plus servants & slaves. The local economy was based on the monthly pay of Roman soldiers with their currency, mainly coins.   

Roman soldiers posted here were often from Syria, or northern Africa, or Gaul (France) and what would later be called Germany.  It was an international group who lived here.  Museum displays stated that military discipline was strictly enforced.    

This particular site was chosen because of the presence of fresh water springs, which are still here.     

In AD 122, Roman Emperor Hadrian visited the Roman forts in the area, and he heard their complaints about the troublesome Picts, and he gave the order to construct an 80 mile long Wall, from Solway Firth in the west to the North Sea in the east, a border control scheme, or DNA filter, to be named after him. 

ref. - all historic info here is from the official brochure.

note - you can enlarge any part of a picture by left-clicking in and then out again.

  miles from home first look this was no small fort
  bath house  foundations not w/o some luxury main buildings  
the tavern tavern, see note below   "on Broadway" 
  heading to the cafe & museum downhill somewhat Chesterholm Museum & Cafe  
Vindolanda artifacts Samian pottery from south Gaul weapons Roman coins
in good condition himself you could read letters written at the fort... ...most were ordinary &  trite, just like us
outside again < altars & their religious inscriptions > 1/10 second handheld waterfall shot
goodbye to Vindolanda Roman Fort Linda Carol & Linda Carol

note: the official brochure states that had you walked into this Tavern 1,800 years ago, you probably could have chosen from a few local beers, or, between a white or red wine, from Gaul, as well as hot food. 

Historical records indicate that early on, after occupation, the Romans improved the trade of 'english' wool for 'french' wines from Gaul, especially from what we now know as the Bordeaux region.              

According to the brochure, Vindolanda turned out to be "the most yielding" of Roman artifacts of any Roman fort along Hadrian's Wall, which is why the Museum here is extensive.  

Coins were mentioned above, and the guidebook says a huge cache of old coins was discovered under the old wooden floor at the Tavern a few years ago by a summertime student archeologist, suggesting that a local bar worker secretly stored a moderate amount of money in small denominational coins. For one reason or another, that unknown historic person never came back to collect it......      

Hadrian's Wall, which we did not get to see, is the largest Roman ruin anywhere. 

in good condition a well-trod footpath to the left a walker on the left side path an idealized  cartoon-ish image

Afterwards, we ventured forth & crossed back into Scotland and were soon at the ruins of Jedburgh Abbey, which was closed for the day. Photos were taken from as close as we could get. It was around 4 pm.  

crossing the border in the Cheviot Hills in a ferocious wind River Jed
  Jedburgh Abbey near sunset  


Jedburgh Abbey was founded in 1136 as a Monastery for Cistercian monks, who had an active connection to the Abbey at Rievaulx, in Yorkshire, England. 


Melrose is in southeast Scotland Scottish Borders, look for River Tweed

Generally speaking, the Scottish Borders today are considered a scenic & romantic place to visit, with attractive small towns and Abbey ruins, like at Melrose or Kelso, connected by the River Tweed.

Historically, over a much larger area, the Borders was a place where ferocious battles occurred between the most powerful clans or families on both sides of the Scotland-England Border, from 1350 to 1625, resulting in almost three hundred years of chaos and grief, and loss of life.

Scotland clans continued to fight with each other, too.  Raids were common, to steal cattle, or women, or plates & forks. (Or early versions of Macsween haggis.)     

Revenge was always the motivator. English Borders people never forgot the atrocities committed by Scottish Knight William Wallace and his men in 1298 & 1299, nor did the Scottish forget the brutal slaughter of more than ten thousand innocents by English King Edward I at Berwick-on-Tweed in 1296.    

Beginning in 1600s, Stuart Kings in London legally threatened, or forcibly removed (to Ireland), powerful Scottish Borders clan leaders, like from the Douglas and Turnbull families, in an attempt to bring about some kind of regional peace and stability. 

After the economic Union in 1707, Scottish wool could be traded with any English colony in the world, and Melrose & surrounding towns like Kelso, Peebles & Galashiels combined to become the largest wool producers in Great Britain. With lasting peace, local farms flourished & the dark years were finally over. (Borders info here is from a reference cited on the next page.)

Melrose is a tiny town (photo from the web)

Our destination today was the Dryburgh Arms Pub with Rooms in St. Boswell's. Later we drove two miles into Melrose for a 5 pm dinner at Marmion's Brasserie, and had the place to ourselves. It was quiet & relaxing, with great food. 

Our server was a Romania woman, having picked Melrose off a map, as a place to move to. 

She had been here a year and enjoyed interacting with the tourist crowd, who of course come here from all over. 

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