History and Stories

History and Stories: Birdoswald Roman Fort

Birdoswald Roman Fort is set on a spectacular ridge above the river Irthing, offering fabulous views down into the gorge below. To the east are the crags of the Whin Sill, where the remains of Hadrian’s Wall can be seen tracing the contours of the dramatic landscape.

More than 1,800 years of history have been played out at this spot. Spanning the Romans, 16th-century border raiders and Victorian romantics, Birdoswald’s layered history has made it an archaeologist's paradise. Discover what the site reveals about life on Hadrian’s Wall, and learn about the people who travelled across the Roman Empire and made this place their home.

Key Facts about Birdoswald Roman Fort

  • Birdoswald was once an area of bog and forest. The Romans had to clear and drain the land before building work could begin.
  • The defences of Birdoswald are extremely well preserved and the site is one of the best places to see the very first Hadrian’s Wall, which was built of turf.
  • The military unit that left the most enduring legacy at Birdoswald were the Dacians, who travelled with the Roman army from modern-day Romania. They carved symbols from their homeland into the fort walls and worshipped local deities as well as Roman gods. 
  • Several burial urns were recently excavated from a Roman cemetery at Birdoswald. Studies have revealed the cremated remains of women and children as well as male soldiers.
  • Excavations at Birdoswald were the first to reveal the history of a Hadrian’s Wall fort after the Romans left, finding evidence that life continued even after the Empire withdrew support.
  • A bastle house – a kind of fortified farmhouse – was built at Birdoswald in the 16th century to protect against border raiders.
Read the full history of Birdoswald

Explore Birdoswald Roman Fort

  • The People of Birdoswald

    Once sworn enemies of the empire, the Dacians became trusted protectors of its north-west frontier. Explore their story and learn more about the diverse cultures on Hadrian’s Wall. 

  • Death and burial rites at Birdoswald

    A rare excavation of burial urns found at Birdoswald has allowed researchers to examine the remains of those who lived and died at the fort. Discover what the new research reveals.

  • Uncovering the Secrets of Hadrian’s Wall

    The remains of Birdoswald Roman Fort have revealed more about Hadrian’s Wall than any other site along Wall. Discover what some of the key finds tell us about the Romans and those who came after.

  • Listen to the Speaking with Shadows podcast

    Find out more about the Dacians and the communities of Hadrian’s Wall in this episode of our podcast Speaking with Shadows. 

Find Out More

More about Hadrian’s Wall

  • Hadrian’s Wall: History and Stories

    Discover the histories, stories and mysteries associated with English Heritage’s Hadrian’s Wall sites.

  • Corbridge: History and Stories

    Corbridge developed from a military outpost into a cosmopolitan town. Explore its history and extraordinary collection of objects.

  • History of Housesteads Roman Fort

    Read about the fascinating history of Housesteads – the most complete example of a Roman fort in Britain, and one of the best known from the entire Roman Empire. 

  • Shop: Walk the Wall

    Explore Birdoswald’s historic landscape using our pocket-sized, waterproof guide. The two circular walks include maps, directions and points of interest.