Maiden Castle – more amazing than Stonehenge?

We visited Maiden Castle on the way back from Poole yesterday. It is an huge and amazing Iron Age Hill fort just outside Dorchester. It is owned and managed by English Heritage and is open all year round – access is free. See here for more details.

The site originally dates back to the Neolithic (c 5500 years ago) when a small settlement was located on the top of the hill at the eastern end. However the huge ring ditches which characterise the site were constructed by Iron Age people around 800BC. At that time several hundred people lived on the site.

In 43AD the Romans came and defeated the inhabitants and set up a new town where the Iron Age people were moved to – Durnovaria – now called Dorchester.

Maiden Castle 2
Three ring ditches (defensive slopes) on the south west corner

Maiden Castle 4
The three ring ditches on the south east corner with sheep grazing the grass

Maiden Castle 1
The ditches are at least 30 metres deep

Maiden Castle 3
It is hard to comprehend how these ditches were dug without the aid of modern machinery.

The site is huge – English Heritage say that the area inside the ring ditches is the size of 50 football pitches.

I have always wondered at sites like this and the bronze age settlements on Dartmoor where the water came from for the inhabitants and their stock to drink. Maiden Castle is on the top of a chalk hill and there are no obvious streams or springs. Anyone know the answer to this? Did they have special ways of water harvesting which we no longer use or know about?

I also wonder whether the Romans simply blockaded the Castle and waited for the inhabitants to surrender? Maybe that is how they managed to relocate them to Dorchester. It seems to me that a huge battle around Maiden Castle would have led to huge loss of life and it is hard to imagine Roman Centurions scaling the ditches ….

Update via Simon Cranmer …. I was quite wrong about this…. apparently there was rather a large battle – see here.

In many ways Maiden Castle is as amazing as Stonehenge but unfortunately it is almost completely unknown and little visited except by local dog walkers. There are no facilities and very little information – in these days of austerity it will no doubt remain that way perhaps for the better. Nevertheless the place is on my list of England’s Great Wonders.


A visit to Stonehenge

On the way back from Knepp last weekend we dropped into Stonehenge for a quick visit. The Stones themselves are owned and managed by English Heritage but 2500 acres of the surrounding landscape which is also very rich in archaeology and important for wildlife is owned and managed by the National Trust.

It is probably Britain’s most visited countryside attraction and is very very busy attracting visitors from all over the world. If you want to visit booking is essential – see here for full details. Access is free to National Trust and English Heritage members otherwise it costs over £17 to enter.

The National Trust property is known as Stonehenge Landscapes – details here and is free to enter.

Stonehenge 1
If you bide your time and get your camera angles right it can look like you have the place to yourself!

Stonehenge 4
It was a glorious sunny afternoon and it is always fun trying to get photos whilst shooting into the sun.

Stonehenge 3
This is the entry point to the NT land – there is lots to see here too and this area gives the Stones themselves context

Stonehenge 6
The new visitor centre has been open for over a year now and is located around 2km from the Stones – good exhibition along with a huge and very busy shop and tearoom. You can either walk to the Stones from here or catch a shuttle bus

Stonehenge 2
I really liked the mock hut circles that have been built as part of the interpretation – the NT Upper Plym Valley property on Dartmoor has a large concentration of Bronze Age hut circles and it is interesting to see what they might have looked like

Stonehenge 5In the back ground you can see the notorious A303 – clogged up on a late sunday afternoon – there is currently much debate going on regarding improving the road and the context of Stonehenge by putting this road in a tunnel.

Perhaps the most iconic Britain place – well worth a visit but prepare yourself for the crowds

Dartmoor’s past

Been up on Dartmoor  today and have visited two of the Moor’s fantastic pieces of history.

Grimspound is the best surviving example of a large Bronze Age hut circle complex. Situated near the Warren House Inn on the back road to Widecombe.



This photo is looking down on the site from Hookney Tor. The history of the site is described here.

It is a short walk from the road and is a must see place.

Hound Tor Medieval Village
This is a 13th century village and is well preserved on the ground. Details of the location are here and the history is described here. There is also an audio trail which can be downloaded here.



This photo shows a part of the village with Greator Rocks in the background.

Grimspound and the Medieval Village are quite close and can both be visited in a 4 hour period – go for it!

4 Castles in 3 Days

Bank holiday weekend! Yay. The weather has been …. well its been kind – it may have been cold but it has been dry. We have been all out and about in droves. I have been carefully monitoring ‘my’ properties  and I have been visiting others.

Been to Finch Foundry and Lydford Gorge today – both were busy and by all accounts both and Sexton’s Cottage in Widecombe have been busy all weekend – phew – the real worry with the weather was that nobody would come to the west country for Easter – that appears be untrue.

I spent the last few days visiting other attractions – the 4 castles – they were pretty busy too.

Here are a few pics

Dartmouth Castle 7

Dartmouth Castle – Up to Dartmouth

Dartmouth Castle 5

The English Heritage flag

Kingsweare Castle 2

The Kingsweare Castle- the refurbished paddlesteamer

Berry Pomeroy gatehouse

Berry Pomeray Castle window

Berry Pomeroy 2

Berry Pomeroy Castle

Okehampton Castle 2

Okehampton Castle

Okehampton Castle 4

Okehampton Castle

Totnes Castle 2

Totnes Castle

Totnes Castle - down the Dart

Down to the Dart