Castle Dore


Castle Dore is an ancient hillfort located near Fowey 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.

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.