Dunraven Hillfort

Along the rugged coastline of Glamorgan Heritage, there are several Iron Age forts strategically positioned to take advantage of the natural defences provided by the cliff tops. These forts, commonly referred to as promontory forts, were situated in such a way that they only required the construction of banks and ditches on the landward side, where they were vulnerable to attack. One such promontory fort is located at Trwyn y Witch, also known as the Witch’s Nose, which forms the southern side of Dunraven Bay , where Dunraven fort stands. The others are Cwm Bach, Wick, Nash Point Camp and The Bulwarks, Porthkerry.

The fort is naturally defended on the seaward sides by sheer cliffs to the west and steep slopes to the south. However, the man-made defenses on the northern side of the fort are still visible and impressive. These defenses consist of two banks with ditches that are nearly 12m high from the bottom of the ditches to the tops of the banks. They curve around from the cliff, where the original entrance likely existed before it was lost to erosion. At this point, a third bank on the outer side creates a small enclosed area, which is believed to have defined the entrance. There is also a separate small enclosure located a short distance outside the fort, although erosion has made its relationship to the main fort uncertain, it is generally thought to be an annexe. Inside the fort, there are three groups of shallow hollows that may have been the sites of roundhouses, although some of them may be later quarries.

The only known excavations at the site were carried out by Iolo Morganwg, who dug a section through one of the banks. However, there has never been a modern excavation, but the Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust Ltd commissioned a geophysical survey in the 1990s, which revealed more possible huts and defensive features.

Unfortunately, a significant portion of the east side of the fort was landscaped as the grounds of two successive post-medieval mansions. The second of these, known as Dunraven Castle, was built in 1802-06, although there is no evidence of a medieval castle ever existing on the site. Dunraven Castle was eventually demolished in 1962, and it was surrounded by the landscaped grounds of Dunraven Park, which likely originated in the 17th century as a deer park.

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