The access road to Lyne Church takes a sharp right turn just before it encounters a gate. On the outside of the turn a stile leads into a field on the edge of a wood. If you cross it and head uphill, diagonally to your left, you encounter another stile which gives access to the summit of a small wooded hill. Welcome to Abbey Knowe.
There are two reasons for visiting Abbey Knowe. The first is that it is the best easily accessible viewpoint over the remains of the ditches and ramparts of Lyne Roman Fort which stand a little distance to the west, on the brow of a ridge dominating the valley of the Lyne Water (and the A72) immediately to their south and west.
To appreciate the fort close up you need to return to the stile at the foot of the Knowe and make your way around to the west over sometimes boggy ground for a couple of hundred yards as far as the ramparts of the fort itself. What you find are the outlines of the defences surrounding a typical playing-card shaped Roman fort. The fort was built during the Antonine period, and probably occupied for a number of years in the AD140s and AD150s. (Continues below image...)
The fort was built to protect the Roman road running between the major forts at Trimontium near Melrose and Castledykes near Lanark. It probably housed both infantry and cavalry, and could have accommodated up to 1,000 men. No trace is visible now, but excavations have shown that the central area of the fort was occupied by a series of red sandstone buildings, comprising the headquarters, the commandant's house and a granary.
There is more to Abbey Knowe, however, than just a handy viewpoint over the Roman fort. In the 500s and 600s this area was under the control of the Anglo-Saxon Northumbrians. The remains of a very early Christian cemetery dating back to this period have been discovered at Abbey Knowe, suggesting that an early church stood nearby at least 500 years before the earliest church for which written records exist, a predecessor to Lyne Church which dated back to the 1100s.
What you find on top of Abbey Knowe today, apart from an extremely helpful interpretative board, is traces of the stones that once lined three "cist" (or stone lined) graves. These are aligned east-west and from their size are probably the burials of small children. They were excavated in 1998 and are though to be what remains of a once larger burial ground: with the rest apparently since destroyed by erosion, by rabbit burrows or by quarrying on the west side of the Knowe.