The comprehensive gazetteer and bibliography of the medieval castles, fortifications and palaces of England, Wales, the Islands.
The listings
Other Info
Print Page 
Next Record 
Previous Record 
Back to list 

Great Castle Head, Dale

In the community of Dale.
In the historic county of Pembrokeshire.
Modern authority of Pembrokeshire.
Preserved county of Dyfed.

OS Map Grid Reference: SM79920565
Latitude 51.70637° Longitude -5.18683°

Great Castle Head, Dale has been described as a probable Timber Castle.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


The defensive banks and ditches at Great Castle Head survive in reasonable condition, but a massive landslip has lowered the overall land surface on the southern side by many metres, making interpretation of the earthworks very difficult. Within the defences only a small portion of what would have been a large area available to build houses now remains. As with other excavations on iron age forts in southwest Wales, only a few artefacts were found: a couple of sherds of prehistoric pottery, a piece of Roman pottery, and 80 fragments AD 12th - 13th pottery produced at Ham Green, Bristol. These last objects were associated with a remodelling of the defences in the Medieval Period. Radiocarbon dates indicate that the fort was constructed in the early to mid first millennium BC. (Dyfed Archaeological Trust 2002)

Great Castle Head promontory fort is a coastal promontory enclosure, sundered by landslips, with an interior denuded by erosion, defined by two lines of rampart, ditch & counterscarp, showing a possible, centrally placed entrance: excavation in 1993-4 demonstrated occupation beginning in the early to middle Iron Age and contnuing through at least into the Roman period: the site appears to have been adapted as a medieval, castle fortification, being eventually abandoned in the 13th century. (Crane 1999 (AC 148), 86-145.) Weather and waves have taken their toll on Great Castle Head for over two millennia. The site has some of the most massive promontory defences of all the Pembrokeshire coastal forts. In the late 1990s, with a serious danger that the remainder of the fort might be lost to coastal erosion without record, an excavation was mounted by Cambria Archaeology, funded by Cadw. As at Porth y Rhaw, the work revealed that the fort had been densely occupied, with the defences originally finished with stone walls and timber work. Postholes, a spindle-whorl and sherds of pottery confirmed Iron Age and Roman occupation, but finds of medieval pottery also suggested to the excavator, Pete Crane, that this may have been refortified as the first Dale Castle when the Normans occupied south Pembrokeshire. A First World War cap badge was also found, probably lost when the fort was used as a look-out post for coastal defence. (From: Pembrokeshire - Historic Landscapes from the Air, RCAHMW 2007). (Coflein)

The monument comprises the remains of a defended enclosure, which probably dates to the Iron Age period (c. 800 BC - AD 43). The enclosure is located on a narrow coastal promontory above the sea that marks part of the defensive circuit. The construction of one or more ramparts placed across the neck of the promontory divide it from the mainland. Great Castle Head Rath is defended by double banks and ditches, with a third bank in between in places. (Scheduling Report)

The suggestion that the Norman's occupied Great Castle Head as the caput of Dale came from Neil Ludlow (although he discussed it with Peter Crane).
It is certainly possible the site was used during the Norman Conquest of Pembrokeshire and it may well have continued in use as the caput of the manor of Dale until the late C13 when the caput may have moved the the site of Dale Castle when a market was set up here and possibly an unsuccessful, attempt was made to found a borough. It is also possible the strong earthworks could have continued to offer a refuge to the local people and their livestock from pirate raids.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

Data >
Coflein   County HER   Scheduling        
Maps >
Streetmap   NLS maps   Where's the path   Old-Maps      
Data/Maps > 
Magic   Historic Wales   V. O. B.   Geology   LIDAR  
Air Photos > 
Bing Maps   Google Maps   Getmapping   ZoomEarth      
Photos >
CastleFacts   Geograph   Flickr   Panoramio      

Sources of information, references and further reading
Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.
It is an offence to disturb a Scheduled Monument without consent. It is a destruction of everyone's heritage to remove archaeological evidence from ANY site without proper recording and reporting.
Don't use metal detectors on historic sites without authorisation.
The information on this web page may be derived from information compiled by and/or copyright of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales, the four welsh archaeological trusts and other individuals and organisations. It may also contain Designated Historic Asset Descriptive Information from The Welsh Historic Environment Service (Cadw), licensed under the Open Government Licence. All the sources given should be consulted to identify the original copyright holder and permission obtained from them before use of the information on this site for commercial purposes.
The author and compiler of Gatehouse does not receive any income from the site and funds it himself. The information within this site is provided freely for educational purposes only.
The bibliography owes much to various bibliographies produced by John Kenyon for the Council for British Archaeology, the Castle Studies Group and others.
Suggestions for finding online and/or hard copies of bibliographical sources can be seen at this link.
Minor archaeological investigations, such as watching brief reports, and some other 'grey' literature is most likely to be held by H.E.R.s but is often poorly referenced and is unlikely to be recorded here, or elsewhere, but some suggestions can be found here.
The possible site or monument is represented on maps as a point location. This is a guide only. It should be noted that OS grid references defines an area, not a point location. In practice this means the actual center of the site or monument may often, but not always, be to the North East of the point shown.
Locations derived from OS grid references and from latitude longitiude may differ by a small distance.
Further information on mapping and location can be seen at this link.
Lidar coverage in the UK is not complete. The button above will give an idea of the area of coverage. Higher resolution lidar images in both DSM and DTM form may be available from Lle A geo-Portal for Wales (click the preview tag to bring up a map and then select format byclicking on the small blue diamond in the top right corner of the map.)
Please help to make this as useful a resource as possible by contacting Gatehouse if you see errors, can add information or have suggestions for improvements in functality and design.
Help is acknowledged.

This record last updated 07/07/2016 09:11:37