Not far from the glittering harbour front of Padstow lies one of Cornwall’s most important historical sites: Castle an Dinas.
12 miles from Padstow near St Columb Major, adventure-seekers and history-chasers will discover a truly intriguing throwback to Cornwall’s long-forgotten yesteryears. Encapsulating over 2000 years of history, Castle an Dinas is one of the largest and most significant hillforts in the county, crowning the summit of the 216-metre high Castle Downs hill.
Not just an amazing place to visit for its incredible 360-degree views across the surrounding landscapes, Castle an Dinas is also hugely important for its historical insights. A place shrouded in myth and legend, the once imposing Iron Age hillfort dates back to around the second century BC and is supposedly where Gorlois the Duke of Cornwall (the husband of King Arthur’s mother) is said to have been slain by the forces of King Uther Pendragon (King Arthur’s father).
Made up of three ditch and rampart concentric rings, 850 feet in diameter, Castle an Dinas is thought to have been largely community-based rather than used for military purposes – despite its connections with Pendragon’s war. Likely to represent a symbol of wealth and power, it was a hub for social ceremonies, trade and ritual. Providing even more insight into the castle’s history, a levelled-off platform discovered between the outer and inner banks and ditches may even suggest Neolithic roots.
Although its exact origins are unclear, excavations carried out during the 1960s show that the main period of use for Castle an Dinas was certainly in the Iron Age. Home to a hardy community braving the county’s harsh elements, the fortress would have been peppered with the sturdy frames of timber roundhouses and also shows signs of having had a well, too. Later impacted by the development of a 20th century wolfram mine, the hillfort has survived the passages of time and remains one of the most significant archaeological sites in Cornwall.
If you are staying in one of luxury cottages in Padstow, a trip to Castle an Dinas is definitely recommended. 1 mile north of the A30 at Goss Moor, access to the site is relatively easy and there is a car park available too.