Iron Age cliff castle known as Bolt Tail Camp


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019323

Date first listed: 30-Aug-1922

Date of most recent amendment: 09-Feb-2001


Ordnance survey map of Iron Age cliff castle known as Bolt Tail Camp
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Devon

District: South Hams (District Authority)

Parish: South Huish

National Grid Reference: SX 67075 39639


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Cliff castles are coastal promontories adapted as enclosures and fortified on the landward side by the construction of one or more ramparts accompanied by ditches. On the seaward side the precipitous cliffs of the promontory provided a natural defence, only rarely reinforced by man-made features. Cliff castles date to the Iron Age, most being constructed and used between the second century BC and the first century AD, although some were reused in the medieval period. They are usually interpreted as high status defensive enclosures, related to the broadly contemporary classes of hillfort. The inner area enclosed at cliff castles varies with the size and shape of the promontory; they are generally in the range 0.5ha to 3ha, but a few much larger examples are known, enclosing up to 52ha. The area of many cliff castles will have been reduced by subsequent coastal erosion. The ramparts are of earth and rubble, occasionally with a drystone revetment wall along their outer face. Ditches may be rock- or earth-cut depending on the depth of the subsoil. The number and arrangement of ramparts and ditches varies considerably and may include outworks enclosing large areas beyond the promontory and annexes defining discrete enclosures against the landward side of the defences. Multiple ramparts may be close spaced or may include a broad gap between concentric ramparts defining inner and outer enclosures. Entrance gaps through the defences are usually single and often staggered where they pass through multiple ramparts. Internal features, where visible, include circular or sub-rectangular levelled platforms for stone or timber houses, generally behind the inner bank or sheltered by the promontory hill. Where excavated, cliff castles have been found to contain post holes and stakeholes, hearths, pits and gullies associated with the house platforms, together with spreads of occupation debris including, as evidence for trade and industrial activity, imported pottery and iron working slag. Cliff castles are largely distributed along the more indented coastline of western Britain; in England they are generally restricted to the coasts of north Devon and Cornwall. Around sixty cliff castles are recorded nationally, of which forty are located around the Cornish coast. Cliff castles contribute to our understanding of how society and the landscape was organised during the Iron Age and illustrate the influence of landscape features on the chosen locations for prestigious settlement, trade and industry. All cliff castles with significant surviving archaeological remains are considered worthy of preservation.

Despite some limited coastal erosion, Bolt Tail Camp is well-preserved. It is the only cliff castle known in South Devon and will retain information relating to its construction and use. Stratified deposits are likely to survive in the ditches and within the ramparts, while the gateway with its inturned rampart terminals may preserve traces of the gate structure. Two boundary works projecting outside the rampart are a rare feature.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


This monument includes a cliff castle located on a high rocky headland above the English Channel. There are dramatic views in all directions for many miles. A narrow but deep dry valley lies immediately east of the fort, making it a very prominent feature in the local landscape. The monument survives as a large rampart, cutting off the headland and enclosing an area which is a maximum of 300m long by 350m wide. The rampart is 260m long, but was originally longer, the sea having washed away its terminals. It slopes from 61m above sea level at its south end, down to 22m at its north end. A bank of earth and stones forms the rampart, which is about 11m wide. It rises between 0.7m and 2m from the interior and falls between 3m and 5m to the outer ditch. An intermittent random drystone wall about 1.5m high revets the front of the rampart, but is probably of 19th century date, although fragments of an earlier revetment of coursed rubble are visible high on its outer face. The outer ditch is about 8m wide by between 0.4m and 0.7m deep. About halfway along, the rampart curves to the east around and over a natural outcrop of rock. Where this is cut by the ditch, it is 2m wide and 0.7m deep with a post-medieval field wall running along its east side. Immediately to the south, the only original entrance in the rampart has inturned flanking horns. These are short and composed of earth and stones. They are between 6m and 8m wide, rapidly tailing off in height from the outer rampart which rises up to 2m from the interior at this point. Outside the rampart towards the north end of the valley to its east is a second very large ditch, between 15m and 34m from the outer edge of the main rampart. It is 30m wide by about 5m deep at its north end, and 23m wide by about 2m deep at is south end. It is likely that this was a natural valley, made more abrupt by building up its sides. Its southern half survives as a buried feature. The south end of the rampart is heavily disturbed by surface erosion and cliff falls, but an earthwork bank about 8m wide by 2m high continues along the cliff edge 60m to the south east before heading ENE for a further 150m. An outer ditch on its north side is represented by a narrow terrace up to 4m wide. From the north end of the rampart, a second boundary work projects to the east. This has a bank 4m wide, rising 0.4m on its south side and falling from 1m to 2.5m to a ditch 4m wide and up to 1m deep. An upcast bank is 0.6m high and 1.5m wide. The rampart runs along the cliff edge before climbing the coastal slope to the east. At a point 150m east of the fort rampart, it levels out and terminates. At this point it is strengthened by an outer ditch which now survives as a terrace 4m wide and about 70m long. A second rampart begins here, immediately south of the first, continuing for 150m along the hillside to the south east. Here it survives as a terrace 2m wide, falling 2.5m to a ditch 1.5m wide and up to 0.3m deep. An upcast bank is 1m wide and falls a further 1.5m to the natural hillside. The rampart survives for a further 120m forming the rear boundary of gardens on the south side of Inner Hope village, but owing to its poor survival, this section is not included in the scheduling. Other features may be hidden under the bracken and scrub woodland which covers parts of the site.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 33761

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Wall, J, The Victoria History of the County, (1906), 578
SMR fieldwork, (1996)

End of official listing