Bewastle Roman Fort ramparts © Andy NorrisThe Roman Fort & Bewcastle

When Hadrian's wall was built in 122 A.D., three outpost were constructed north of the defences for scouting and intelligence. Bewcastle's fort was probably known as Fanum Cocidii, adopting the local pagan god Cocidius. Built at first from turf and timber, it was unusual in having six sides. The garrison was a cohort, 1000 men, the First Nervan Cohort of Germans.

Rebuilt in stone, it was largely destroyed in AD 343 when Hadrian's Wall was overrun. Hastily repaired, it was finally laid to waste in AD 367 and abandoned. What remains are the impressive double-rampart defences alongside the road, while the outline of some buildings can be picked out from lumps and bumps within the boundaries.

Aerial view of Bew Castle, Demesne Farm & the church © Channel 4A castle was built soon after 1092, using part of the Roman ditch system and probably constructed of timber.

The present stone castle was built, using material from the Roman fort, by one of Edward III's generals, John de Strivelyn between 1340 & 1360. Falling into disrepair under the de Middleton family, it was thought to have been repaired by the Warden of the English West March, the Duke of Gloucester, later Richard III. From the late 15th Century till 1608, it was held for the crown by the Musgraves, who acted as constables.

Bewcastle © Andy NorrisAbandoned around 1640, it was largely demolished, probably through the time-honoured fashion of pinching the stone for local housing. Until recently the walls were considered unsafe: during 2003 and 2004 English Heritage consolidated and pointed the walls, while trial excavations uncovered part of the courtyard and an internal doorway. To protect against weather, these excavations have been filled in.

Access to the fort is free of charge, though unsupervised. We regret that steepness of the defensive ditches and the soft ground make access for those with special needs difficult. A descriptive booklet is available from the nearby farm. Please do not climb on the walls or allow children to do so.