North York Moors

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The Romans

Cawthorn Camps - photo copyright Crown Copyright, English HeritageCawthorn Camps - photo copyright Crown Copyright, English Heritage

The most famous Roman site in the North York Moors is the Cawthorn military complex near Cropton, although there are known to be other sites, such as a fort at Lease Rigg, and two villas and five signal stations along the coast.

Archaeological investigation has led to a re-evaluation of Cawthorn. Long considered a group of military practise camps, it is now clear that the well-preserved earthwork remains include two forts, one with an annexe, together with a temporary camp built to a very odd plan. The site really comes to life as you walk around the 'Cawthorn Roman Camps Trail' – there's an excellent guide to the trail and site, available from our National Park Centres at Danby and Sutton Bank and from The New Inn at Cropton.

There's also been a re-think about another prominent 'Roman' site in the North York Moors. Although long assumed to be so, experts now consider that Wheeldale Road (or 'Wade's Causeway') on Wheeldale Moor may not in fact date to the Roman period. It was perhaps built late in the occupation, at a time when normal standards were not applied and thus it appears ‘less Roman’ in character. A 6-mile circular walk from Goathland includes a section along the road – it's covered in the booklet 'Walks around Goathland', available in local shops.

What you can see today

Cawthorn Roman Camps and Wheeldale Road are both open to the public.

A well-preserved Roman Signal Station can be seen within the grounds of Scarborough Castle.