Dating back almost 2000 years, the cobbled road was built by the Roman armies of General Julius Agricola in the 1st century AD and would have connected to a ford that crossed the River Forth.
It was uncovered during a dig in the garden of a cottage, located a few miles to the west of Stirling city centre and next to the 18th century Old Drip Bridge.
The road and the crossing would have been used again by the Romans in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD as legions launched fresh invasions of Scotland under the emperors Antonine and Severan.
Many of the key historical figures of Scottish and British history also used the road for military campaigns given its strategic importance for crossing the Forth and reaching the Highlands, as well as its proximity to Stirling – Scotland’s former capital city.
It is the most important road in Scottish history
Stirling Council Archaeologist Murray Cook, who led the dig, said: “This crossing would have been used by the Romans, the Picts, William the Conqueror, Oliver Cromwell and every King and Queen of Scotland, including MacBeth, Kenneth McAlpin and Robert the Bruce – but not Bonnie Prince Charlie who we know crossed the river at a ford at Frew to the west of Stirling.
“It is the most important road in Scottish history so it’s an amazing discovery. To literally walk where Wallace and Bruce went, let alone the Romans, Picts and Vikings is astonishing. It has also never been clear before this find where this road ran.
“To the south the road heads towards Falkirk and would eventually take you to England. To the north, it would take you a crossing over the Tay and the edge of the Roman Empire.”
The dig took place in the garden of the Old Inn Cottage, a former Drover Inn built in the 17th century.
Not many people can say that
Jennifer Ure, who lives at cottage with her husband and two children, said: “It’s amazing to think the likes of William the Conqueror and King Henry VIII had walked through where our garden is now – not many people can say that!
“I’m lived in Stirling most of my life, and you know about all the great historical places in the area like Stirling Castle and the Wallace Monument, but I don’t think people appreciate all the other historical events that took place here which this discovery is bringing to light.
“I had no idea that the road could have been there until Murray turned up and asked about doing the dig in the garden. When the road was found, I couldn’t help but feel excited especially given its significance.”
World class built heritage
Stirling Council Leader, Cllr Chris Kane said: Next year marks the 900th anniversary of Stirling and we’ve world class built heritage from the last millennium to show for it.
"This discovery is a reminder that our built heritage goes back a further millennium to when it was the Romans crossing the Forth and starting the story of Stirling.
“Stirling’s place at the heart of Scotland and the heart of Scottish history is something we are very proud of and understanding more about the route of the Roman Road adds another chapter to share with the many visitors who come from around the world to experience all that Stirling has to offer.”
Dr Cook, also of Rampart Scotland, undertook the work as part of a training dig involving local volunteers and students.
He added: “The road ceased to be maintained after the Romans left so it became an eroded hollow and what we have found is the eroded surface of the road.
“We know that a ford has been recorded here since 1304 when the area was being monitored by Edward I's spies during the siege of Stirling Castle, when he used the War Wolf, the world's largest trebuchet.
“Before the ford here was built, it was likely that the ford at Cambuskenneth was used which is the only place on the Forth that you can cross dry shod.
“The ford is last recorded in the 18th century when it was replaced first by a ferry and then by a bridge. But all of these are in the same location as it’s more expensive to move the road!”
More information on the Stirling area's rich history and heritage can be found here: www.yourstirling.com/history-highlights/