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References to Roads in Chalmer's Caledonia

George Chalmers (1742 - 1825) was a notable Scottish historian and political writer. His most well-known work is Caledonia, a history of Scotland.

Caledonia was published in two editions. The old edition comprised of three volumes, published when Chalmers was alive. A further volume dealing with the northern counties was intended but never published. The new edition comprised eight volumes and included a volume dealing with some additional counties and one as an index - this edition was published in the 1880's.

In the work, there are quite a few references to roads, both in a historical context and in his contemporary accounts of the counties. In particular he is a good source for antiquarian lore about old roads. These references have to be treated with caution but they do at least indicate the existence of those roads, whatever their age and purpose.

In this section, brief details are given of his more significant references to roads. The links are to the new edition, which can be found on the Internet Archives. It is not possible to link to specific pages but the pages will easily be found.

Volume I

Page 103 Account of Agricola’s campaigns. Although there are passing references to roads this is an account of Agricola’s movements in the campaigns.

Page 108 He notes that Dunglass near Dumbarton was a fording point on the Clyde.

Page 121 Details of Richard of Cirencester’s Iters (a Charles Bertram had forged a document purporting to be by the mediaeval monk Richard of Cirencester which gave many details of Roman roads unknown in the 1700’s. It was widely accepted by the antiquarian world, not least by Chalmers, Roy and the Ordnance Survey, and caused considerable confusion for many years).

Page 133 Section on Roman Roads giving details of the road network.

1. West Annandale into Clydesdale
Branch into Nithsdale with a minor road over to the Scaur
Loudoun Hill road
Glasgow to Paisley
Longtown - Netherby - Castle O’er and beyond
Biggar to Lyne in Peebleshire

2. East Road from the Border to Melrose, Lauder and Soutra. From Soutra it went west by Currie on the Gore Water (about 6 miles south of Dalkeith near Borthwick). Loanhead and Straiton to Bowbridge at the east end of the Pentlands. From there it went to Cramond and crossed the Almond to Carriden. He mentions the Military Road on the Antonine Wall.
Road from Currie to Inveresk
Inveresk to Cramond
Bewclay to Mordington (near Berwick). He refers to suggestions that a road ran from this one to St Abb’s Head and that there was one along the line of the old Berwick to Edinburgh road.

3. North of Wall To Stirling, Ardoch and the north with interesting branches
Mentions ancient roads - Lang Causeway, Picts Road, Maiden Causeway ( see pps.149, 151, 161) and others.
Summary of the locations of forts found near the roads

Page 184 Mention in passing of roads but see p188 on causeways in Flanders Moss

Page 239 He notes that the Catrail or Pictsworkditch that runs from near Galashiels to Liddesdale is mistakenly called a Roman road on Ainslie’s map of Selkirkshire.

Page 241 Mention of the Maidenway which runs through Cumberland to the top of Kershope which separates Cumberland and Liddesdale. One description says it was 8 yards broad and paved with stones. It may have been a Roman road.

Page 254 He notes that a Roman road passed on either side of Edinburgh (presumably the Inveresk to Cramond and Currie to Cramond roads).

Page 308 Baronial courts used to be held on mote hills and bridges.

Page 394 Kenneth III is said to have fortified the fords of the Forth.

Page 426 Mention of Ecgred, bishop of Lindisfarne (died 845) building the villages of Geddeworde and Geinforde in Roxburghshire.

Volume II
Page 668 Edward I in 1303 followed the Roman road north from Perth

Page 682 The hospital at Soutra possessed the privilege of sanctuary. A road called the Girthgate led to it from the south.

Page 737 The Abbot of Kelso held his court at the bridge of Kelso.

Page 786 Reference in 1281 to the bridge of Clyde in Glasgow.

Page 804 In the middle ages the monks did much to improve the land including “making roads on the Roman models and building bridges…”
In a footnote he says that “they cut ditches on either side to carry off the water and covered the roadway with hard materials.” The reference he gives for this is a Melrose charter.

Page 878 He notes that in the first 20 years of the reign of George III, i.e. between 1760 and 1780, some 450 road acts were passed for different districts.

Volume III
Page 35 In the introduction to this volume, he gives an overview of Scotland. In a section on roads he notes that little was done after the Romans by either the Picts or the Scots. It was not until the start of the middle ages (his Scoto-Saxon period) that roads were made, the notion of the king’s highway introduced and rights of way negotiated. The first statute to protect the right of passage was in 1555. Later legislation shows a greater understanding of the value of roads that reached fruition with the passing of turnpike acts.
Military roads were opened up in the Highlands between 1720 and 1730 and more recently parliament had funded the building of roads and bridges in the Highlands.
The first turnpike act for Scotland dates from 1750 and was for Haddington to Dunglas Bridge. In 1762, parliament gave £4000 towards the bridge at Coldstream and a little later contributed to the Ballantrae to Stranraer road to afford easier access to Ireland.

Page 61 Discussion of maps surveyed in the 1700’s depicting the military roads in the Highlands and the general need for accurate maps. In the following pages he gives considerable details of the Military Survey and the work of later map makers, including Arrowsmith.


Page 83,84 Roman roads

Page 86 Road at British camp of Carby in Liddesdale.

Page 90 Course of Watling Street through Roxburghshire and Lauderdale. Mention of the Girthgate.

Page 92 Details of the Maidenway that leads from Westmoreland into Liddesdale at Deadwater where it becomes known as the Wheel Causeway.

Page 139 Requirements on tenants of Kelso Abbey to find waggons for the journey to Lesmahagow and to transport goods to Berwick.

Page 145 Overview of roads and bridges in the county
- after the Union of the Parliaments, all former acts were confirmed in one General Road Act
- first turnpike act for the county was in 1764. Within 30 years, 153 miles of turnpike had been built. Twenty four bridges have been built at a cost of £47,000
-mention of bridges, including Roxburgh and Bridgend near Melrose
Page 178 Mention of Wheel Causeway

Page 192 Etymology of Yetholm

Page 207 Malcolm’s Rode (mention in charters) equivalent to the Roman road running through Lauderdale between Earlston and Kedslie.

Page 211 The Caims (glacial deposits) had been examined to see if they could furnish gravel for the making of turnpike roads. It was noted that they were not artificial.

Page 312 Overview of the roads and bridges in the county
-the first roads to be turnpiked were the Edinburgh to London road by Greenlaw and Cornhill (1759) and that by the Press to Berwick (1787). There are 647 miles of road.
-Coldstream bridge opened in 1766, Pees Bridge in 1789
-there were turnpike riots in July 1792.

Page 318 Requirement on tenants of the abbeys for carriage service to Berwick

Haddingtonshire (East Lothian)
Page 493 Mention of king’s highways in mediaeval chartularies leading from various places in East Lothian to Edinburgh.

Page 494 Some notes on turnpikes. Mention of Margaret’s journey in 1503 to marry James IV where it was necessary in some places to “make by force wayes for her carriage.”

Volume IV
Page 508 Mention of Girthgate and Malcolm’s Road.

Page 516 Age of place name Athelstaneford.

Edinburghshire (Mid Lothian)
Page 684 Order made in 1612 to pave several roads in Edinburgh. The road to Leith was paved about this time.

Page 728 Mention of roads in mediaeval charters, viz. king’s highways from Ford to Newbattle Abbey, Newbattle to Edinburgh; also Dere Street near Colden, close to Inveresk.
First road statutes in time of David II.
First turnpike act for Edinburghshire in 1751.
Rights of way negotiated by Newbattle Abbey to the Monklands.
Mention of a road between Edinburgh and Leith in 1214.
In 1688, footways in Edinburgh not paved.
Various acts of the 1500’s and 1600’s for the repair of bridges at Cramond, Dalkeith and Musselburgh.

Page 729 Use of waggons in the midle ages. Early attempts to introduce coaches, e.g. Edinburgh to Leith proposed in 1610.

Page 785 Mention in 1214 of the High Street between Edinburgh and Leith, probably Leith Walk.

Linlithgowshire (West Lothian)
Page 841 Roman road leading west from Cramond by Carriden, Barnbougle Hill and Eklin Moor to the Antonine Wall.

Page 865 Newbattle Abbey negotiated rights of way through land at Strathbrock, Torphichen, Bathgate and Ogilface to the Monklands.
First county turnpike act in 1752.

Page 911 Roman remains in Peeblesshire - possible road

Page 939 Three or four paths in Meggat, heading for Annandale.
Rights of way granted to Melrose Abbey at Mossfennock and Haprew.

Page 940 Note on Cauldstane Slap, used by drovers. Notes on bridges.

Page 972 Roman camp at Africa in Roberton parish - no road discovered here.

Page 992 Overview of roads and bridges in the county
-first turnpike act in 1764: 12 miles of road from Hawick to Selkirk and Crosslee, with a branch to Galashiels
-charter referring to the bridge at Selkirk to be maintained by Kelso Abbey

Volume V

Page 8 General remarks on roads in Scotland
He refers to the 1821 Report of the Commission for Highland Roads which states that 1200 miles of roads and 1200 bridges had been made at an expenditure of £450,000. The Glasgow road had cost £50,000.

Page 22 The Commission made 58 road surveys which provided information on 1512 miles of road unknown before.

Page 125 Duke of Queensberry paid for a road between Thornhill and Ayrshire at his own expense.

Page 126 Duke of Buccleuch paid for most of the road from England to Selkirk through Eskdale.

Page 128 King’s highway from Holywood to Glencairn.
Grant to Melrose to pass through lands of Dalswinton and Duncol to their granges in Nithsdale with their cattle and carriages - the way could be repaired “per fossas et calceas” indicating that calcea means a road made or repaired with stones or rubbish.
First turnpike act for the county was in 1777. He gives details of the bridge at Dumfries, paid for by Devorgilla, mother of John Baliol.
Funds raised in 1661 for a new bridge at Sanquhar.

Page 135 A road some 200 - 300 yards long led from Dumfries castle down to the Nith.

Page 150 Mention of king’s highway from Holywood to Glencairn.

Page 213 A dam was found in Carlinwark Loch, near Castle Douglas - this is now incorporated in the military road. There is a road leading to an island in the loch - the island may have been used as a barracks for English cavalry in the Wars of Independdence.

Page 217 Causeway leading to an island on Loch Urr, where a castle had been built.

Page 236 A Roman road branched off the main Nithsdale road. It passed the Doon of Tynron, crossed Shinnel Water near Stenhouse then up by Terram to Drumloff in Glencairn. It then went by Conrig, Altrie, Holm to Polwhat Ridge to Dalmellington and the Clyde coast. He corrects an earlier statement that it traversed the valley of the Scaur (Vol. I, 137-8)

Page 302 Vestiges of an ancient road in Kells parish.
Mention of the military road to Portpatrick, made about 1764.
In 1780 an act for the conversion of statute labour into a monetary payment was made. The act was extended in 1797 to double the rate of assessment and allow tolls to be levied.
A new and shorter line of road (turnpike) between Dumfries and Newton Stewart was opened in1807.
Mention of early bridges - Dumfries, Polharrow, Gatehouse-of-Fleet (1661 - tolls levied), a bridge between Clatteringshaws and Craigneil built in 1708-9. It was very narrow and was replaced by another bridge nearby in 1791.
Many modern bridges, e.g. at Tongland over the Dee.

Page 402 Earl of Stair made roads in Inch parish as part of general improvements.

Volume VI

Page 448 Roman road in Ayrshire - a Roman road branched off the main Nithsdale road and ran to the top of Glencairn, then past Holm to the ridge of Polwhat and Dalmellington and eventually Ayr. Near Ayr the road is called variously the Foul Causeway, The Picts Road and The Roman Way.

Page 534 Possibility that a Roman road ran through Straiton

Page 731 Derivation of the name Crawford, possibly road or passage of blood (see OSA)

Page 769 Mention that the Romans had a ford upriver from Dumbarton, and a fort at Paisley.

Page 799 Turnpike act in 1753 and an act for building Inchinnan bridge.
The roads made were from Glasgow to Floak on the Kilmarnock road, Glasgow to Greenock, and Three-Mile House to Clerk’s Bridge near Beith. The lines of these roads were poorly planned.
In 1792, acts were passed for the conversion of statute labour and for other roads. In the following three years some £30,000 was spent on repairing and building roads, and on bridges.
Greenock magistrates have made several roads, including one to Kelly Bridge on the border with Ayrshire. There are also pathways for travellers on foot on the Paisley to Greenock road.

Page 854 Cathcart used to have 36 houses but now only 6 or 8 families live there due to the main road having taken a different course.

Page 862 In West Kilpatrick a sculptured memorial stone, eleven feet long, was used as a bridge over a local stream (see also OSA).

Page 895 Military roads from Stirling to Dunbarton, the bridge of Fruin up the west side of Loch Lomond, and from Duchlage on the west aside of Loch Lomond over to the Firth of Clyde. Originally maintained by the government, most of the support was withdrawn and the roads turnpiked. The road from Luss northwards continued to be supported by the government until acts of 1814 and 1819 made highland and military roads the responsibility of counties and government.

Volume VII

Page 11 General remarks on roads

A road was made in Arran from a slate quarry on Benleven to the harbour at Lochranza.

Page 71 The first turnpike act for Stirlingshire was in the late 1700’s.

Page 105 General remark about roads and bridges being very good.
The Perth - Queensferry and Stirling - Kinross roads are turnpiked.

Page 160 The military roads made in the northern part of the county under Wade made people appreciate their benefits. An act of parliament allowed over £600 to be raised. Bridges were erected over the Awe and Urchay. The earliest roads did not take wheeled carriages much into account as there were so few of them.

Page 174 The benefit of roads first became apparent with the building of the military roads.
The military roads were: Stirling to Fort William by Callendar and Tyndrum
Stirling to Inverness and Fort George
Fort George to Fort William
Dalwhinnie on the Inverness road over to Fort Augustus.

Page 209 After embanking at the confluence of the Earn and Tay, an island of 21 acres formed. The farmer built a road two chains in length to join the island to the land, It is expected that the accumulation of silt will lead eventually to the island being joined to the land.

Page 216 Account of the Bridge of Don built about 1320 by Bishop Cheyne. Also the bridge over the Dee about 1530.

Page 268 The post road between the Spey and Findhorn is often covered in water due to lack of attention. Roads to Lossiemouth are also very bad.
Details of bridges in Strathspey.

Volume VIII