Click bottom picture to see the Cerne Giant or Dorset Coast | England
Castle is not a castle in the pointy-tower Disney sense.
It contains no battlements, stone walls, dungeons, dragons or
keep. It looks like a large, curiously flat hill at a distance
and - at 45 acres - is the largest hill-fort in Britain.
hill-forts were an Iron Age development around 500 BC
and there are hundreds in Britain, especially in the south of
the country. Some - like Maiden Castle - were established over
previous Neolithic settlements that had occupied the area for
several thousand years.
Excavations at the eastern end of Maiden
have revealed 20 acres of Neolithic defensive works dated from
aerial graphic on English Heritage's signboard (see above) shows
how the concentric rings protected a powerful Celtic tribal
settlement of the Durotriges who controlled the territory now
partly known as Dorset.
Maiden Castle would have been the home of the Durotriges elite
and their dependants, while commoners lived in farms around
evidence of Iron Age man indicates usage of this hill from 3,000BC,
but Maiden Castle only became a serious fortification in 500BC,
expanding until the hilltop was fully occupied around 250BC.
a potent defence against warring Iron Age tribes, Maiden Castle
did not survive long against the sophisticated weaponry (catapults,
leather armour, helmets etc.), training and tactics of a Roman
Army under Vespasian. The Romans took control of the hill in
43AD in spite of defenders slinging a storm of 40,000 stones
(brought up by the Durotriges from Chesil Beach) at them.
appear to have treated the vanquished Celts with honour. A mass
grave of defenders was found in 1937, all laid to rest with
wine and meat to take on their last and greatest journey.
The remaining Durotrige tribespeople were moved to a new town,
Durnovaria (now Dorchester, picture below).
Hill is a favourite exercise point for locals and is about 20
minutes walk or 5 minutes drive from Dorchester, which is just north of Weymouth on the bugmap and easy to get to from Bournemouth via Poole.
covers about 45 acres, surrounded by a couple of miles of 6m
(20ft) earth/chalk walls. The origin of the name was from the
Celtic language, 'Mai Dun' meaning 'Great Hill' or possibly
The site is maintained by the English Heritage organisation
and is open all day, every day. The only on-site impediment
is barbed wire fencing to prevent muppets from tumbling down
slopes and damaging a few thousand years of hard labour.
Dorset County Museum
displays artefacts found on Maiden Hill such as flint tools
and bronze age pottery, as well as the bodies of Durotrige warriors
killed by the Romans.
Castle is in Dorset (on the south coast), England. It is one
mile from Dorchester (photo below),
off the A354 and there is a car park adjacent; it never
closes and entry is free.
Dorchester was founded by the Romans in 43AD, partly to corral the Celts
defeated in the conquest of nearby Maiden Castle. Originally
Dorchester was called Durnovaria. Next, Cerne Giant Pictures.
quiet rural town and seat of local government, Dorchester features
in local Thomas Hardy's novel 'The
Mayor of Casterbridge' and was also the home of Britain's most
notorious 'hanging' judge, bloody Judge Jefferey.
from a few pleasant Georgian buildings, Hardy's home 'Max Gate'
and the County Museum (Maiden Castle relics and Thomas Hardy's
study) there's not much in Dorchester to keep a tourist interested,
but it's a good way station en route from the Stonehenge/Avebury area to Maiden Castle,
one mile south and the Cerne
Giant, eight miles north, or to Dorset's 'Jurassic' Coast.
Cerne Giant is a famously
rampant, naked 60 metre man carved into the chalk hills about
8 miles (13kms) from Dorchester.
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