Ardoch is a Roman fort in Central Scotland, in Perthshire. The earthworks of the fort and camps at Ardoch are quite impressive, but there are no stone remains. The fort is an oblong fort of about 5½ acres, partly surrounded by five ditches of remarkable depth. Here the multiple-ditch system reaches the climax of its impressiveness, recalling the great multiple entrenchments of prehistoric hill-top camps.  The principia in the centre of the fort is easily recognisable, with the rear-range of rooms arranged along the south side and a doorway in the centre of the north, but no other internal buildings are apparent. A quick search of the molehills in the interior of the fort turned up several pieces of iron slag and a fragment of roofing tile.

A glance at the ditch plan shows, what is confirmed by the findings of excavation (P.S.A. Scot., xxxii, 399), that we have here to deal with two forts, an earlier and larger, which was shortened at one end, exactly like Castell Collen (Fig. 6) or Tomen-y-Mur, when the second was built. At Ardoch, however, the builders of the later fort made use of the earlier ditches to form part of a new and very elaborate system of defence. (Collingwood 1930 p.46)

The Flavian Fort

The first fort at Ardoch was constructed in the latter half of the 1st century AD during the Flavian Period. It was likely dates to have been constructed between 79 and 83 AD, when the Roman governor Agricola campaigned in Northern Britain with the intent of conquering the whole of the island. The first fort was probably built around the time of the Battle of Mons Graupius, possibly during the governorship of Agricola, but more likely by his successor, c.85AD.  It is possible that this fort, and another at Strageath, were established during Agricola’s third campaign period. The original Flavian fort was probably briefly abandoned in favour of the Glen forts.

The Antonine Fort

The Fort was later reoccupied in the mid-2nd century, when Inchtuthil and these outer Glen forts were abandoned. The Romans returned to this area and constructed the Antonine Wall at the Forth-Clyde isthmus (c.142 – 154 AD). Ardoch was positioned north of the Antonine Wall, so it probably served as a frontier outpost for the Wall and formed part of the Gask Frontier Zone. The Antonine Fort at Ardoch was different in size to the preceding Flavian fort, smaller in size with its own ditches. A key reason why Ardoch has so many ditches visible today is because of the site’s multiple uses by the Romans in antiquity.

The first watch-tower of the Gask Frontier Zone, lies to the west of the road northwards to Strageath. It seems likely that the forts at Ardoch, Strageath and Bertha were briefly reoccupied during the later Antonine Period, again only for a short time, before being finally abandoned when the Antonine wall was discontinued.

A Third Fort?

There was possibly even a third Roman fort constructed at Ardoch in the early 3rd century AD, when Septimius Severus marched a massive army into the Scottish midlands on a punitive expedition against troublesome peoples in the area. Whether Severus built a new fort at Ardoch is debated, but we do know that his army was active in this area.

The Procestrium Camp/Annexe

NN841101 – The defensive ditch of the so-called procestrium or annexe adjoining the fort on the north, were sectioned in 1970. The ditch was about 18ft 4ins (5.6m) wide and 4ft (1.2m) deep with a U-profile. No dateable finds were recovered, but the ditch was presumed to be ‘of Roman military origin’.

The Signal Station

The eastern defences of the largest marching camp overlie the south-eastern parts of a small, square enclosure beside the Roman road. The enclosure has several components; a central platform about 36 feet square (c.11 m²), set within an enclosure consisting of a 10 foot wide ditch with a counterscarp bank, the entire works measuring just over 100 feet across. It is very likely that this represents a signal-station beside the main military highway into the north, the next one in the sequence being that at Kaim’s Castle.

Other Roman Military Sites in the Area

Aside from the sequence of forts at Ardoch, there are nearby fortlets at Glenbank and Kaims Castle, and watchtowers at
Greenloaning Signal Station, Blackhill Wood and Westerton Watch Tower, and another 2 at Sheilhill (NN8511/8512).

The Garrison Units

The fort may have been garrisoned by both a legionary detachment and an auxiliary unit.

RIB 2213 - Funerary inscription for Ammonius

To the spirits of the departed: Ammonius, (son) of Damio, centurion of the First Cohort of Spaniards, of 27 years’ service, (lies here). His heirs had this made.


The full formula Dis Manibus occurs on tombstones of the first century. The name and parentage of Ammonius probably indicate a man recruited in the East (see Schulze, Zur Geschichte lateinischer Eigennamen (1933) 121).

The unit first appeared in Britain in the train of emperor Hadrian during his historic visit to the island in 122AD. They are first recorded at Maryport (Alauna) on an altar dated 123-38AD and on several other undated stones and tiles. Recorded on a single tombstone here at Alauna Veniconum (vide RIB 2213 supra), the unit is also attested on four inscriptions dating between 213-222AD at Castra Exploratorum (Netherby, Cumbria; RIB 976-9) where it seemingly remained for some time. It is possible, however, that during its sojourn at Netherby, part of the unit may have been stationed at the Hadrian’s Wall fort of Uxelodunum/Petrianum (Stanwix, Cumbria; see the The Notitia Dignitatum).

Epigraphic Evidence from Ardoch

Only three inscriptions on stone have so far been recovered from the Alauna fort, two of which are mere fragments of text.

RIB 2211 - Fragmentary building inscription

The emperor ..


No commentary.

RIB 2212 - Fragmentary building inscription

… emperor’s propraetorian legate.

[...] AVG

No commentary.

The third inscription however, from a tombstone, has yielded the name of a probable garrison unit (see RIB 2213 above).

The Dateable Pottery Evidence

Occupation during the early-Flavian period is attested by decorated wares of Forms 27, 29, 37 & Curle 11. Antonine occupation is shown by single examples of three potters stamps: Avitus Form 33, Ritogenus Form 31 and Suobnus Form 18/31 (Hartley 1972).

Classical References for Alauna (Ardoch)

Geography of Ptolemy gives the following information:

From these toward the east, but more northerly, are the Damnoni, among whom are the following towns: ?Colanica 20*45 59? [unknown] ?Vindogara 21*20 60? [unknown] ?Coria 21*30 59? [unknown] ?Alauna 22*45 59? [unknown] ?Lindum 23*00 59? [unknown] ?Victoria 23*30 59? [unknown]

It is possible that the Alauna entry from Ptolemy may be identified with the Ardoch site.

The meaning of the name Alauna?

Alauna is one of the commonest ancient names in Britain and on the Continent. It appears to be an adjective that served primarily as a river name, applied secondarily to forts and settlements near the mouths of those rivers, and to people and gods from there.

The fort has been named Alavna Veniconvm, the suffix Veniconvm is used to distinguish this particular site from others, also named Alauna in Roman times, and qualifies this town as belonging to the tribal lands of the Venicones Celtic Tribe. The Romans would have just used the name Alavna.

References for Alavna Veniconvm

  • The Archaeology of Roman Britain by R.G. Collingwood (Methuen, London, 1930);
  • Air Reconnaissance in Britain, 1955-7 by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. xlviii (1958) p.90;
  • The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965); D.E.S. 1970 p.39;
  • Britannia ii (1971) p.248;
  • The Roman Occupations of Scotland by B.R. Hartley in Britannia iii (1972) pp.1-55;
  • D.E.S. 1973 p.41;
  • D.E.S. 1986 p.40;
  • Britannia xxv (1994) p.255;
  • D.E.S. 1993 p.98;
  • Britannia xxvi (1995) p.332;
  • D.E.S. 1995? p.81;
  • D.E.S. 1996 p.81;
  • Britannia xxviii (1997) p.405;
  • D.E.S. 1997 p.62;
  • D.E.S. 1999 p.70;
  • Britannia xxxiii (2002) p.285;
  • D.E.S. 2003 p.90;
  • Britannia xxxiv (2003) p.302.

Map References for Alavna Veniconvm

NGRef: NN8309 OSMap: LR57/58

Roman Roads near Alavna Veniconvm

NE (6.5) to Strageath Probable Road: SW (8.5) to Dovne (Dunblane, Central) SW (4) to Glenbank NE (3) to Kaims Castle NE (2) to Shiehill NE (2) to Shielhill

Sites near Ardoch (Alavna Veniconvm) Roman Fort