A WRITER and esteemed archaeologist believes that a Roman fort could be hiding beneath Largs town centre.

Andrew Tibbs thinks that Largs could be a potential hotspot for hidden architecture and artefacts dating to before the birth of Jesus.

He makes the astonishing claim in his new book, 'Beyond the Empire: A Guide to the Roman Remains in Scotland', which details over 300 sites across Scotland which were occupied by the Roman Army.

One of these is the shopping centre in the town - Tron Place - and details Roman artefacts which were once found near the old post office, which is now the Ayrshire Hospice charity shop.

Mr Tibbs, a Durham University archaeologist, told the News: "Largs hints at having a Roman past, which has long been forgotten.

"In 1879, the Guide to Wemyss Bay, Skelmorlie, Inverkip, Largs and Surrounding Districts recorded that a ‘pavement formed of square tiles of red fireclay’ had been in the garden of the post-mistress who probably lived in the post office, located on what is now Tron Place.

"The guide went on to say that many authorities had declared the tiles to be of Roman origin.

"Along with the tiles were a number of Roman coins, while another source claims that such coins were regularly found all over Largs.

"There’s a number of sites on the west coast which may be Roman including Brigurd Point, which is a suspected Roman harbour next to Hunterston power station.

"Unfortunately with the Largs site, until they knock down some buildings, we can’t explore what’s underneath and find out if there really was a Roman fort there.

"The tiles all seem to have disappeared, however if we had them, we could re-examine them and do all sorts of scientific analysis to confirm if they were Roman and where they were made."

Andrew told the News that the problem with such excavations is the cost, but admitted that Largs was 'tantalising'.

He said: "You don't find a lot of Roman tiles, and as well as roof tiles there are box tiles which may hae been used in walls and bathhouses.

"The problem is that after the tiles were found they weren't catalogued at the time so they could be in someone's collection unlabelled."

Andrew believes the land to the rear of the business properties in Tron Place may also be ripe for Roman excavation, and given the proximity of the town near the coastline, it could harbour further opportunities for more Roman finds.

He added: "Unfortunately it is so expensive to excavate now, and even then, anything that is found, it costs a lot of money to restore the items.

"Largs certainly has several things counting in its favour to suggest there was Roman activity going on in the area."

Beyond the Empire: A Guide to the Roman Remains in Scotland is out now, published by Robert Hale, an imprint of The Crowood Press, and is available from the publishers website www.crowood.com