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Not far south of Emperor Hadrian's impressive attempt to control our Scots cousins the Romans developed a networks of roads and forts across the rugged Lakes. The most dramatic remains of this occupation are those of Hardknott Fort overlooking Eskdale valley.
Another dramatic and challenging "Roman experience" can be enjoyed by walking in the footsteps of the legions across the mountain that became called High Street in recognition of this old roman road that links Penrith and Ambleside.
The route from Amblesides roman fort to Ravenglass is marked on the ancient Antonine Itinerary, the first AA road map! In 1920 near to the Little Langdale to Tilberthwaite footbridge and ford R.G. Collingwood saw a section of 10 foot wide road complete with kerb stones.In 1946 Ian Richardson, author of the Penguin classic on Roman Britain did detailed field studies at Wrynose and Hardknott. The roman road is on a shelf some 75 yards above the present road until the two come together to breast the rise and pass the Three Shire Stone. After taking a more gradual descent than the present roasd the romans then ran a straight line to the north of the infant Duddon. This 24 foot wide causeway is clearly visible in parallel with the tarmac road.
After Cockley Beck the romans headed down valley to Black Hall. From near the farm it then zig zags up to the head of the pass. On the descent to Eskdale the roman route goes straight on when the modern road takes a vertigous sharp turn left. The roman route had its own zig zags down from Hardknott fort to just south of Brotherilkeld. The roman route from Penrith via a fort at Troutbeck clearly indicates a fort at Keswick, with Castlerigg being an obvious contendor for the site.A roman route went over Whinlatter descending Scales Hill into Lorton.
In 13th century it was called the Brethstrett, in respect of the Britons of Cumbria.On ridge at over 2,000 feet. Summit of High Street has even been used as a racecourse. It dips into the dramatic Straights of Riggindale and then up onto High Raise heading north, eventually gently descending Loadpot Hill towards Tirril for Penrith. Ambleside fort (Galava was built around 90 AD) while Brocavum (Brougham) was built 80-81AD by Agricola. Despite its great height it represents the walkers best route. The regulation Roman army rate was 20 miles in five hours. At the start Eamont Bridge provides two inns. A bronze age circular mound is known as King Arthur's Round Table. Before the moorland start the village of Tirril furnishes an inn and small store.Out onto the moors and soon one of many middle bronze age stone circles is passed. Thereafter steady climb past Arthur's Seat. High Raise starts the more dramatic mountain section South of High Street the roman road could have taken the distinct terrace path down towards Troutbeck, a route known as Scots Rake, no doubt in respect of its use as route by the Scots at some stage in history. But an alternative route for the roman road could have been tracing the ridge south skirting Froswick and Bell before descending to the Garburn Pass.