Visiting Roman Britain - Travelling Beyond the Empire
You may be in Britain for the Roman high life, but why limit yourself just to the parts of these islands that fall under Roman sway? If you’re not the timorous sort and can handle your own in rough company, you might want to consider heading north of the frontier garrisons and even further afield.
Where the northern frontier lies will depend on when you’re visiting of course, and if you’re within a few days walk of the army posts you will still likely find something of the southern mentality and maybe even bump into a Roman patrol checking up on the locals. It’s possible you are already starting with trade contacts, such as at the great hill fort of the pugnacious and silver-loving Votadini (Traprain Law). Otherwise, save your trade goods for further away where there’s no garrison footprint and these items are scarcer and more valuable. You’ll have to make do with tracks rather than roads to get anywhere, so travel sensibly. Unless you have a guide with good local contacts, consider going in armed company if slowed down by carts.
As you travel, take the opportunity to look more closely at the rocks around you. On some of them you may be lucky and chance on some of the strange Pictish artwork occasionally on display. You may also come across it on some of the rudimentary jewellery the locals may try to sell you.
It’s rather charming and quite mystical, though you mind find after a while if you stay in the one place it can get repetitive. That may have something to do with the way various groups associate themselves with particular images, such as fish, crescents, mirror shapes or sundry wild animals, for instance using bull carvings where it has local religious importance. But where there are a lot of images coming together you can get a real feel for the spirit of the tribes people.
There’s also plainer craftswork though. The locals are also reasonable silver smiths and if the local look is your thing, try on a torc as a neck guard. Some of the most striking are made out of chunky chains, making you look as if you’ve just busted free from an insane royal treasurer’s jail.
from THE DISCERNING BARBARIAN'S GUIDE TO ROMAN BRITAIN by Lee Rotherham