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On my recent visit to Cornwall, I managed to squeeze in a visit to a site I’ve only been to once before, but have never really seen. Caer Bran hillfort rests on a hill to the south of Sancreed Beacon, and when I last climbed up to the hillfort the area was shrouded in thick mist, which afforded me no overall view of the monument.

Luckily this time the weather was much clearer, though still very ‘damp’, and I was able to get a much better impression of the scale of the fort, which is around 120 or so metres in diameter.

Lake’s Parochial History of 1868 describes the hillfort thus:

“Caer Bran Castle, i.e. Brennus’s Castle, or the Crow castle, stands on the summit of a hill six furlongs and a half to the west of the church; it consists, or rather consisted, of three concentric circles, the greatest being about 240 feet in diameter, and still in some places 15 feet in height; it is composed of earth, and, as is usual in such cases, has a ditch on each side. The middle circle was built of stone, and was at least 12 feet in thickness; a large portion of the stone has been removed for building purposes. The innermost circle is about 30 feet in diameter, and was evidently a sort of citadel.”

The PastScape entry (see link below) mentions only two sets of ramparts, the inner one ‘now very mutilated’.

Caer Bran: The outer ditch today is still quite imposing in places.

Caer Bran: The outer ditch today is still quite imposing in places.

The hill fort, which dates to the Iron Age but has much later mining remains within it, is easily accessed via a concreted track south from the Sancreed-Grumbla road at OS Grid Ref SW409295. The hillfort also contains three Bronze Age ring cairns, which pre-date the fort. Though the hill is a bit steep in places, it’s a steady climb to the summit, and I reached the pathway leading off to the left to the fort in less than 15 minutes from the road.

Approaching from the northwest, the ramparts are open for the old mining track that leads through the monument, and I was saddened to see that much of the westerly ditch was quite flooded. On the northern side the ramparts are very well defined, though there is some evidence of animal burrowing activity, possibly rabbits. This activity was mirrored on the southeastern side, but the damage was much more in evidence – although I’m a city boy, I’d guess at badgers from the size of the burrows. From the southwest, the old mining track loops away to the south and west across toward the village of Brane.

The name ‘Bran’ means Raven or Crow, and it would be easy to speculate that the hillfort is named after the same Rialobran (Royal Raven) commemorated on the Men Scryfa, some 4 miles to the north.

Other nearby monuments:

Some 75 yards or so to the east of the hillfort is a small enclosure, noted on PastScape as a pound, with a small mound at its centre.  There was some thought at one time that this may be a henge, but this idea is now dismissed. There is no public access to the enclosure that I could see. The area is rich in prehistoric monuments, with the Carn Euny settlement and holy wells to the southwest, Sancreed Beacon to the northeast and Sancreed holy well to the east. Further afield is the Goldherring settlement to the south, Bartine Castle to the west and Brane chambered cairn further to the southwest. On a clear day, the hillfort provides a good all-round view to most parts of the West Penwith peninsula.

More Information:

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