Newstead | Scottish Borders | Attractions
Trimontium Roman Camp
Roman Occupation of Scotland
Trimontium is the most important Roman sites in the UK. Located at Newstead, Melrose in the Scottish Border. It was the largest Roman settlement north York. The main base in Scotland from the first to 3rd century A.D.
The Romans came to Britain in earnest in 43 A.D. Their technically superior and well organised army spent almost 40 years in conquering and holding what is now England and Wales. They arrived in Scotland at Trimontium in 79 A.D., under their governor, Gnarcus Julius Agricola. He led one campaign each year till in 83 A.D. when he defeated the Caledonians 30,000 strong at ‘ battle of Mons Graupius‘ in the North of Scotland (possible Inverurie) and was faced with the problems of fixing a frontier keeping open lines of supply and communication, winning over the indigenous tribes, like Votadini in the Tweed Valley, and administering the country. The first turf and timber fort at Trimontium was strengthened with stone footings in 86 A.D. but in 105 A.D. the Romans swiftly withdrew from Scotland altogether, in order to send troops to the Balkan trouble spot. They returned to Scotland later in the second century. It may have been circa 120 A.D to keep watch just at the time of the building of Hadrian’s Wall from the Solway to the Tyne. Most people think it was circa 140 A.D., when the new Emperor Antonius Pius needed for political purposes, to win a military victory somewhere, not having an army record up to that time. His Antonine Wall of turf on a stone base, was a development of the Hadrian’s Wall pattern, and stretched from the Clyde to the Forth, but it lasted for only 25 years. During that time Trimontium changed its role from front line fort with large infantry and cavalry garrison to supply base behind the wall, providing for soldiers further north. Another political decision gradually took the army away again towards the end of the second century, to stay at Hadrian’s Wall. They came back to Scotland from time to time to pay off the tribes to keep the peace (see the Traprain Law treasure in the Museum of Scotland) or, lie the Emperor Septimius Severus and his sons Geta and Caracalla at the beginning of the third century, passing through Trimontium from York to punish the tribes further north for being rebellious.
The Donkey sanctuary is near Newton St Boswells on the A68 road.
Rhymer’s Stone and Grave
This landmark can be found where the Cycle Route 1 crosses the A68 at Newton St Boswells. The route takes you past the Eildon Hills a favourite of Sir Walter Scott and where the Thomas the Rhymer fell asleep.
Thomas the Rhymer
Thomas the Rhymer ( Sir Thomas de Ercildoun) or “True Thomas” was a poet and someone that could predict the future. His home was in Earlston in the Scottish Borders. The legend tells that Thomas fell asleep beneath a tree at the foot of the hills. When he woke he saw the vision of a shining Lady on a Grey horse, this was the Queen of the Fairies and she entranced him and took him away to Fairyland. He remained there for what he thought had been three days, but was actually 7 years. When he left, the Queen gave him the gift of speaking the truth and told him many prophecies of great events in Scottish history.
The legend of Thomas the Rhymer
Thomas the Rhymer’s Grave
Bridge over the Tweed
One of the events he prophesied that there would be a bridge over the River Tweed which would be visible from the Eildon Tree. The Fairy Queen also told Thomas that she would return one day, so if you feel weary rest under the tree and you never can tell what will happen next. Thomas was a real person and lived in the 1200s and his rhymes have been popular for hundreds of years. His rhymers are the earliest examples of Scottish Poetry. Look in the Poetry Library of the Royal Mile for some examples. Stand by the stone and look for the Bridge or take a nap and see what happens.
The Rhymer’s Stone
Picture below taken from the Thomas The Rhymer’s Stone where the Eildon Tree once stood. The inscription on the stone reads: “At Eildon tree if you shall be | Prediction A bridge ower Tweed you there may see.” | Prediction ascribed to Thomas the Rhymer True Thomas lay on Huntlie Bank | A ferlie lie he spied wi’ his ee | And there he saw a ludye bright come riding down by Eildon Tree | Minstrels of the Scottish Borders.
The Eildon Hills are in the centre of the Melrose area and the best view was where Sir Walter Scott would spend many hours at what is called Scott’s View.
Close Up of the Eildon Hills from Scott’s View
Old Drygrange Bridge
Drygrange Bridge, at Leaderfoot was built circa 1778. A 4-span rubble bridge which was an engineering first when it was built. This was the original crossing for the main A68 road which takes you to England. This was thought to have been built where an old roman bridge stood and before that a ferry crossing. The New Drygrange Bridge was opened in 1973 to carry the A68 highway over the River Tweed just up from the conflux with the Leader Water. which can be seen at the back of picture below.
The magnificent structure that crosses the river Tweed is the Leaderfoot Viaduct a nineteen span, single track railway viaduct. Which was built in 1865 the 19 sandstone arches measures 40 feet (13 m) span; the highest pillar is 114 feet tall above the water level. This is the bridge that can be seen from the viewpoint at the Rhymer’s Stone confirming Thomas the Rhymer’s power of prediction
The Poem on the Stones
Read the history in the poem on the stones beside the old Drygrange Bridge.
The river runs from west to east roads south to north from bank to bank three bridges span three centuries worth
salmon sandstone pillar rise above leaderfoot the meeting of the two singing streams by leafy Ravenswood Before these the fly-boat brae led down to its ferry near the ghost-line of the roman way on the outward journey
builders pay attention to the piers so the arch can spring taking you far from what you see to what you’re not yet seeing
for when the Tweed is running high from wintery moor and moss Old Drygrange Bridge is standing here to carry you across