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Ministers mark world heritage success

10 March 2009

Culture Minister Michael Russell MSP and Barbara Follett MP, Minister for Culture, Creative Industries and Tourism, will today (Tuesday, March 10) visit the UK’s most recently inscribed World Heritage Site, The Antonine Wall.

The most northern frontier of the Roman Empire was named of global significance by UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee in July last year. This will be the first time that the two Culture Ministers have met.

Mr Russell said: “To this day the Romans are renowned for their designs and ambition, aspects that have as much in common with modern Scotland as it does with our history. Being able to stand here and still see the 2,000 year-old legacy of what they built allows us to truly comprehend what a breath-taking achievement this was.

“It is truly wonderful to see the children of Kinneil Primary School here learning about their history enthusiastically and celebrating it. We must aim to translate the international recognition the Wall now shares with other Frontiers across Europe with that same passion and enjoyment.  Showcasing our culture and history is something we should all take pride in and the Antonine Wall, along with the many other events taking place for the Year of Homecoming, is a great example of that.

“The success of the Antonine Wall bid for World Heritage Site, the fifth in Scotland, was achieved with the support of many people, councils and organisations and I am delighted that so many are able to join me to welcome Barbara Follett to see the UK’s latest World Heritage Site for herself.”

Ms Follett said: “The Antonine Wall is the remains of one of the world's most important Roman frontiers. It is also a marvelous example of lasting historic construction and conservation.

"Much is being done to widen the public’s access to features of the Antonine Wall and to help them understand its significance as an historic monument and an economic; educational and social  asset for the communities that live along it .

"It is rather wonderful to know that, centuries after its construction,  people can come to the Antonine Wall see for themselves the furthest extent of the Roman Empire. This would not be possible without the dedicated efforts of the governments of the United Kingdom; Scotland and Germany who are just the latest in a long line of custodians of this wonderful monument.”  

The nomination for World Heritage Site status began in March 2003 and involved the five local authorities along the line of the Wall - East Dunbartonshire, Falkirk, Glasgow, North Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire Councils. The Antonine Wall now joins Hadrian’s Wall and the German limes as part of the transnational Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site.

The Antonine Wall was the frontier built by the Roman army in the years following AD 140 on the orders of the Emperor Antoninus Pius. It ran for 40 Roman miles (60 km) from Bo’ness on the Firth of Forth to Old Kilpatrick on the River Clyde and consisted of a turf rampart fronted by a wide and deep ditch. Forts provided accommodation for the troops based on the Wall as well as points where the Wall could be crossed. They were linked by a road, known as the Military Way. The frontier was only occupied for about a generation before being abandoned in the 160s.

During its occupation it was the most northerly frontier of the Roman Empire, and, for its time, it was the most advanced frontier which the army had constructed.

Notes for editors

  • Nearly one-quarter of the entire length of the Antonine Wall is in the care or ownership of central or local government. 58km of the 60km Wall survives either as impressive upstanding remains or below ground. Well preserved remains can be visited in most of the LA areas - East Dunbartonshire, Falkirk, Glasgow City, North Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire Councils

  • The Antonine Wall became Scotland’s fifth World Heritage Site. The others are The Heart of Neolithic Orkney, Edinburgh Old and New Towns, New Lanark and St Kilda. The UK has 27 World Heritage Sites.

  • Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with safeguarding the nation’s historic environment. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament. For more information visit

  • RCAHMS has worked with Historic Scotland on the nomination to produce a map of the Antonine Wall, showing its course on a modern base at a scale of 1:25,000 and including areas where it can be visited.  The Map is now on sale from all good booksellers.

  • The legal status of the Antonine Wall has not changed. The archaeological remains of the frontier are already protected through the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 and the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997, while the buffer zone is already designated as green belt or countryside land. It does not mean that development cannot take place near the Wall but that any which does must take account of its importance and does not damage the outstanding universal values of the World Heritage Site.

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For further information

Lisa Nicholson / Lesley Brown
Communications and Media
0131 668 8852/8603 or 07500 065 438/07788 923873