Roman fort art to draw crowds

AN ancient Roman fort at Cramond will be brought to life under plans to attract thousands of extra visitors to the ancient settlement.

City chiefs are to commission an artist to recreate life in the former Roman headquarters and bathhouse in a series of interpretation panels at the Cramond site.

The buildings were once the headquarters of Emperor Septimius Severus, who tried to keep warring Scots under control.

The information panels will provide visitors with a key insight into life at the 1800-year-old fort near Cramond Kirk, which was designed to help protect the empire’s western flank, and at the nearby bathhouse, described as one of the best surviving Roman buildings in Scotland.

The Roman remains are described by archaeologists as of "huge historical importance", and sit close to the River Almond site where a ferryman discovered the celebrated Cramond Lioness.

The improvements, which will cost 28,000, are tipped to draw thousands of visitors to the site, where human settlement dates back more than 10,000 years.

The move marks the first step in an upgrade to the site ahead of a management plan detailing the city’s vision for the wider Cramond area, which will be published in August.

Today, the plans were widely welcomed by campaigners in the wake of previous failed bids to harness the history at the Cramond sites.

Under the plans unveiled for the first time today, the existing boards at the Roman Fort, Lioness site and bathhouse will be replaced with more up-to-date interpretation boards, featuring a reconstructed drawing of the remains.

The project is a partnership between Edinburgh City Council, Historic Scotland and the National Museum of Scotland.

A spokesman for Edinburgh City Council said today: "It is important to improve the interpretation boards for their educational value as well as bringing the history of the area alive for local residents and visitors. At this stage, we are looking at replacing four main boards relating to the Roman Fort, Lioness site and bathhouse."

Local councillor Kate Mackenzie today welcomed the scheme which she said was long overdue.

She said: "What is there at the moment is not adequate. It is time to raise the profile of the remains because they are significant. People go to Cramond and there’s not much there. It is a valuable site."

Activist Ronnie Guild, who has long campaigned for improvements to the remains, added: "It [the scheme] is good news, but it depends on the quality. At the moment, it is appalling and pathetic."

A spokesman for Historic Scotland said: "Cramond is unique in Scotland in being the only Roman fort to be built in the early third century - all other forts date to the Agricolan conquests of the late first century and the Antonine advance of the mid second century.

"Forty years ago, Edinburgh City Council, in a far-sighted action, laid out part of the fort for public viewing. These relics need explanation to be fully understood and Historic Scotland is delighted with the council plans for the improved interpretation of Roman Cramond."

A management committee, bringing together representatives of the council, Historic Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and other local organisations, will publish a draft brief for the future of Cramond, including short-term initiatives in August.

In December, former MSP Mike Russell branded the settlement "a neglected disgrace", and called for the site to be properly looked after by Edinburgh City Council and Historic Scotland.

City chiefs have also come under fire from the Scottish Parliament for dragging their feet on plans to turn the remains into a tourist attraction.

It is three years since MSPs first proposed city leaders should take the lead in exploring the potential for a visitor centre to chart the history of the 1800-year-old fort and open some excavations to the public.


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