A few weeks ago, we challenged you to ‘Guess the Hillfort‘ in our annual Summer Quiz. To make things slightly easier, we restricted ourselves to a geographical area no further West than Bristol, no further North or East than Oxford, but stretching down to the South coast. As I write this at the end of May with Whitsun behind us, the sun is blazing through the window, it must be Summer, so here are the answers:

Hillfort 1 – Maiden Castle, Dorset


We’d imagine most readers recognised this one, found southwest of Dorchester. With a history that includes a Neolithic Causewayed Enclosure and farming use in the Bronze Age, the fort was first properly constructed around 600 BC, undergoing significant expansion 150 or so years later. At this time the fort increased in size from 16 acres up to 47 acres – the largest hill fort in Britain. The fort appears to have been abandoned as a habitable area after the Roman invasion in the 1st Century AD although there is some evidence of a later temple building in the 5th Century AD. The site was excavated in the 1930s by Mortimer Wheeler. Further excavations were carried out in 1985-6, under the direction of Niall Sharples.

Hillfort 2 – Battlesbury Camp, Wiltshire

East of Warminster is Battlesbury Hill, surmounted by the Camp. The defenses follow the natural contours of the hill, enclosing some 23.5 acres. Finds of late Iron Age pottery date the fort to the 1st Century BC, though there are earlier Bronze Age barrows to the south and West of the fort.

Hillfort 3 – Badbury Rings, Dorset


Situated 3 miles or so to the northwest of Wimborne Minster, the hill fort has two main phases on construction, the first of 18 acres, the second more than doubling this to 41 acres. As with many Iron Age forts, Bronze Age barrows in the area point to earlier use of the site. The site was excavated as recently as 2004, led by Martin Papworth.

Hillfort 4 – Yarnbury, Wiltshire


A few miles west of Stonehenge on the A303, can be seen the banks and ramparts of Yarnbury hill fort. Some 28.5 acres in size, it was most recently extensively surveyed in 1991. A smaller and earlier banked enclosure of 13 acres, dated to around 300 BC lies inside the main fort which has been dated from finds to around 100 BC. The site was used for the local Winterbourne Stoke sheep fair up until 1916, and the location of many of the pens and folds used are still in evidence today as crop marks, in the right conditions.

Hillfort 5 – Danebury, Hampshire


Situated 2 miles northwest of Stockbridge, Danebury is a ‘type site’ for hill forts and was
extensively excavated by Sir Barry Cunliffe in the 1970’s. The site covers 12 acres, dates from the 6th Century BC and was in use for over 500 years, being abandoned around 100 BC. If you’re considering a visit here, the Museum of the Iron Age,  some 5 miles to the north in Andover is well worth visiting first with extensive displays and finds from the site which help enormously with interpretation when you’re on site.

Hillfort 6 – Barbury Castle, Wiltshire


Five miles south of Swindon, and 4 miles northwest of Avebury lies Barbury Castle, one of several hill forts on or near the old Ridgeway track. Dating from around 500 BC, occupation continued into the Roman period, and beyond. Saxon weapons and possible inhumations for the later period have been identified here. The hill fort was used as an anti-aircraft gunnery station in the Second World War, maintaining a possible military use for the site down the ages. There has been no formal excavation,
other that that done by the military in the 1930s.

Hillfort 7 – Uley Bury, Gloucestershire


Uley Bury is a long flat-topped hill, just outside Uley, 5 miles southwest of Stroud. With steep natural slopes on all sides apart from the northern corner, it is an ideal location for a hill fort. At 32 acres, it required over a mile of ramparts to be built on the slopes. There is evidence of occupation from 300 BC to 100 AD, a timescale in common with many other hill forts. Hetty Pegler’s Tump, a Neolithic long barrow re-opened to the public in 2011 after two years of repair works, lies a short distance to the north of
the hill fort.

Hillfort 8 – Hod Hill, Dorset


Hod Hill, near Blandford Forum is another hill fort that departs from the more usual ’rounded’ appearance, being roughly rectangular and enclosing an area of some 54 acres. Radiocarbon dating suggests a date of 500 BC for the main rampart, but this was one of the forts captured by the Roman Vespasian in 43 AD. remains of the subsequent Roman Camp can be see in the northwest corner on the image above. The site was excavated in the 1950s by Sir Ian Richmond.

Hillfort 9 – Figsbury Ring, Wiltshire


3.5 miles northeast of Salisbury, Figsbury Ring is a somewhat enigmatic structure, owing to the presence of an internal ditch, some 30 yards or so inside the main bank. Identified as an Iron Age hillfort by the Cunningtons in the 1920s, this interpretation has been the subject of ongoing debate ever since. Reappraisal in the 1980s of some of the finds from the Cunnington excavations identified Grooved Ware and flint tools, indicating a much earlier Neolithic date for the first use of the site. There are suggestions that Figsbury started out as a Causewayed Enclosure, was later used as a henge monument before finally being transformed into a hill fort defensive site.

Hillfort 10 – Uffington, Oxfordshire


Uffington Castle, a defensive enclosure just to the southwest of the famous white horse, dates back to the early Iron Age (7-800 BC) and encloses an area of just over 8 acres. Excavations have failed to find conclusive evidence for Iron Age buildings, although isolated post holes have been located and finds of pottery and loom weights indicate that some form of occupation took place.

Hillfort 11 – Liddington Castle (Camp), Wiltshire


Liddington Castle or Camp lies just east of Chiseldon, south of Swindon, covers an area of around 7 acres and dates to the Late Bronze/Early Iron Ages, making it one of the earliest hillforts in Britain. Excavation finds suggest Liddington was abandoned early (500 BC?) but possibly re-occupied in Roman times. There was research carried out (with excavation) in the 1970s to try to link Liddington to the fabled Badon Hill of Arthurian myth, but nothing could be conclusively proved.

Hillfort 12 – Old Sarum, Wiltshire


Shame on any hill fort fans who failed to recognise Old Sarum! The outline of the much later church in the northwest is the biggest clue here. The site contains evidence of human habitation as early as 3000 BC, and the site has been inhabited throughout history; Romans, Saxons, Vikings and Normans all playing their part in the history of the place before it fell out of use in Tudor times and was sold by Henry VIII.

We hope you enjoyed the quiz – how many did you get right? More information on many of the hill forts above can be found in the excellent English Heritage publication ‘The Wessex Hillforts Project‘, available as a free download, which we can heartily recommend for hillforts fans!

All images above were taken from, and copyright of, Google Maps.