Uffington Iron Age Castle

Just a short walk from the Ridgway and a little under 2 miles from Waylands Smithy is the old Iron Age hillfort which is known  as Uffington Castle.   It sits atop the summit of Whitehorse Hill.

This is not the sort of castle you might want to visit to see dungeons and towers and drawbridges as there is none of this.  Instead this is a much much older fortress with far fewer visible remains.

Clambering to the summit

Clambering to the summit

It consists of a large enclosure, measuring about 220 metres by 160 metres, surrounded by a wide chalk-stone bank or inner rampart about 12 metres wide and 2.5 metres high, and formerly lined with sarsen (sandstone) stones.

Around this is a grass-covered ditch about 3 metres deep and a further, smaller bank forming an outer rampart. A causeway, flanked by the out-turned ends of the inner rampart, provides an entrance to the site from the west. This would have been closed by a gate.

Uffington Castle

Standing in the ditch of Uffington fortress

Postholes and pits revealed during archaeological excavations serve as evidence of structures built within the enclosure during the hillfort’s occupation, while pottery and coins have been found in burial chambers close by.

The Iron Age buildings are likely to have been large round huts, each housing an extended family group. In the Middle Ages the land within the enclosure was ploughed and earthworks mark the ridge and furrow pattern of cultivation.  In fact the top of the hill which was enclosed by the fortress is a giant plateau and completely flat so perfect for both living on and farming.

On top of Whitehorse Hill

On top of Whitehorse Hill where Iron Age people would have lived in huts within the fortress

Large Iron Age hillforts are rare. Most are located on the high chalklands of the southern counties of England, and Uffington Castle is regarded as an outstanding example.  Standing at around 880 feet high or 260 metres and on top of such steep slopes, it must have been impregnable until the Romans arrived and I am sure even they must have struggled with it.

From the summit you can see 6 counties of Southern England in various directions and of course the Ridgeway which must have been incredibly important a few thousand years ago.  It was particularly windy on the summit when I was there for September and there were numerous kite fliers and hand gliders around.  Infact there is a market to show that this is the highest point in Oxfordshire and was used by the Ordinance Surveyors when producing the ‘modern’ maps of the country.

The highest point in Oxfordshire

The highest point in Oxfordshire

Having left my friend down near the carpark, I did my brief reconnaissance and took my fill of photos before going on to find my next paint of interest.  The fortress is on the summit of Whitehorse hill and thats because very nearby is the world famous Uffington White Horse.

Looking down

Looking down from Uffington Castle

About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including a #1 seller, I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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