Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia

Castle Dore


Castle Dore is an ancient hillfort located in Cornwall. It is situated on a prominent hill known as Castle Dore, which overlooks the River Fowey and the surrounding countryside. The hillfort is believed to have been constructed during the Iron Age, with evidence suggesting that it was occupied between the second century BC and the first century AD.

Inhabited during the last three centuries BC, it was vacant during the Roman era, but excavation has shown that from the fifth century AD onward the enclosure contained sizable timber buildings. These suggest a princely or royal household. The place’s closeness to the old trackway across Cornwall may have given it an continuing importance, as perhaps happened also with Castle Killibury, the likeliest candidate for Kelliwic.

Castle Dore is sometimes associated with Arthurian legends. In some versions of the Arthurian tales, Castle Dore is identified as the location where Tristan and Isolde had their final meeting.

Several Tristan localities are to be found in this neighborhood, such as Lantyan (Béroul’s Lancien) and the parish of St. Sampson, with its church at Golant. Just outside Fowey is the Tristan Stone, a transplanted monument that formerly stood much nearer to Castle Dore. Its inscription shows that it once marked a grave.

Drustans hic iacit cunomori filius

– Here lies Tristan, son of Cunomorus

The second Latinizes Kynvawr, the name of a king who reigned in Cornwall during the first half of the sixth century. Castle Dore was doubtless a residence of his.

A ninth-century Life of St. Paul Aurelian identifies Cunomorus with Mark. This identification played a part in localizing the Tristan tale hereabouts. The claim that the localization is history rather than fancy, and that the man commemorated by the inscription is the Tristan, depends on the “Mark = Cunomorus” equation being correct. It is not widely acceptet, but it has its supporters.

If, as the inscription states, Tristan was the king’s son and not his nephew, Iseult (Isolde) (whether as a real person or as a creature of imagination) would have to be a young stepmother. Poets might have altered the relationship to make the situation more acceptable.

Castle Dore | History

Iron Age Hillfort
Castle Dore is an Iron Age hillfort, and its origins can be traced back to the early part of the first millenium BC. The hillfort is strategically situated on a hill overlooking the River Fowey and the surrounding landscape. Its elevated position provides defensive advantages.

The hillfort is roughly oval in shape and is surrounded by multiple concentric ramparts and ditches. The design of Castle Dore reflects typical characteristics of Iron Age hillforts in Britain.

Archaeological Investigations
Archaeological excavations at Castle Dore have revealed evidence of occupation dating back to the Iron Age, including the presence of roundhouses and other structures within the hillfort. The site has yielded artifacts and features that provide insights into the daily life and activities of the people who lived there during ancient times.

Historical Significance
Castle Dore is historically significant, and its use during the Iron Age suggests that it played a role in the local social and economic landscape of the time. While its origins are firmly rooted in the Iron Age, Castle Dore’s history extends beyond that period. The site has seen various phases of use and occupation over the centuries. The hillfort fell into disuse and ruin, and today, it primarily exists as earthworks and remnans of its ancient structures.