AN ambitious bid to put Scotland’s answer to Hadrian’s Wall firmly on the world tourist map is being launched today.
Scotland and three other countries have prepared a joint case to the United Nations to secure coveted World Heritage Site status for the "Roman Frontier", a series of fortifications that stretches across Europe, and includes the 2000-year-old Antonine Wall, which stretches 37 miles from Bo’ness in the Firth of Forth to Old Kilpatrick on the Clyde.
The most famous wall in Britain, Hadrian’s Wall, which runs through Cumbria, Northumbria and Tyne and Wear, already holds World Heritage Status, and is a magnet for millions of tourists to the UK.
Now Historic Scotland, which is helping to prepare the case, hopes winning World Heritage status for the Antonine Wall will do for Scotland what Hadrian’s has done for the English counties. Scotland, Austria, Germany and Slovakia have lodged the proposal with UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, to press ahead with a formal bid to secure World Heritage status for the Roman Frontier.
It marks the first time a multi-national bid has been launched for World Heritage Site status. It is also hoped African and Asian nations with Roman frontiers will also eventually join the formal bid, which could take up to three years.
A successful bid for the wall, which was built to keep Scots warriors away from the Roman empire, is expected to attract thousands of visitors every year, and inject hundreds of thousands of pounds into the Lothians economy. If the bid is given the green light, the Antonine Wall will join Edinburgh’s Old and New Towns as the World Heritage Sites in the Lothians.
Tourism bosses have already welcomed the possibility of World Heritage Site status for the wall, and the prospect of thousands of extra visitors to the Lothians.
A spokesman for Edinburgh and Lothians Tourist Board said: "We are delighted with the possibility of another World Heritage Site within Edinburgh and the Lothians.
"The Antonine Wall is one of the area’s forgotten treasures but it was the northernmost frontier of the Roman empire and is an important part of Scotland’s history."
Dr Elaine Murray, Deputy Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport, said: "World Heritage Site status should ensure their survival for many years to come and emphasise the history we share with our European neighbours."
Built around 140AD, the wall stretches from Bo’ness, through Falkirk, Kirkintilloch, Polmont, Bearsden to Old Kilpatrick. It consists of a turf rampart on a stone base, fronted by a wide and deep ditch. Forts linked by a road, were built at roughly two-mile intervals. The Antonine Wall was only occupied for a generation, being abandoned as early as 160AD.
About two-thirds of the wall survives today with the rest being lost to housing, factories and roads.
Four miles of the Antonine Wall and four forts are in the care of Scottish cabinet ministers and looked after by Historic Scotland.
The remainder of the wall is secured as a scheduled ancient monument on private land, and cannot be touched without approval from Historic Scotland.
Today, groups behind other World Heritage Sites such as Hadrian’s Wall and New Lanark, South Lanarkshire, said securing the status represents a potential goldmine for attractions.
Jane Brantom, co-ordinator of the Hadrian’s Wall Tourism Partnership, said securing World Heritage Site status would attract droves of extra tourists to the Lothians.