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CRAIG Y GWBERT

Site Details



NPRN 403294

Map Reference SN15SE

Grid Reference SN1584950223

Unitary (Local) Authority Ceredigion

Old County Cardiganshire

Community Y Ferwig

Type of Site HILLFORT

Broad Class DEFENCE

Period Iron Age

Site Description 1. Craig y Gwbert comprises the remains of a strongly defended promontory fort, probably dating to the the Iron Age and occupying a promontory of land on the east side of the mouth of the River Teifi. The fort, which occupies the whole of the promontory, is only accessible via a narrow neck of land which is defended by a substantial earthen bank measuring 2.5 meters in height, 40 meters in length and 5 meters in width. The entrance is a simple 2 meter gap through the bank. A rock-cut ditch measuring 5 meters in width is set in front of the bank on either side of a central causeway with sea cliffs defending the remainder of the enclosure. A lime kiln (NPRN 40648) built into the outer face of the bank falls within the scheduled area.
Source: Cadw scheduling description of May 2008. RCAHMW 19.06.2008

2. True coastal promontory forts (as opposed to coastal forts) are rare in Ceredigion, largely due to the lack of suitable promontories jutting out along the mainly sheer coastline of Cardigan Bay. By contrast, the Pembrokeshire coast has some 55 promontory forts including many with massive defences.

Craig y Gwbert is a rarity, then, for Ceredigion. The choice of site is excellent. Rather than clinging to the edge of a precipitous and inaccessible cliff as with many Pembrokeshire examples, it is sited very low down – only 10m above sea level – at the tidal mouth of the Teifi Estuary. The Teifi was navigable in medieval times and onwards as witnessed by the two castles at Cardigan, at Old Castle and Cardigan town itself. Sand banks at Poppit Sands must always have been hazardous to shipping and difficult to chart, but Craig y Gwbert sits out beyond these in the open channel. Nor is it buffeted by the full force of the open sea, being set back slightly in the estuary mouth behind the rocky headland of Cemmaes Head. North across the water is Cardigan Island, which has evidence for Iron Age settlement and cultivation. On the landward side of Craig y Gwbert is the fertile coastal farming land of south-west Ceredigion dotted with cropmarks of plough-levelled Iron Age defended farms.

The promontory fort occupies a naturally isolated offshore islet, connected to the mainland only by a narrow isthmus, with sheltered inlets cut in on both sides; the cutting is probably the remains of a prehistoric rock-cut ditch. The inlet on the south would have allowed small vessels to be pulled up on the beach below the fort. Note the splendid rock-cut steps leading down to the northern inlet, of relatively recent date. The fort gate is partly obscured by a small post-medieval limekiln. Stone walling visible through the grass at the main entrance may be Iron Age and the passage itself is floored with bare rock, which must have required the difficult excavation of postholes if a gate was ever provided here.

The interior has been landscaped as part of the golf course and few original features can be made out. Archaeologists from the Dyfed Archaeological Trust have identified pits and postholes cut into the rock on the west side where the grass cover has eroded away, and some of these certain and possible Iron Age features can still be seen today. Broad, expansive coastal rocks defining its western edge could also have allowed occupants to climb down to the water’s edge via a series of natural shelves, facilitating the loading and unloading of seagoing vessels at the correct tide.

One is struck by the advantageous position of Craig y Gwbert as a potential coastal trading settlement, jutting out into the seaways but sheltered and backed by a busy hinterland of later prehistoric farms. Its low setting close to the sea may well have contributed to a special role in the Iron Age, which could only be investigated by future excavation (edited from Driver, T. 2016, 154-5).

Reference:

Driver, T. 2016. The Hillforts of Cardigan Bay. Logaston Press.

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