'The Lost XVII' – Kilmacolm, Scotland - Atlas Obscura

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'The Lost XVII'

Kilmacolm, Scotland

A missing Roman legion was recreated in sculpture along a Scottish cycling route. 


Founded by the Roman emperor Augustus around the year 41 B.C., Legion XVII of the Imperial Roman Army disappeared in the year 9 A.D. after being sent to deal with troubling tribes in Germanica. What happened to them has always been a bit of a mystery.

Urban legend states they went onto Scotland after Germanica and disappeared around the area of Dunbartonshire. This urban myth has now become cemented in history thanks to popular fiction such as The Eagle of the Ninth and films like Centurion and The Eagle, all based in Scotland. Artifacts of this legion were actually found at Hadrian’s Wall, and one theory suggests that after the battle of Teutoburg Forest, where Legion XVII took a complete hammering from the locals, the group disbanded. What was left of the legion was deployed to Britannica to deal with issues at Hadrian’s Wall. 

Whatever the truth may be, you can now see them on Cycle Route 75 between Kilmacolm and Bridge of Weir thanks to Cornwall-based artist David Kemp. In 1990, Kemp crafted these sculptures of Roman soldiers from recycled materials such as gas cylinders. They are free to enjoy and there is a seat nearby if you fancy a picnic.

Know Before You Go

Despite scarce information on the exact location of this artwork, it is easy to find once on the cycle path. From Kilmacolm, head east towards Bridge of Weir on the path. You will pass an astroturf pitch. A mile after that you will pass an artwork called "Brick Traction" made by the same artist. The soldiers are one mile after that. The path is very good and flat, very easy for mobility scooters and wheelchair users. There are lots of dog walkers and cyclists. Locals are very friendly and can help point you in the right direction.

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