Scapa Flow, towards Hoy
Beyond the Orcades lay the most northerly point in the world, “Thule”, which the Romans understood to be Shetland. There is a strong argument that the fleet may well have made the journey north to Thule before heading south to circumnavigate the rest of Britannia, maybe even landing there and exacting tribute from the bewildered locals. This clash of cultures must have been astonishing to witness and was never to be repeated.
In the imperial mind these places were impossibly remote and exotic, rather like parts of the solar system are to us. The glory of visiting them was equal to the terror they inspired in the popular imagination.
To the Romans this hostile place would have seemed too difficult and dangerous, troubled as they were with their ideas that this was a hostile, uncharted land and this was place marked the very edge of the world, far from their own homes.