'And now... Let's go and visit the mystery site. Which isn't that mysterious any more, as keen-eyed readers will have spotted by now that it was indeed Hardknott Roman Fort.
There's no guide book. It's one of these isolated little sites that gets basic maintenance from English Heritage, which includes being issued with a couple of information boards and nothing more. So I've had to go hunting further information on the internet, and I've found it, courtesy of the 'VisitCumbria' website, from which I've quoted the passage cited below:-
'The Roman Fort, one of the loneliest outposts of the Roman Empire, built between AD120 and AD138 is on a spectacular site overlooking the pass which forms part of the Roman road from Ravenglass to Ambleside and Brougham at Penrith. The walls surrounded granaries, barracks, and a commandant's house. The baths, with a sequence of three rooms can be seen outside the main walls. An area of flattened ground is believed to be a parade area.'
VisitCumbria goes to great pains to tell us of the 'spectacular site'. What it fails to hammer home on the hapless reader is the spectacular nature of the remains themselves. It's a fantastic site, up there with anything you can find on Hadrian's Wall.
The site can just be seen in the centre of the picture - the line of walling anaking around the summit of a low, flattish hillock. It's incredibly well-preserved, the enclosing rampart standing to almost 2m in height.
A closer view now, with the ramparts silhouetted on the horizon:-
And now, here's a view of the ramparts. I'll feature them in detail tomorrow, because they're worth a closer look. There are practical reasons underlying the site's fantastic levels of preservation: it's located at the back of beyond, which means that its fabric has remained safe throughout the centuries from the predations of local landowners.
And as for the road... Only the Romans would have created a road over a route as insane as Hardknott Pass, I'll have to post a photo at some point, though no photograph can possibly do the experience of driving along it justice. The VisitCumbria website described it as thrilling and exciting,but that's not the words I would choose. Hair-raising, utterly mad and downright scary was closer to the mark. But it was worth it to see that fort!
As Obelix would say... These Romans are crazy!! And you haven't even seen the view out of the back door yet..