On a couple of previous visits to this part of the Lake District I've set off in search of the remains of the Roman fort that guarded the route over Hardknott, but never got there for one reason or another. This time we had good weather and plenty of time to get there and back.
The final part of the walk to get to the fort involves climbing a good 150m or so in less than 500m. But it was worth it for the view back down the valley.
The fort itself sits on the Roman road from Ravenglass to Ambleside. These marching routes often went over the top of fells and mountains because of the safety they offered from attack. It must be 15 miles from Ravenglass to Hardknott, which wouldn't be a bad walk if it was flat all the way.
The shortest route is probably over Muncaster Fell, which means a 700ft climb followed by a descent into the valley, then about an 8 mile walk through Eskdale, with the risk of attack, before climbing up to the fort. Perhpas the Romans would have sought out a route that took them over Irton Fell and Ilgill Head then Eskdale Fell in order to avoid the low level paths. Personally anything flat is a welcome break when your knees are aching.