Hardknott Roman Fort is situated on the western side of the Hardknott Pass in the middle of the Lake District National Park in Cumbria. The fort was built during the reign of Hadrian high upon a rocky spur overlooking the River Esk at an altitude of 245 m above sea-level. It guarded the Roman road between Ambleside and Ravenglass from invasion by the Picts and the Brigantes. The remains include the fort’s defences and gateways, the headquarters building (principia), commandant’s house (praetorium), two granaries (horrea), and a bathhouse outside the fort’s southern defences. The fort is on land owned by the National Trust, part of the Trust’s Wasdale, Eskdale and Duddon property, and maintained by English Heritage.
Coordinates: 54° 24′ 10″ N, 3° 12′ 19″ W
Hardknott Fort was one of the most remote and dramatically sited Roman forts in Britain. Its construction was contemporaneous with the early phase of Hadrian’s Wall, and coin finds indicate that the fort was initially occupied only briefly from AD 120 to AD 138. It was subsequently evacuated under Antoninus Pius (AD 138-61) when the Antonine Wall was established before being re-occupied under Marcus Aurelius when the frontier returned south twenty years later. It was finally abandoned early in the 3rd century.
A fragmentary inscription (RIB 793a), discovered in 1994 near the south gate, records that fort was erected “for the emperor Caesar Trajanus Hadrianus Augustus” by the Fourth Cohort of Dalmatae (Cohors Quartae Delmatarum).
The Fourth Cohort was an auxiliary infantry regiment of 500 men recruited from the Dalmatian tribes who inhabited the areas bordering the eastern Adriatic coast in the modern countries of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The stone-built fort is square and covers 1.2 hectares. It is flanked by two ditches on the uphill side. It has four gates in the usual position and four rounded corners with internal guard towers. The fort is entered through its main (south) gate, which, like those in the eastern and western walls, had two carriageways; the north gate had just one. Internally, the principia occupies the centre of the facility which is flanked by the praetorium and two horrea. Timber framed barracks and workshops occupy the rest of the fort (no traces of these remain).
The bathhouse, lying east of the fort, consists of one circular building containing the furnace and another three rooms with hot, warm and cold baths.
An artificially levelled ground lying on a plateau about 200 metres to the east is believed to be a parade ground where the garrison exercised and practised drill manoeuvres. It has a large ramp of stones leading up to a command platform or tribunal.
In 2015, physics researcher Amelia Carolina Sparavigna found that the gates that led in and out of Hardknott Fort were aligned with the summer and winter solstices (read more here). Sparavigna also suggests that the construction of the fort was designed for the soldiers to engage in sun worshiping and to pay homage to solar deities Mithras or Sol Invictus.
Hi Carole. I remember going to Hardknott Roman Fort many years ago. We got stuck climbing up the pass by an oncoming car. But the view when we finally got there was absolutely fantastic. It is so remote there isn’t it.
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Thank you for this. I’ve been over Hardknott many a time and have never ever stopped on the climb up the hill to take a look. Next time I’m through Gosforth, I’m heading that way. Thanks for a push in the right direction.. and all because of these photos!
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Hardnott Fort and Hardnott Pass holds a dear place in my heart. When we were driving over the pass a few year back rains started and the road looked more like a river! We held up for awhile at the Fort and ate our lunch, huddled in our yellow rain coats, we imagined ourselves drowning in mud! Alas, we made it out, just soaked from head to toe with very fond stories to tell.
Your pics bring back some great memories. A couple of friends and I stumbled on this fort in the summer of 1974, We were just three southern California beach kids who’d never been to Europe. We bought a ’65 VW camper van in Paris and were having the time of our lives. Hardknott Pass was the farthest north of our travels. That day, we met a nice elderly (to us) English couple from Liverpool. They’d been neighbors of John Lennon when he was a boy. I took quite a few pictures too—with my Kodak Instamatic. They’ve withstood the test of time quite well, although they’re not quite the quality of yours. of course. I’m very pleased to have found your site and I look forward to seeing the rest of your photos.