Prehistoric

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ARTHUR’S QUOIT, Pembrokeshire

Arthur’s Quoit (or Coetan Arthur), according to legend, was thrown from nearby Carn Llidi by King Arthur. This is one of many 'Arthur's Quoits' in Britain - one source identifies more than 30. It is the remains of a single-chambered Neolithic burial chamber, or Dolmen, between 4 and 6,000 years’ old; the capstone (the bit that reminded folk of a quoit) is about 20’ long and now only supported, seemingly precariously, by one upright stone.

Post code is a guide only.  This Arthur's Quoit is located on St David's Head, where there is also the remains of a small prehistoric hut settlement, and can only be reached on foot. Park in Whitesands Bay and follow the coast path. Interesting site of a chapel dedicated to St Patrick on the way, where an early medieval cemetery has been excavated.

Region/Nation
Location/Address
St David's Head
County
Pembrokeshire
Post Code
SA62 6PS
Main Historic Period
Prehistory
Link to featured article
Tip/Nearby
Whitesands Bay
Primary Management
National Trust
AVEBURY HENGE

The enormous Neolithic stone henge and bank at Avebury surrounds the entire village of Avebury.  Dating from c2600BC, it is part of a wider complex of prehistoric sites nearby that include West Kennet Avenbue and Longbarrow, Silbury Hill and Windmill Hill. Get up close and personal with the stones - which you cannot normally do at nearby Stonehenge.

Region/Nation
Location/Address
Avebury
County
Wiltshire
Post Code
SN8 1RF
Main Historic Period
Prehistory
Link to featured article
Tip/Nearby
Huge number of prehistoric sites, including West Kennet Long Barrow, Silbury Hill and Windmill Hill, within walking distance. Stonehenge not far away by road.
Primary Management
National Trust
BEDD ARTHUR

Bedd Arthur, Beddarthur, or Arthur’s Grave is one of many sites in Britain associated with the burial of the legendary King Arthur. It is thought to be a small stone circle – actually vaguely elliptical in shape – now comprising 13 upright stones and 2 fallen ones. It is an unimpressive sight unless you are an enthusiast about these things and the stones are not large – about 2 feet (60cms) above ground. They seem to lean inward, leading to speculation that there was once a mound, or burial chamber, inside. It is a dramatic location, alongside an ancient trackway and overlooking the Carn Menyn outcrops, thought by some to be the main source of the Stonehenge bluestones. Some have even suggested that Bedd Arthur is a prototype Stonehenge.

Post code is nearby.  Access by foot only, wearing suitable clothing.

Region/Nation
Location/Address
Nr Mynachlog-ddu
County
Pembrokeshire
Post Code
SA66 7RY
Main Historic Period
Prehistory
Tip/Nearby
Foel Trygarn, Carn Menyn
Primary Management
National Park
CADBURY CASTLE

South Cadbury Castle is an Iron Age hill fort, overrun by the Romans in the 1st century and subsequently used by them, but then reoccupied and its defences restored in the sub-Roman period and in occasional use up to at least the 10th century. It is one of several places associated with the legendary King Arthur and suggested as a possible location for the mythical Camelot. The walls and defences are now wooded, but the size of them can be appreciated, and there is a wonderful view of Glastonbury Tor, on the mystical Isle of Avalon, from the top.

Take the pathway, Castle Lane, from the village; it is invariably muddy.

Region/Nation
Location/Address
South Cadbury
County
Somerset
Post Code
BA22 7HA
Main Historic Period
Dark Ages
Tip/Nearby
Glastonbury, Wells
Primary Management
Unknown
CALLANISH Standing Stones

The Callanish (or Calanais in Gaelic) Standing Stones is a complex of 50 stones in a cruciform arrangement roughly aligned north-south, with an inner circle of 13 stones and a small chambered cairn. They date from 3000BC and there are several other prehistoric sites nearby, including 3 additional circles. As with other stone circles in Britain, there is no satisfactory explanation for the purpose of these monuments - though, according to tradition they are petrified giants.

There is a modern visitor centre managed by Urras nan Tursachan (The Standing Stones Trust).

Region/Nation
Location/Address
Calanais Visitor Centre
Calanais
Isle of Lewis
County
Western Isles
Post Code
HS2 9DY
Main Historic Period
Prehistory
Tip/Nearby
Other prehistoric sites - details tba
Primary Management
Historic Scotland
CARN MENYN

Carn Menyn is a cluster of rocky outcrops, or tors, in the Preseli Hills in Pembrokeshire. It is an atmospheric environment, slightly lonely, with excellent views inland as well as over the sea, and several prehistoric remains in the area – such as Foel Trygarn and Bedd Arthur. In addition to the slightly strange arrangement of stones, Carn Menyn has been believed for many years to be the source for the bluestones used to build Stonehenge in Wiltshire 170 miles (274 km) to the east and some 4,500 years ago. The claim is disputed by many and there has been great speculation about how these stones were moved such a distance by Neolithic people. It is also possible that the stones came from several places in the Preseli Hills, not just Carn Menyn. In 2005, it was suggested – apparently seriously - that the stones from Stonehenge should be returned to the Preseli Hills.

Accessible by foot only. Postcode is for a nearby village.

Region/Nation
Location/Address
Nr Mynachlog-ddu
County
Pembrokeshire
Post Code
SA66 7RY
Main Historic Period
Prehistory
Tip/Nearby
Bedd Arthur, Foel Trygarn
Primary Management
National Park
CASTELL HENLLYS

Castell Henllys is a reconstructed Iron Age village, or fort, but the only one in Britain built on an original Celtic site. So the idea is that you walk in the footsteps of the Demetae tribe that lived there 2,000 or so years ago. It is very much geared to schoolchildren, but it is fascinating for all ages. As well as roundhouses, enclosures etc, there is a visitor centre and you can stroll through the surrounding countryside and take a picnic. Regular events are held.

Region/Nation
Location/Address
Meline
Nr Crymych
County
Pembrokeshire
Post Code
SA41 3UR
Main Historic Period
Prehistory
Link to featured article
Tip/Nearby
In the National Park off the A487 between Newport and Cardigan.
Primary Management
National Park
Cerne Abbas Giant

The Cerne Abbas Giant is one of Britain’s best known hill figures, cut into the hillside near the pretty Dorset village of Cerne Abbas. It is formed of a cut trench about 1 foot deep and across, stands 180 feet (55 metres) high and depicts a nude male wielding a large club. Possibly its most noticeable feature is its prominent erection – so the figure is often associated with fertility. Some people think the giant represents a Celtic deity, or Hercules. In fact, the age of the Cerne Abbas Giant had long been uncertain, but following hi-tech analysis of sediment, it was announced in 2021 that he dates from the late Saxon period - possibly 10th century.  There is a viewing area a short distance from Cerne Abbas village and there are walks nearby.

It is hard to photograph the Giant. The image here is from Google Earth.

Region/Nation
Location/Address
Cerne Abbas
County
Dorset
Post Code
DT2 7AL
Main Historic Period
Prehistory
Link to featured article
Tip/Nearby
Dorchester
Primary Management
National Trust
Chanctonbury Ring

Chanctonbury Ring is an Iron Age hillfort, constructed c6-400BC, though actually in use since Neolithic times. It was probably not a fort, nor ever occupied, but more likely a religious site or, possibly, animal enclosure. 2 Romano-British temples have been found on the hill (they are not visible). In 1760, Charles Goring of nearby Wiston House planted a ring of beech trees around the hill; these, or their descendents, are still there. The hill was used by the army during WW2. There are several other prehistoric sites nearby. Chanctonbury also has a number of legends associated with it - most notably variations of the story that the Devil appears if running seven times anti-clockwise (or backwards) round the hill, alleged links with witchcraft (young ladies sleeping out on the hill are more likely to conceive), UFOs as well as suggestions that the hill is haunted and claims that spending the night on it is an unpleasant experience.  Nonetheless, there are great views from the top.

Region/Nation
Location/Address
Chanctonbury Ring Rd
Steyning
County
West Sussex
Post Code
BN44 3DR
Main Historic Period
Prehistory
Tip/Nearby
Cissbury Ring
Primary Management
National Park
CHEDDAR GORGE

Cheddar Gorge is a breathtaking limestone gorge located in Somerset’s Mendip Hills, near the village of Cheddar.  It is roughly 3 miles long, around 400 feet deep, England’s largest gorge and one of the country’s most popular natural tourist attractions.  It was formed about one million years ago during the last Ice age from glacial melt-water, which created a cave system.  Prehistoric remains have been found in the caves, both human and animal, and inside Gough Cave was found Britain’s oldest complete human skeleton, Cheddar Man, who lived around 7150 BC and whose descendants still live nearby. Other human remains are some 5,000 years older and the evidence is that they were cannibals. Gough’s Cave is a spectacular show cave, with fabulous formations of stalactites and stalagmites (remember, tites are the ones that come down).

The south side of the gorge, including Gough’s Cave and associated attractions, is owned by the Longleat Estate and heavily commercialised.  The north side of the gorge is owned by the National Trust. Both offer walks along the cliffs.

Given post code is for NT land – pay and display car parks.  Use BS27 3QF post code for show cave.

Region/Nation
Location/Address
Cheddar
County
Somerset
Post Code
BS27 3QE
Main Historic Period
Prehistory
Tip/Nearby
15 miles NW of Glastonbury, 10 miles from Wells. Wookey Hole show cave nearby.
Primary Management
Private - open to the public

If your favourite attraction is not listed yet, and you have a good quality digital photograph of it that you are able to freely send, please get in touch

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