Home Newsletter Locations Diary
Topic Alpha County Sections By

Travellers Resource

Maiden Castle

near Dorchester, Dorset

Maiden Castle is the largest Iron Age hill fort in Europe and covers an area of 47 acres, a large area, equivalent to 50 football pitches. 'Maiden' derives from the Celtic 'Mai Dun' which means 'great hill'.  It is situated just 2 miles south of Dorchester in Dorset.  The earthworks are immense, some ramparts rising to a height of 6 metres (20 feet) today, they have previously been even higher. 

Its early development of Maiden Castle began around 3000BC and flint tools and other objects from that time have been found. At this time it was a far simpler structure. The late Stone Age/early Bronze Age people who lived there built a massive ditch and bank some 545 metres in length. There are Bronze Age burial mounds on the right hand end of the Castle.

The present hill fort, as we see it today, was developed during the Iron Age around 450-300BC when the area of the fort was extended and the ramparts and ditches were enlarged. Three ditches were dug, the earth removed and used to build the ramparts. A wooden fence would have been built along the ramparts with wooden gates at the entrances. The entrances were not aligned therefore making it more difficult for opposing forces to gain entry.

At the time of the Roman invasion in 43AD, Maiden Castle was inhabited by the Durotriges tribe. The battle to take the castle was a bloody one: the Romans under Vespasian finally took it. Recent excavations have uncovered the bodies of 38 Iron Age warriors, buried with food and drink for their journey into the after life.

As was common, the Romans developed a new settlement nearby, in this case Dorchester, the roman name was Durnovaria, meaning 'place with fist-sized pebbles'.

See here for Picture Details

The local celtic tribe the Durotriges, were a confederation of tribes, and its thought they had two capitals, this was one the other was at nearby Ilchester, the Romans developed Ilchecter, calling it Lindinis, the hill forts nearby are Cadbury Castle and Ham Hill. This time frame has a shifting map of tribes and differences both between historical version and times, so maps of areas held by different tribes don't line up that well.  Cadbury Castle was thought to be a part of another kingdom, while most references to Ham Hill  usually mention the Durotrges. Ilchester is about mid way, and some way from each, and the Romans may have decided to have a single settlement, combining two areas. There are quite a lot of other small hill forts like Ham Hill, around the area, it does not look like a significant place.

A Roman temple was built at Maiden Castle in the 4th century, the foundations can be seen today. The fort was abandoned shortly after this time, although it may have been occupied during early Saxon times. It has not been used since that time.

There does not appear to have been any later fortification, as in the case of Cadbury Castle, so its not a contender for being a major place in the period of King Arthur.  While later Old Sarum was reinforced and far later had stone buildings, Maiden castle was not.

The site is not covered in forestry so you can get a better idea of how a major hill fort would have looked, than with many other sites.

See here for Picture Details

Maiden Castle is maintained by English Heritage and is open all year.  At the site there is a large car park with information boards regarding its history.

Planning Grid


Maiden Castle, near Dorchester, Dorset

Grid Reference

SY 669884

Map Link:


Google Maps Aerial photograph (you can drag around area, and zoom in and out to see more detail).

Getting there:

2 miles south of Dorchester, off the A354


Short but steep trail to the right of the car park, which leads you through the original Iron Age entrance to the hill fort. Another trail takes you across the hill fort defences and involves some steps.


The car park at Maiden Castle is at the end of Maiden Castle Road in Dorchester. This comes off Weymouth Road, on the left going into Dorchester from the A35 from the south. It crosses the A35, but you have no entrance to it from the A35.


Downloadable MP3 audio tour for Maiden Castle from http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/server/show/nav.17836

Things To Do, See and Photograph:

Hill fort, impressive entrance.

What to take:


Nature highlights:


Best Times to Visit:












6000 years of history at


Opening times:

Open all the time



Photo Restrictions:


Other Restrictions: None
Special Needs Access: Difficult, steep climb, good walkers only
Special Needs Facilities: None
Children Facilities: None
Dogs Allowed: No known restrictions.

Other useful websites:


CIN Page Ref:


Date Updated:03/08

Please let us know any other information that we can add to this Planning Grid or page and any errors that you discover. Before making a long trip to any location it is always wise to double check the current information, websites like magazines may be correct at the time the information is written, but things change and it is of course impossible to double check all entries on a regular basis. If you have any good photographs that you feel would improve the illustration of this page then please let us have copies. In referring to this page it is helpful if you quote the CIN Page Ref at the bottom of the Planning Grid above. To print the planning grid select it then right click and print the selected area.

Please submit information on locations you discover so that this system continues to grow.

This page:

Link directly to this page, with text or the button on right.

Text linking: Maiden Castle on Photographers Resource

Linking Instructions                            http://www.photographers-resource.co.uk/