Some of the most stunning hillforts in Europe are located in England. From Shropshire to Sussex, hillforts punctuate England’s historic landscapes. Rising to spectacular heights over the surrounding countryside, hillforts possess incredible views and are possessed of fascinating histories. The earthworks we know as hillforts might encompass defensive sites, sacred places and settlements. Here are 5 of England’s best hillforts.
British Camp is an Iron Age hillfort at the peak of Herefordshire Beacon, with expansive views over the surrounding countryside. Four phases of prehistoric building have been identified at British Camp, which situate construction of the hillfort at different points in the 1st millennium BC. Its distinctive pattern of earthworks have led to the structure being associated with a layered wedding cake.
These multi-tiered defences enclose an area of 18 hectares. At 338 metres high, British Camp has excellent views of Wynds Point, a major route through the hills. The hillfort had four gateways and was populated by dozens of hut circles likely consisting of wooden structures with thatched roofs. This suggests the existence of a large settlement at British Camp.
A settlement and defensive stronghold for some 4,000 years, Cadbury Castle is the site of a Bronze and Iron Age hillfort in the civil parish of South Cadbury in Somerset. It has been associated with King Arthur‘s legendary court at Camelot, while excavations at the site have furnished remains of human occupation and use from the Neolithic through to the Iron age.
Hod Hill is an Iron Age hillfort and one of the largest of its kind in Dorset. Overlooking the River Stour, Hod Hill developed into a large Iron Age community likely consisting of over two hundred round houses. In 44 AD, it was probably captured by the Romans during their invasion of Britain.
The Roman Second Legion, led by the future emperor Vespasian, was sent to subdue the region and captured a number of hill forts in the area. The remains of a Roman fort point to the history of Roman occupation of Hod Hill, while the earthworks also enclose remnants of buildings and property boundaries in the form of circular hollows and ridges
Cissbury Ring is an Iron Age hillfort in the south of England, enclosing 26 hectares of chalky landscape on West Sussex’s South Downs. It was first constructed around 4000 BC. From various positions on Cissbury Ring, there are excellent views of the surrounding landscape. To the north lies the historic woodland of the Weald. To the south, 80 miles of Sussex coastline.
Cissbury Ring is a single rampart enclosure. The remains of these banks and ditches are clearly evident today. It has been the site of Neolithic flint mines, Iron Age and Romano-British settlements, a mint, a Tudor warning beacon, and anti-aircraft defences from World War Two.
Old Oswestry is an impressive muti-vallate hillfort along the Welsh Marches with commanding views of Shropshire, North and Mid Wales, and Cheshire. It was occupied between the 9th century BC and the 1st century AD. Old Oswestry’s dense pattern of multiple ramparts (“multi-vallate”) made it a formidable defensive site, while they also projected power over the landscape and its people.
Old Oswestry was probably the principal settlement of a tribal group in Iron Age Britain. There were four main phases of construction, during which additional ramparts were added to the fort. After its abandonment, the hillfort was incorporated into a defensive or symbolic earthwork known as Wat’s Dyke.