Monday, 8 October 2018

#historical research #Trimontium Roman Fort Melrose #Scotland

Monday Moments! 
There may well be some memorable moments this Monday, but right now I'm writing about my fabulous trip last Friday to the... 

Trimontium Museum 5th Oct 2018

I could not have picked a better day to drive the roughly 180 miles down to Melrose on the Scottish Borders. The sky was almost uniformly blue all the way from Aberdeenshire (NE Scotland) down to Edinburgh. The traffic was fortunately light and I managed to negotiate the Edinburgh City Bypass, even though it was my first time on that particular stretch of road.

I had two route choices leading south to Melrose. The A7 was not the route Google Maps directed me on – Google Maps suggested the A68. I wasn’t too keen on the A68 because the map showed signs of two areas of major road works but it was less clear how to exit onto the A7.

I’m a map person with no GPS system in my car, so I prepared my journey with print outs and lovely little post-it notes with the routes marked in large letters, easy to read  along my dashboard without taking my eyes off the road for more than a second as I was driving.

Fortunately for me, the A7 was easy to access so I ventured south. I didn’t know till afterwards that the railway that was often to be seen at the side of the road was the newish Borders Railway line. The drive was stunning, the autumn colours absolutely breathtaking but sadly it is not a road where it is easily possible to stop and take photographs. Driving down through the endless valleys and hills was exactly what I needed to get a feel for the layout of the land since one of my main characters in Book 5 spends time in the area some 2000 years ago. The current trees and vegetation might be relatively newly planted but the actual contours of the valleys is mainly unchanged except for the fact that a paved road was carved into the area a long time ago, and latterly the new railway line.

My 4 hours estimate to drive to the small town of Melrose was pretty accurate. Having left my house at 8 a.m., I arrived at Melrose a little after midday. I found a local Baker’s shop with an integral coffee shop and spent a short while having lunch and a rest.

The main street in Melrose isn’t large so it was easy to find the Three Hills Ancient Roman Heritage Centre sometimes known as the Trimontium Trust Museum (Newstead). The actual Roman fort currently named Newstead (named Trimontium by the map maker Ptolemy) was situated a short way out of Melrose and was established by General Gnaeus Iulius Agricola, Commander of the Britannic legions and Governor of Britannia from C. A.D. 77-84. 

Agricola is a main character in Agricola's Bane , Book 4 of my historical fiction series and he will play an important role in Book 5 (work in progress and currently named Beathan the Brigante)   

Eildon Hills , Melrose (Trimontium) 
It’s almost easy to see why the Romans named it Trimontium - two of the three hills are backdrops visible from within the town of Melrose and from outside the town all three are a stunning and arresting geographical feature.

The Trimontium Parade chamfron (replica)
-Trimontium Trust Museum, Melrose 
The Museum is the old- fashioned kind that I love to visit. The relatively small space is jam packed with display information; glass cases; tightly packed reconstructions- the finds from the Newstead fort absolutely amazing. I personally am so glad that the Museum Trust was formed in the 1970s to ensure that some of the wonderful objects uncovered at Newstead remain on view in the area of Melrose. It was a huge undertaking to set up the original museum and remains the same as the Trust currently raises funds to pay for a new extension which will allow them to modernise (hopefully not too much) and display items that have been decades in storage.  

The bulk of the finds from Newstead Roman Fort are either on display at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh or in their main storage facility. I visited the National Museum of Scotland in June 2018 and was suitably impressed by the items excellently displayed there, in very modern museum style.

I took almost two hundred photographs which I need to process and label – expect to see a trickle of them since I cannot post all of them.

The whole experience of visiting the museum and of driving around the area was exactly what I needed for imagining Beathan (Book 5 of my Celtic Fervour Series) in the locality of Newstead in A.D 85.

Given time, look forward to further posts about the importance of  Trimontium Roman Fort! 


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