Castle-an-Dinas

Castle-an-Dinas Iron Age Hillfort

Castle-an-DinasCastle-an-Dinas, not to be confused with an identically-named hillfort near Nancledra in Penwith, is an Iron-Age hill fort near St Columb Major, in north Cornwall. Dating from the third century BC and situated on the summit of Castle Downs with extensive, panoramic views across central Cornwall to both north and south coasts, it is considered one of the most impressive and important hillforts in south-west Britain. A limited excavation in the 1960s found two dilapidated Bronze Age barrows within an area enclosed by four large, circular ramparts, suggesting that the site was already in use when the ramparts were built.

Legend has it that Castle-an-Dinas is the place where Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall and husband of King Arthur's mother, died. Castle-an-Dinas has enjoyed a rich and varied history. During the civil war Royalist troops camped for two nights within the rings of the fort and held a crucial meeting there, during which they decided to surrender to the Parliamentarians.

In 1671 a local man named John Trehenban murdered two young girls and was sentenced to imprisonment in a cage on the hilltop, while in 1904 a young girl was murdered on Castle-an-Dinas by her jealous lover, who then killed himself. Ghost stories are plentiful. Sightings of a ghost army in the sky above the site were reported towards the end of the eighteenth century, ghosts of King Arthur's army were spotted in the nineteenth century, and the rattling of John Trehenban's chains can apparently be heard by anyone who chooses to run around his rock fifty times.

Castle-an-Dinas was the site of Cornwall's largest wolfram mine from 1917 to 1957, and many of the old buildings and workings are still standing. Level platforms cut into the prehistoric ramparts are also clearly visible. It is thought that hill forts provided a focus for the community, a central place for social ceremonies, trade and ritual and a symbol of the wealth and power of the tribe. In spite of thousands of years of near-continuous activity, Castle-an-Dinas is still one of the most popular and best-preserved archaeological sites in the country.

Castle-an-Dinas has been in the care of the Cornwall Heritage Trust since 1988. There are information boards in the car park and on the hill up towards the fort, which is reached via a footpath from the road.