Prehistoric and archaeological sites in United Kingdom

Spa and Hot Springs of Bath

The spa and hot springs of Bath are traditionally associated with the Romans. It is true that the Romans developed the baths and built a massive complex, with temples and administrative buildings, around them. However the site dates back to the Celtic period, and the baths have been in used almost continuously since the Romans left. The spa was revitalised in the 18th century and appears on the novels of Jane Austen. Tod ...
Founded: Celtic | Location: Bath, United Kingdom

Callanish Stones

The Callanish Stones are an arrangement of standing stones placed in a cruciform pattern with a central stone circle. They were erected in the late Neolithic era, and were a focus for ritual activity during the Bronze Age. Archaeological excavation in the 1980s proved that the main circle was erected 4,500-5,000 years ago, and the chambered tomb a few generations later. The setting has a unique arrangement, with lines of ...
Founded: 3000-2500 BC | Location: Outer Hebrides, United Kingdom

Skara Brae

Skara Brae is a stone-built Neolithic settlement which consists of eight clustered houses, and was occupied from roughly 3180 BCE–2500 BCE. Europe"s most complete Neolithic village, Skara Brae gained UNESCO World Heritage Site status. As older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids, it has been called the 'Scottish Pompeii' because of its excellent preservation. In the winter of 1850, a severe storm hit Scotland, c ...
Founded: | Location: Orkney, United Kingdom

Ring of Brodgar

The Ring Of Brodgar Stone Circle And Henge, which is part of The Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site, is a spectacular stone circle. The ring is surrounded by a large circular ditch or henge. The truly circular layout of the ring is an unusual attribute that singles it out as one of the largest and finest stone circles in the British Isles. The Ring of Brodgar (alternative spelling Brogar) comprises a massive ce ...
Founded: 2500-2000 BC | Location: Orkney, United Kingdom

Burghead Pictish Fort

The present town of Burghead was built between 1805 and 1809, destroying in the process more than half of the site of an important Pictish hill fort. General Roy’s map shows the defences as they existed in the 18th century although he wrongly attributed them to the Romans. The fort was probably a major Pictish centre and was where carved slabs depicting bulls were found; they are known as the 'Burghead Bulls' ...
Founded: 3rd century AD | Location: Burghead, United Kingdom

Broch of Gurness

The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that th ...
Founded: 500-200 BC | Location: Orkney, United Kingdom

Callanish II

The Callanish II stone circle is one of many megalithic structures around the better-known (and larger) Callanish Stones (I) on the west coast of the isle of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. The stone circle consists of thin standing stones arranged in the shape of an ellipse measuring 21.6 by 18.9 metres. Five of the stones are standing and two have fallen. The stones vary from 2 to 3.3 metres in height. A slab, ...
Founded: 3000-2500 BC | Location: Outer Hebrides, United Kingdom

Standing Stones of Stenness

The Standing Stones of Stenness is a Neolithic monument and may be the oldest henge site in the British Isles. Various traditions associated with the stones survived into the modern era and they form part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site. Maeshowe chambered cairn is about 1.2 km to the east of the Standing Stones of Stenness and several other Neolithic monuments also lie in the vicinity, suggesting tha ...
Founded: 3100 BC | Location: Orkney, United Kingdom

Midhowe Broch

Midhowe Broch is an iron-age structure situated on a narrow promontory between two steep-sided creeks, on the north side of Eynhallow Sound. The broch is part of an ancient settlement, part of which has been lost to coastal erosion. The broch got its name from the fact that it"s the middle of three similar structures that lie grouped within 500 metres of each other and Howe from the Old Norse word haugr meaning mound ...
Founded: 500-200 BC | Location: Orkney, United Kingdom

Cramond Roman Fort

The fort at Cramond was located on the River Almond at the point where it flows into the Forth. In Roman times, there was probably a natural harbour here. One suggested interpretation is that Cramond formed a chain of Lothian forts along with Carriden and Inveresk. The fort was established around 140 during the building of the Antonine Wall, and remained in use until around 170 when the Romans retreated south to Hadrian&q ...
Founded: 140 AD | Location: Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Jarlshof

Jarlshof is the best known prehistoric archaeological site in Shetland Islands. It lies near the southern tip of the Shetland Mainland and has been described as 'one of the most remarkable archaeological sites ever excavated in the British Isles'. It contains remains dating from 2500 BC up to the 17th century AD. The Bronze Age settlers left evidence of several small oval houses with thick stone walls and various artefact ...
Founded: 2500 BC | Location: Shetland, United Kingdom

Callanish III

The Callanish III stone circle is one of many megalithic structures around the better-known (and larger) Callanis Stones (I) on the west coast of the isle of Lewis. The stone circle consists of two concentric ellipses. The outer ring measures about 13.7 by 13.1 metres. It contains 13 stones, of which eight are still standing and five have fallen. The inner ring is a pronounced oval measuring 10.5 by 6.6 metres. Only four ...
Founded: 3000-2500 BC | Location: Outer Hebrides, United Kingdom

Pentre Ifan

Pentre Ifan contains and gives its name to the largest and best preserved neolithic dolmen in Wales. As it now stands, the Pentre Ifan Dolmen is a collection of seven principal stones. The largest is the huge capstone, 5 m long, 2.4 m wide and 0.9 m thick. It is estimated to weigh 16 tonnes and rests on the tips of three other stones, some 2.5 m off the ground. There are six upright stones, three of which support the caps ...
Founded: 3500 BCE | Location: Newport, United Kingdom

Kilmartin Glen

Kilmartin Glen is an area in Argyll, which has one of the most important concentrations of Neolithic and Bronze Age remains in Scotland. There are more than 350 ancient monuments within a six mile radius of the village, with 150 of them being prehistoric. Monuments include standing stones, a henge monument, numerous cists, and a 'linear cemetery' comprising five burial cairns. Several of these, as well as many n ...
Founded: 3000 BC | Location: Argyll and Bute, United Kingdom

Clickimin Broch

The Broch of Clickimin is a large and well preserved, though somewhat restored broch near Lerwick. Originally built on an island in Clickimin Loch (now increased in size by silting and drainage), it was approached by a stone causeway. The water-level in the loch was reduced in 1874, leaving the broch high and dry. The broch is situated within a walled enclosure and, unusually for brochs, features a large 'blockhouse' betw ...
Founded: 200-100 BC | Location: Lerwick, United Kingdom

Giant's Ring

The Giant"s Ring is a henge monument at Ballynahatty, near Shaw"s Bridge, Belfast. It dates from the Neolithic period and was built around 2700 BCE. It is near the Shaw"s Bridge crossing of the River Lagan, a point which has been used as a crossing of the river since at least the Stone Age. The original purpose of the monument was most likely as a meeting place or as a memorial to the dead. The ...
Founded: 2700 BCE | Location: Belfast, United Kingdom

Barnhouse Neolithic Settlement

The Neolithic Barnhouse was discovered in 1984 by Colin Richards. Excavations were conducted between 1986 and 1991, over time revealing the base courses of at least 15 houses. The houses have similarities to those of the early phase of the better-known settlement at Skara Brae in that they have central hearths, beds built against the walls and stone dressers, but differ in that the houses seem to have been free-standing. ...
Founded: 3000 BC | Location: Orkney, United Kingdom

Glamis Manse Stone

The Glamis Manse Stone, also known as Glamis 2, is a Pictish stone. Dating from the 9th century, it is located outside the Manse, close to the parish church. It is inscribed on one side with a Celtic cross and on the other with a variety of Pictish symbols. The stone is a cross-slab 2.76 metres high. The slab is pedimented and carved on the cross face in relief, and the rear face bears incised symbols. It falls into John ...
Founded: 9th century AD | Location: Forfar, United Kingdom

Dun Telve

Dun Telve is one of the best preserved Iron Age brochs in Scotland. The neighbouring broch of Dun Troddan lies 470 metres to the east, and the 'semi-broch' known as Dun Grugaig is around 2.5 kilometres further east. Dun Telve is over 20m in diameter and the portion that still stands is about 10m high. Behind the narrow, west-facing entrance doorway, a 5m-long passage leads into the interior. Along the passage is a small ...
Founded: 100 BC - 100 AD | Location: Glenelg, United Kingdom

Dunadd Hill Fort

Dunadd is an Iron Age and later hillfort near Kilmartin in Argyll and Bute. Originally occupied in the Iron Age, the site later became a seat of the kings of Dál Riata. It is known for its unique stone carvings below the upper enclosure, including a footprint and basin thought to have formed part of Dál Riata's coronation ritual. On the same flat outcrop of rock is an incised boar in Pictish style, and an inscription in ...
Founded: 8th century AD | Location: Argyll and Bute, United Kingdom

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Pembroke Castle

Pembroke Castle is a Norman castle, founded in 1093. It survived many changes of ownership and is now the largest privately owned castle in Wales. It was the birthplace of Henry Tudor (later Henry VII of England) in 1457.

Pembroke Castle stands on a site that has been occupied at least since the Roman period. Roger de Montgomerie, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury founded the first castle here in the 11th century. Although only made from earth and wood, Pembroke Castle resisted several Welsh attacks and sieges over the next 30 years. The castle was established at the heart of the Norman-controlled lands of southwest Wales.

When William Rufus died, Arnulf de Montgomery joined his elder brother, Robert of Bellême, in rebellion against Henry I, William's brother and successor as king; when the rebellion failed, he was forced to forfeit all his British lands and titles. Henry appointed his castellan, but when the chosen ally turned out to be incompetent, the King reappointed Gerald in 1102. By 1138 King Stephen had given Pembroke Castle to Gilbert de Clare who used it as an important base in the Norman invasion of Ireland.

In August 1189 Richard I arranged the marriage of Isabel, de Clare's granddaughter, to William Marshal who received both the castle and the title, Earl of Pembroke. He had the castle rebuilt in stone and established the great keep at the same time. Marshal was succeeded in turn by each of his five sons. His third son, Gilbert Marshal, was responsible for enlarging and further strengthening the castle between 1234 and 1241.

Later de Valence family held Pembroke for 70 years. During this time, the town was fortified with defensive walls, three main gates and a postern. Pembroke Castle became de Valence's military base for fighting the Welsh princes during the conquest of North Wales by Edward I between 1277 and 1295.

Pembroke Castle then reverted to the crown. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the castle was a place of peace until the outbreak of the English Civil War. Although most of South Wales sided with the King, Pembroke declared for Parliament. It was besieged by Royalist troops but was saved after Parliamentary reinforcements arrived by sea from nearby Milford Haven. Parliamentary forces then went on to capture the Royalist castles of Tenby, Haverfordwest and Carew.

In 1648, at the beginning of the Second Civil War, Pembroke's commander Colonel John Poyer led a Royalist uprising. Oliver Cromwell came to Pembroke on 24 May 1648 and took the castle after a seven-week siege. Its three leaders were found guilty of treason and Cromwell ordered the castle to be destroyed. Townspeople were even encouraged to disassemble the fortress and re-use its stone for their purposes.

The castle was then abandoned and allowed to decay. It remained in ruins until 1880, when a three-year restoration project was undertaken. Nothing further was done until 1928, when Major-General Sir Ivor Philipps acquired the castle and began an extensive restoration of the castle's walls, gatehouses, and towers. After his death, a trust was set up for the castle, jointly managed by the Philipps family and Pembroke town council.

Architecture

The castle is sited on a strategic rocky promontory by the Milford Haven Waterway. The first fortification on the site was a Norman motte-and-bailey. It had earthen ramparts and a timber palisade.

In 1189, Pembroke Castle was acquired by William Marshal. He soon became Lord Marshal of England, and set about turning the earth and wood fort into an impressive Norman stone castle. The inner ward, which was constructed first, contains the huge round keep with its domed roof. Its original first-floor entrance was through an external stairwell. Inside, a spiral staircase connected its four stories. The keep's domed roof also has several putlog holes that supported a wooden fighting-platform. If the castle was attacked, the hoarding allowed defenders to go out beyond the keep's massive walls above the heads of the attackers.

The inner ward's curtain wall had a large horseshoe-shaped gateway. But only a thin wall was required along the promontory. This section of the wall has a small observation turret and a square stone platform. Domestic buildings including William Marshal's Great Hall and private apartments were within the inner ward. The 13th century keep is 23 metres tall with walls up to 6 metres thick at its base.

In the late 13th century, additional buildings were added to the inner ward, including a new Great Hall. A 55-step spiral staircase was also created that led down to a large limestone cave, known as Wogan Cavern, beneath the castle. The cave, which was created by natural water erosion, was fortified with a wall, a barred gateway and arrowslits. It may have served as a boathouse or a sallyport to the river where cargo or people could have been transferred.

The outer ward was defended by a large twin-towered gatehouse, a barbican and several round towers. The outer wall is 5 metres thick in places and constructed from Siltstone ashlar.

Although Pembroke Castle is a Norman-style enclosure castle with great keep, it can be more accurately described as a linear fortification because, like the later 13th-century castles at Caernarfon and Conwy, it was built on a rocky promontory surrounded by water. This meant that attacking forces could only assault on a narrow front. Architecturally, Pembroke's thickest walls and towers are all concentrated on its landward side facing the town, with Pembroke River providing a natural defense around the rest of its perimeter.