Clennell Street - Castle Hills Hillfort

Castle Hill stands 270m above sea level immediatley north of Alwinton. The hill is an ideal location for a hillfort as the views are spectacular. The photograph above looks west from the hillfort. The fort is not round but follows the shape of the hill and so the main rampart takes an uneven oval course enclosing an area roughly 180m by 60m, the longer axis lying east to west. The enteances lie at the ends of the longer axis where the ramparts appear to be doubled and with what is probably the main entrance at the easterly end of the fort. This is the way the fort would have been approached from Clennell Street and is still the usual way for the visitor today to reach the site.

Even today the shape of the hill looks imposing as you climb up to it from this direction and it is tempting to picture how it must have looked when the ramparts were intact. Unlike some of the hillforts in the north Cheviots the remains of the ramparts here very overgrown and there are no stretches of rubble visible. Perhaps stone was robbed from here to construct later buildings in the area.

There are, however, a few instances of what could be facing stones and the fort encloses the sort of rocky outcrops which are often used to quarry material for rampart building in the northern Cheviot forts. Perhaps excavation here will reveal more about the construction of the fort one day.

Castle Hills has a good view over to Camp Knowe hillfort which is not actually on Clennell Street but over on the eastern side of the river Alwin. As with many of the other hilltop settltments in the Cheviots appearance was everything and the eastern entrance to the fort (left) would have looked impressive not only to those using Clennell Street but to the occupants of Camp Knowe too.

The doubling of the ramparts on the western end of the fort may well be to do with the way the fort appeared to people using the western approach along the Coquet valley. Inside the fort there are no clear signs of structures apart from the outline of one rectangular building which, almost certainly, is of a much later date than the fort.

The interior of Castle Hills will need a more detailed survey than has so far been done to clarify the lumps and bumps we see today. However the form of the hillfort is similar to those from the late Iron Age and many hillforts of this type were constructed around 600BC.

Given the location on Clennell Street, where we know there were settlements occupied at dates much earlier than this, it is fair to suppose that the hillfort here could have had a Bronze Age origin. Again the picture on the ground is not clear enough to be positive about this without a deeper examination.

Approaching Castle Hill from the north, the picture here is taken from Clennell Street, it is possible to make out the shapes of enclosures and a round house on the lower northern parts of the hill. Castle Hill (which oddly can be singular or plural) is a steady climb up Clennell Street from Alwinton. Interestingly the hill is sometimes referred to as ‘Gallow Law’.