Roman fort will be centrepiece of new tourist attraction

ONE of Britain's most important Roman sites – the remains of a fort on the outskirts of Edinburgh – will be opened up permanently to the public within months, The Scotsman has learned.

An excavation has exposed what is left of the ancient building for the first time since in more than 50 years.

Work carried out over the last few days in the shadow of Cramond Kirk has opened up the remains of the fort, which dates back to 142AD, once again.

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The new work will include uncovering parts of the fort, which is thought to have once housed more than 1,000 men, for the first time, including its gatehouse, and former grain stores.

It is hoped the archaeological project will not only unearth new treasures but will shed new light on whether the Romans actually stayed in the area longer than already thought.

Once that work is completed landscaping will be carried out around the remains before the site is opened up to the public.

A similar project will then be carried out on the nearby remains, which are currently below ground, of a Roman bathhouse, discovered in the mid-1970s, which is widely regarded as the best-surviving Roman building in Scotland.

It is hoped a long-awaited multi-million pound visitor centre and museum, housing most of the Roman artefacts discovered in the area over the years, will then become a reality. The new attraction will recount the famous story of the Cramond Lioness sculpture, discovered 11 years ago by a ferryman in the nearby River Almond. It can currently be seen in the National Museum of Scotland.

Historians believe the fort was originally constructed as an outpost of the Antonine Wall, on the frontier of an empire during the campaigns of Emperor Antoninus Pius around 142-144 AD.

John Lawson, the city archaeologist, who is leading the dig, said: "The remains of the fort at Cramond are actually one of the most important Roman sites anywhere in Britain.

"Although there was an extensive dig in the 1950s, overseen by a local couple, Alan and Viola Rae, this one will cover areas that have never been looked at before. Archaeological techniques and our knowledge of the Roman occupation of Scotland have moved on hugely since then, so it's a very important dig.

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"We are hoping to find out more about the origins of the fort, who might have been occupied there and at what time. It may be that the Romans were in Cramond much later than we currently think."

Cllr Deidre Brock, the council's culture and leisure leader, "I can't wait to see the results . The local community have always been very enthusiastic about the Roman Fort and I'm pleased they're able to take part in these new excavations."