WHETHER it’s castles or stone circles, bridges or battlefields, we write our story into the landscape. Sometimes, though, it can be hard to read.

Take the Antonine Wall. It stretches for nearly 40 miles across central Scotland, but, now, more than 18 centuries after it was constructed, it has been so built on and built over that it is now the faintest of marks, a line stretching back to the ancient Romans that has been written over so many times it’s almost illegible.

But broken as it is, the wall remains a marker of an ancient past when Scotland was the outer edge of the Roman empire. And there are still places along its length – in Falkirk (in Tamfourhill, pictured right), Bonnybridge, Bar Hill and Bearsden – where you can get a sense of what it once was.

Read More: What did the Romans ever do for us?

The Antonine Wall dates back to AD 139, when Emperor Antoninus Pius ordered an advance north from Hadrian’s Wall (built in AD 122). The emperor was looking for a quick victory to boost his reputation back in Rome.

To secure Roman gains, in AD 142 the emperor commissioned an earth-and-timber frontier across the neck of central Scotland, stretching from Bo’ness to Old Kirkpatrick. A ditch some three metres high and at points five metres deep was constructed, and some 6000 to 7000 soldiers were garrisoned along its length, including soldiers from Belgium and archers from Syria

Not for long though. The Antonine Wall’s Roman history was rather short-lived. Antoninus Pius died in AD 161 and within a few years the Antonine Wall was abandoned as the Romans retreated to Hadrian’s Wall.

In the centuries since the Wall’s Roman origins were forgotten. In the middle ages the ditch became known as the “Grymisdyke”, a name first recorded by John of Fordun in the 14th century, according to Dr Fraser Hunter, principal curator of the Roman and Iron Age collections at the National Museum of Scotland.

Much of the rest of its history is a melancholy one. The Industrial Revolution saw sections of the wall buried or removed to construct canals and railways.

And yet even now, almost two millennia later, if you look closely enough you can still read its story in the Scottish landscape.

What to read: Rosemary Sutcliff’s historical novel The Mark of the Horse Lord (1965) sees its hero spend time in a town on the “northern wall.” Meanwhile, in Max Brooks’s zombie epic, World War Z, it’s revealed that the government has rebuilt the Antonine Wall in a bid to protect the north of Scotland.

For a more historical account of the wall, Under Another Sky: Journeys in Roman Britain, by Charlotte Higgins (2013) fits the bill.