Tourist Seasons for visiting Roman Britain
Arranging your visit to Roman Britain is a tricky choice. Every season has something special to offer.
In the high season (from around AD 43 to AD 180) you can witness the height of the Roman experience. Set in densely populated countryside from even before the Conquest, Roman towns are growing and then flourishing. Trade expands. Theatres and amphitheatres spread across the land, allowing visitors access to the highlights of the not-so-ancient world. Despite some periods of civil war, these mostly take place far away and lead to minimal destruction and third party burning to interfere with your holiday arrangements. This is a silver age holiday ideal for silver age holidaymakers.
Mid-season (say AD180 to AD 370) and there are rocky periods. Occasionally, accommodation is patchy as civil war kicks off, sometimes with Britain as the starting point for a little provincial insurrection. The importance of the island waxes and wanes. Sometimes it is at the very heart of all that is Rome, as Emperors come to wage war in the north of the island. Two great emperors are even proclaimed here in these very shores during this period. But this is also the period of slipping decline. The territory is divided into smaller provinces in their own right; and the island forms part of smaller imperial patches as the great empire is occasionally broken up into two or four to make it more manageable. Travelling during this period can be more exciting and there are fantastic people to meet, but it can also be less comfortable for more exacting travellers. The great villas for example no longer provide the same sort of accommodation opportunities as of old, and are often replaced with more basic amenities.
The low season by contrast (perhaps AD 370 to AD 478) is ideal for backpackers, particularly those that bring their own transport, such as a raiding ship. The last great flourish of Roman culture does not end with complete and sudden extinction, however. Roman forces are mostly withdrawn first as part of the ongoing civil wars of the period, and then to fight off persistent barbarian threats on the continent. Roman reinforcements do briefly cross the channel to support what remains of local government, but the country splits and power is fragmented. The great towns decline. Trade becomes more difficult, and merchants reading this book may be more inclined to barter with contacts amongst the new barbarian settlers in the east than take their chances with the sub-roman world in which old rules and laws are often arbitrarily upheld by petty tyrants. Coins become rarer, and even if the move outside of direct rule from Rome around AD 410 still leaves a lot of quite wealthy people around, what’s happening over in Gaul and beyond makes everyone nervous that the whole system is going down the drains. But it is an exciting time all the same, and provides opportunities for settlers seeking new lands, plus plenty of hiring opportunities for professional soldiers who want to keep well away from the highly dangerous fighting that involves Attila the Hun over in northern Gaul. Even after direct rule from Rome ends, some embers of Roman existence continue to glimmer in the West of Britain, and reward the patient traveller with a hint as to what has been lost in this new pan-Barbarian age. Note, however, that currency becomes rare: yours will be valued, but be prepared to barter.
As we go through some of our profiled spots, you’ll also find a box with information in italics. This is for the benefit of those poor people who can’t visit Roman Britain at all, because they have to come out of season, in the twenty first century. Things aren’t so wonderful by then. You’ll have to dig for your Roman memories. But there are still traces of the old magic, and students who are gifted with a hint of imagination and understanding will be lucky enough to gaze on some ancient treasures.