Having been fortunate enough to explore many of Britain's Roman heritage sites, it has to be said that the remains of Hardknott Roman Fort are without doubt the most remote, and certainly the most visually dramatic. Protecting the Roman road from Ravensglass to Ambleside, Hardknott Fort offers stunning views across the Eskdale Valley to the west, Hardknott Pass to the east, and the Scarfell Range to the north.
Known to the Romans as 'Mediobogdvm', this site was constructed during the early part of the 2nd century. An inscription on the south gate dates from the time of Emperor Hadrian (now held in the Carlisle Museum), and records the garrison as being the Fourth Cohort of the Dalmatians. Hardknott Fort went on to have a fairly chequered military history before it was finally abandoned early in the 3rd century.
The site follows the regular, square Roman plan comprising four perimeter walls of stone, with an entrance in the centre of each. The main entrance was to the south, and this gate, together with the eastern and western counterparts, comprised two carriageways - the north gate comprised just one. Set in each corner of the walls are the later remains of the guard towers. None of these appear to have entrances at ground level and it is, therefore, believed that access would have been from an internal 'wall walk' via earthen ramparts.
Located at the centre of Hardknott Fort are the remains of three buildings, the largest of which is Headquarters building (pictured). This structure contains several clearly visible rooms that were set around a central courtyard, and this would have been the administrative hub of the fort.
To the east of the Headquarters building, the remains of the granary can be seen. The stone piers, which raised up the floor level to allow good ventilation, are still clearly visible down the centre of each block, as well as the remains of the wall buttresses that would have supported a single heavy roof.
West of the Headquarters building is the fort commander's residence. This was often a much grander building than the one seen at Hardknott and maybe suggests that it was either unfinished, or was later converted as the role of Hardknott Fort changed over the years.
The remainder of the internal area would have been largely taken up with timber barrack buildings but, unlike other Roman forts, no trace of these structures survive at Hardknott Fort.
South of the main fort can be found a separate bath house complex, comprising four rooms in a row, and a separate circular structure. The main building would have contained a furnace, as well as a hot, warm and cold bath. However, the circular structure had its own furnace, and would probably have been used in a similar way to a modern sauna.
Finally, but most impressively, the original parade ground can be found a short distance through the east gate. This area had to be artificially levelled, and remains one of the best examples still surviving in Britain today.