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Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland Site Launched

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh, University of Oxford and University College Cork unveiled the 'Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland' project online database. (Published 26 June, 2017)

For the first time the locations and details of all ancient hillforts in Britain and Ireland have been mapped and made available on a website. Ranging from well-preserved forts to those where only crop marks are left, information on 4,147 sites is accessible to the public so they can discover details of the ancient sites they see in the countryside.

Team Hillforts
The Atlas Team: Billy O’Brien (Cork), Strat Halliday (Edinburgh), Jonathan Horn (Edinburgh), Gary Lock (Oxford), Jessica Murray (Oxford), Paula Levick (Oxford), Ian Ralston (Edinburgh), James O’Driscoll (Cork), Ian Brown (Oxford), John Pouncett (Oxford).

The Atlas Team - Billy O’Brien (Cork), Strat Halliday (Edinburgh), Jonathan Horn (Edinburgh), Gary Lock (Oxford), Jessica Murray (Oxford), Paula Levick (Oxford), Ian Ralston (Edinburgh), James O’Driscoll (Cork), Ian Brown (Oxford), John Pouncett (Oxford).

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh, University of Oxford and University College Cork unveiled the results of four years of the AHRC-funded 'Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland' project last week in Edinburgh to an audience of over 150 academics and members of the public.

The University of Edinburgh's Professor Ian Ralston, who co-led the project, said: ‘This research project is all about letting people know about the thousands of hillforts across Britain and Ireland in one place that is accessible to the public and researchers. Standing on a windswept hillfort with dramatic views across the countryside, you really feel like you're fully immersed in history.’

As well as the research teams members of the public and societies – ‘citizen scientists’ – collected data about the hillforts they visited, identifying and recording the characteristics of forts, which was then incorporated into the database by the team. Despite the name given to these monuments, not all hillforts are on hills, and not all were forts in the military sense. Many may have been used as regional gathering spots for festivals and trade and some are on low-lying land. Hillforts were mostly built during the Iron Age, with the oldest dating to around 1000 BC and the most recent to c. 700 AD.

Over 40% of the confirmed sites are in Scotland, with more than 25% in England. Wales has over 600 sites in the Atlas’s ‘definite’ category, while there are nearly 350 in Ireland, including a substantial number of related coastal promontory sites from Antrim to Cork. The highest example is in County Kerry, followed by sites such as Ingleborough on the Pennine Way, South Barrule on the Isle of Man and Ben Griam Beg in Sutherland. The greatest densities of sites (regardless of size) occur in West and South Wales, over much of southern Scotland, and in Northumberland and Cornwall in England. While Ireland has fewer confirmed sites relative to its size, Co wicklow has a noteworthy concentration. Two of the very biggest sites are located there, while others are on Ham Hill in Somerset and at Hengistbury Head in Dorset. Within an hour of its launch the project website was receiving around 250,000 hits.

Staff profile: Stratford Halliday

Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland website