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Iron Age 800 BC - AD 43

At the top end of the hierarchy of later Iron Age settlement are the hillforts. Defined by one or, more usually, two or three imposing ramparts, these sites are interpreted as central places overseeing large tribal territories.

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The ramparts may have been intended to impress rather than to have functioned as a defensive barrier as few signs of warfare ever come from excavation. They were constructed from around 500 BC and appear to go out of fashion in the years following the Roman Conquest.

Examples to visit

Bishops Wood Hillfort

Within this new woodland is a small island of ancient coppiced oak, carpeted by bluebells in springtime - this is the site of an imposing earthwork comprising a roughly circular bank with an external ditch known as Bishops Wood hillfort.


One of the largest and most impressive hillforts in Cornwall, sited in an imposing position on the summit of Castle Downs with extensive and panoramic views across central Cornwall to both north and south coasts.

Castle Dore

The defences consist of a circular rampart set within an oval one; both ramparts were constructed from material excavated from external ditches. The ditch to the inner rampart survives well but that associated with the outer rampart is now infilled on the west side of the earthwork.

Castle Pencaire

Sited on the summit of Tregonning Hill, by tradition an abode of giants, this hillfort is oval in shape and defined by a pair of ramparts and ditches with entrances on both the east and west sides.

Chûn Castle

Sited on the summit of Chûn Downs this hillfort commands extensive views north and north-west to the Atlantic Coast and south towards Mounts Bay.


This hillfort comprises a single bank and external ditch enclosing an area about 140 metres in diameter. In places the inner face of the bank is visible and this shows that the rampart was built of dry stone walling.

Round Wood

Round Wood is a complex site that has revealed evidence of occupation and settlement through the later centuries of prehistory, as well as for its much more recent industrial heritage. Now part of the Trelissick Estate, it is situated at the tip of an east-facing promontory between Cowlands and Lamouth Creeks.

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Warbstow Bury

On a broad ridge high on the north-eastern edges of Bodmin Moor, sheltered by a summit to the south-west stands Warbstow Bury, one of the largest and best-preserved hillforts in Cornwall. The site overlooks the valley of the River Ottery and commands far-reaching views for miles around.