Castles Bay Camp

Has been described as a Questionable Timber Castle (Other/Unknown)

There are earthwork remains

NameCastles Bay Camp
Alternative Names
Historic CountryPembrokeshire
Modern AuthorityPembrokeshire
1974 AuthorityDyfed

Castles Bay Camp, opposite Sheep Island, is an unusual site that was possibly occupied during the early medieval period, and may feature post-Anglo-Norman Conquest military reuse. (Dyfed Archaeological Trust–Historic Landscape Characterisation–West Angle to Freshwater Coastal Strip)

The site is difficult to understand. It seems to have been used by the military. The headland is covered with rectangular hollows cut into the steep slopes - military? dark age huts?. The only masonry is part of a wall at the extreme east of the promontory. The whole area is now virtually cut off from the mainland. KM 199. (Dyfed Archaeological Trust record)

A roughly 62m length of bank and ditch, showing an entrance gap towards the south, cutting off a segmented promontory: the immediately enclosed area is only about 32m by 87m, however, beyond a natural gap is a larger area of promontory (Nprn276050), showing the remains of a possible medieval castle & apparent building platforms; Sheep Island, some 60m offshore (Nprn401623), shows further possible building platforms & has produced Romano-British pottery. Numerous hollows in the fort interior are thought more likely to relate to modern coastal defence than to the fort interior. (Coflein)

A bank and ditch, 200 feet long from cliff to cliff, cuts off an area of about half an acre from the mainland opposite to Sheep Island. The width from cliff to cliff is afterwards reduced to 100 feet, and a deep natural gully, 60 feet wide, cuts off the rest of the promontory, about two acres in extent (defended by steep cliffs) from the first-named area. The smaller area might either have been the bailey of the larger enclosure, or possibly the gully was used as a ditch to protect it from the sea side. Probably the first is the correct solution, as Fenton (Tour, 404), quoting from George Owen's MSS

says that ' the remnant of a tower stood in this further enclosure in the time of Queen Elizabeth, and that the tradition is that this was a place of retreat for the new Norman settlers to save themselves from the natives.' The rampart mentioned above is 6 feet high (or rather was, for it has mostly been destroyed by the erection of a War Office building) across the tongue, with 8 feet fall to a ditch 5 feet deep, the ground rising to the front. The entrance is near the east end. (W. Ll. Morgan quoted in RCAHMW inventory)

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. This is a very irregularly shaped promontory composed of Sheep Island and another knoll connected by a slight ridge to the mainland. The promontory is defended by two banks and ditches which lie on the mainland, and probably a third interior bank on the central knoll. The defenses are in good condition, apart from a small army installation now derelict which lies on the outer rampart. The footpath crosses the outer rampart at, and this is causing slight erosion and a small quarry scoop lies on the middle rampart. (Scheduling Report)

Gatehouse Comments

A confused history as a place of retreat from welsh attack was dismissed by George Owen in 1603 but apparently seems to still have some circulation. The given descriptions are not good and the 'tower' might have be a dry stone construction rather than masonry. Probably a place of retreat from pirates for pre-Conquest early medieval people.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

The National Monument Record (Coflein) number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSM845018
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Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image

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  • RCAHMW, 1925, An inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Pembrokeshire (HMSO) p. 8-9 no. 19 online copy


  • Owen, Henry (ed), 1892, Owen's Pembrokeshire (Society of Cymmrodorion) Vol. 1 p. 543 (originally written 1603)