A Gazetter of
Arthurian Sites
 
The following is a brief gazetteer of sites in Britain that are affiliated with Arthur in history, myth, and legend. It is representative rather than comprehensive. Included with each entry is a grid reference for locating the sites on Ordnance Survey maps.  Sites marked with an asterisk are linked to Christopher A. Snyder, "A Gazetteer of Sub-Roman Britain (AD 400-600): The British Sites" in Internet Archaeology 3 (Summer 1997), which provides more detailed archaeological discussion for those interested.  (Note: To access the full article, you must register with Internet Archaeology.  Registration is free.)

This is an evolving project, affiliated with the journal Arthuriana.  If you would like to contribute site information or photographs to the Gazetteer, please contact  csnyder@marymount.edu.  Contributors will be credited at the end of the Gazetteer.


Alnwick Castle, Northumberland (NU188136)

One of two candidates (see Bamburgh Castle) for Lancelot's Castle, Joyous Gard, offered by Malory.

Amesbury, Wiltshire (SU150417)

In a story borrowed from the History of the Britons, Geoffrey of Monmouth describes a peace conference between Vortigern and Hengist during which the Saxons slay many British nobles. Geoffrey locates the conference at "the Cloister of Ambrius," near Salisbury. Malory relates a separate incident where Guinevere, after Arthur fell at Camlann, retires to a nunnery at "Almesbury." At Amesbury, on the River Avon east of Salisbury, stands a Norman abbey church built on the site of a much earlier church or monastery.

Arthuret, Cumbria (NY404729)

The Battle of Arthuret (in Welsh Arfderydd, thus no etymological connection with Arthur) was the cause of Myrddin's madness according to the Welsh poem Yr Afallennau ("The Apple Trees").

Arthur's Bed, Cornwall (SX240757)

A granite monolith on Bodmin Moor has a hollowed-out, coffin-shaped surface known as Arthur's Bed.  If you wish to visit the site, which is on private property, seek advice from the owners of Trewortha Farm, and from October 2005 visit www.countrysideaccess.gov.uk to view any restrictions that may be in place for the area.

Arthur's O'en, Stirlingshire (NS879827)

Arthur's O'en, that is Oven, was a dome-shaped Roman building which once stood near the site of the Carron Ironworks. It is first mention in 1293, and an engraving was made of it in the eighteenth century, but nothing remains of it today.

Arthur's Quoit, Anglesey (SH432855 and SH501860), Caernarvonshire (SH230346 and SH499413), Merionethshire (SH588229), Pembrokeshire (SM725281, SN000360, and SN060394), and Carmarthenshire (SN729245)

Arthur's Quoit, in Welsh Coetan Arthur, is a name given to several ancient stone structures in Wales. Most are associated with megalithic burial chambers.

Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh (NT275729)

The most famous Arthur's Seat is the picturesque mountain which rises above Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh. The mountain, which is now part of Holyrood Park, has several peaks which can be climbed for spectacular views of Edinburgh. It's association with King Arthur goes back to about the fifteenth century. Other Arthur's Seats are at Dumbarrow Hill, Angus (NO552479), and east of Liddesdale, Cumbria (NY495783).

Arthur's Stone, West Glamorgan (SS490905)

Several megaliths bear this name (see also Arthur's Quoit). Near Reynoldston, north of Cefn Bryn, is an ancient burial chamber known as Maen Ceti. The 25-ton capstone of this megalith is called Arthur's Stone, and the king's ghost is said to occasionally emerge from beneath it. Arthur's Stone is north of the A4118.

Arthur's Stone, Dorstone (SD3141)

Arthur's Stone is the name given locally to a megalithic burial site of c.3000 BC on a hill north of Dorstone. Dorstone is on the B4348 east of Hay-on-Wye.

Avalon (see Glastonbury)

Badbury Rings, Dorset (ST964030)

One of the candidates for Gildas's Badon Hill. Visible today are the earthworks of the Iron Age hillfort, which was followed by a Roman posting station.

Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland (NU183350)

One candidate for Malory's Joyous Gard, and the site of an early Saxon fort.

Bath*, Avon (ST751647)

Geoffrey of Monmouth locates the Battle of Badon Hill in this Roman town.

Ben Arthur, Strathclyde (NN259058)

A steep mountain two miles west of the tip of Loch Long, one of its craggy promontories is known as Arthur's Seat.

Birdoswald*, Cumbria (NY615663)

Birdoswald is the site of the Roman fort Banna, on Hadrian's Wall. It was once thought to have been called Camboglanna, and therefore some have linked it linguistically with Camlann, Arthur's last battle. Recent excavations have revealed the reuse, in the fifth century, of two Roman granaries as feasting halls. Scholars are now convinced, however, that Camboglanna is the Roman fort at Castlesteads.

Brecon Beacons, Powys (SO010214)

According to Gerald of Wales, two of the peaks, and the dip between, form Arthur's Chair.

Brent Knoll, Somerset (ST341510)

When Arthur knighted Ider, son of Nuth, he went of to challenge three giants who lived on the Mount of Frogs, as Brent Knoll was once called. This isolated hill, close by the Bristol Channel, is 450 feet high and circled with Iron Age defenses. Some have theorized that it, along with sites like Glastonbur Tor and South Cadbury, may once have formed a chain of beacon signal stations in the sub-Roman period.

Caer Gai, Gwynedd (SH877315)

This hillfort, north of Llanuwchllyn, once served as a base for Roman troops. Its name, which means "the stronghold of Cai," refers to the Sir Kay of later romances. Today some of the ramparts of the Roman fort are visible.

Caerleon*, Gwent (ST339906)

Where, according to Geoffrey, Arthur held court. Before it was excavated, Caerleon's amphitheater was covered by a grassy mound known locally as Arthur's Table.

Camelford, Cornwall (SX105837)

This village in Cornwall is one contender for Camelot, or at least where later writers imagined the location of Arthur's fabled court.

Camelot (see Camelford)

Camlann (see Birdoswald and Castlesteads)

Cardigan

In Chretien's Erec and Enide and in other early romances, Arthur holds court in the Welsh city of Cardigan.

Carlisle*, Cumbria (NY400560)

A number of romances describe Arthur as holding court at "Carduel," which is generally considered to mean Carlisle, formerly the Roman town of Luguvalium. In Malory, Guinevere is exposed and sentenced to death at Carlisle.

Carmarthen, Dyfed (SN417205)

According to Geoffrey, Merlin was born here and the city was later named Kaermerdin ("Merlin's fortress") after him. An oak tree growing in the center of the town was called Merlin's Tree, and was associated with this prophecy:

Carn March Arthur, Gwynedd (SN651982)

On a hill above the Dovey estuary is a rock indented with what is said to be the hoofprint of Arthur's horse, march Arthur.

Castle Canyke, Cornwall (SX086658

This large, bivallate Iron Age fort located on the outskirts of Bodmin is a candidate for Kelliwic (Celliwig), Arthur's court in Culhwch and Olwen and the Welsh Triads.  The placename Callywith occurs just over a mile to the north.

Castle Dore*, Cornwall (SX103548)

This Iron Age hillfort is associated with the figures of King Mark and Tristan (the so-called Tristan's Stone is located nearby). The archaeologist C.A. Ralegh Radford believed that within the circular earthen ramparts lay a fifth/sixth century settlement.

Castlesteads, Cumbria (NY355163)

A small fort along Hadrian's Wall, with no visible remains today.  Scholars now believe that this fort bore the name Camboglanna, which some have linked linguistically with Camlann.  See also Birdoswald.

Catterick*, North Yorkshire (SE220990)

Both a Roman fort (Cataractonium) and an early Anglo-Saxon settlement have been discovered at Catterick. The Battle of Catraeth, the subject of the Gododdin, has also been located here by modern scholars.

Chalice Well, Glastonbury (ST5139)

A spring once ran between the Tor and Chalice Hill in Glastonbury. What remains of the spring is a well which is now surrounded by gardens. A description in Perlesvaus of Lancelot visiting a spring near Avalon may refer to Chalice Well. Though monks were apparently using it c.1200, it's claim to be the resting place of the Holy Grail is quite modern.

Chester*, Cheshire (SJ405663)

A contender for the "City of the Legion," the site of Arthur's ninth battle in the Historia Brittonum.

Craig Arthur, Denbighshire (SJ224470)

Craig Arthur, or "Arthur's Rock," is the end of a long rocky ridge near the hillfort Dinas Bran.

Dinas Emrys*, Gwynedd (SH606492)

The site of Vortigern's tower in both the Historia Brittonum and Geoffrey of Monmouth. Modern excavations have revealed a settlement dating from the fourth to the sixth centuries.

Dover, Kent (TR325419)

The site of Arthur's return to fight Modred in Malory, and of Gawain's death and interment.  Dover was a Roman fort (Dubris) whose lighthouse (pharos) stands nearly intact next to a Saxon church within the walls of the medieval castle.

Dozmary Pool, Cornwall (SX195745)

High on Bodmin Moor is Dozmary Pool, the alleged site of Excalibur's return.

Drumelzier, Borders (NT135343)

Merlin's grave is said to be located here, according to this couplet of Thomas the Rhymer:

On the other side of the Tweed is a spot called Merlindale.

Dumbarton Rock*, Strathclyde (NS400745)

Legendary birthplace of Modred, also called Arthur's Castle in a document dated 1367. The Celticist John Rhys theorized that Dumbarton was Astolat. Modern excavations revealed sub-Roman fortifications at Dumbarton and traces of Mediterranean imports.

Eildon Hills, Borders (NT548339)

The Eildon Hills lie to the south-east of Melrose, in southern Scotland. According to one legend, Arthur and his knights lie sleeping in a hidden cavern beneath the hills.

Glastonbury Abbey*, Somerset (ST500388)

Glastonbury has many Arthurian associations. The Abbey, which may date back to early Christian times, was an important monastic center in both Anglo-Saxon and Norman England. It was the site of an excavation, in 1191, during which its monks claimed to have found the bodies of both Arthur and Guinevere. Due to the elaborate tomb built to house their bones, and to a later legend that placed Joseph of Arimathea at Glastonbury, the Abbey became an even more famous destination for pilgrims, kings, and tourists.

Glastonbury Tor*, Somerset (ST512386)

This hill rises 518 feet above sea level, dominates the Glastonbury landscape, and is visible for miles in the surrounding countryside. In prehistoric times it was likely surrounded by marshy water, giving it the appearance of an island and perhaps giving birth to the myth of the Isle of Avalon. Archaeological excavation has revealed traces of a sub-Roman settlement at the Tor, but of unknown character. Modern visitors come seeking everything from druidic mazes to grails, but the only thing clearly visible today are the tower remains of St. Michael's Church.

Gloucester*, Gloucestershire (SO830190)

This Roman site (the colony Glevum) features as a powerful fortress in Culhwch and Olwen, while Peredur mentions the "nine hags of Gloucester."

Kelliwic (see Castle Canyke and Killibury)

Killibury*, Cornwall (SX018736)

Kelliwic (Celliwig) is the site of Arthur's court in the Welsh Triads. Its location is unknown. One contender is Killibury, in Cornwall, a small double-banked, concentric hillfort dating back to the Iron Age. Fragments of Mediterranean pottery found in the topsoil suggest occupation in the fifth or sixth century AD as well.

King Arthur's Downs, Cornwall (SX135775)

The remains of two Bronze Age stone circles, east of St. Breward.

King Arthur's Hall, Cornwall (SX130777)

A rectangular earthwork (48m x 21 m), of unknown date, consisting of fifty-six stones retaining the inner side of a bank.  It was first recorded in 1584.

Liddington Castle, Wiltshire (SU208796)

Another proposed candidate for Badon Hill, the site of Arthur's most famous battle. The "Castle" refers to the earthen ramparts an Iron Age hillfort.

Llongborth

Site of a battle involving Arthur's warriors and Geraint, who was slain there, according to the Welsh poem Geraint son of Erbin. There are two chief contenders for this locale: Langport (ST422267), in Somerset, and the Roman fort of Portchester (SU625046), in Hampshire.

London*

In Layamon and in some of the early romances, Arthur holds court in the city of London. Malory relates the story of Guinevere trying to elude a pursuing Modred by fleeing to London and locking herself inside the Tower. Some of the late Roman city wall survives, and there is archaeological evidence for Britons and Saxons living in and around the city in the fifth and sixth centuries, but London's political status in the post-Roman period is uncertain.

Lyonesse

The legendary kingdom of Tristan, Galahalt, and other Arthurian figures. Many have speculated that it was once the Isles of Scilly, before the sea removed their land connection to each other and to Cornwall.

Maiden Castle*, Dorset (SY6788)

While the Castle of the Maidens figures into later Arthurian romance, there is unlikely to be any direct connection to this important center of the Celtic Iron Age. The circuit of its massive ramparts can still be traced today.

Merlin's Chair, Carmarthen (SN4120)

A few kilometers east of Carmarthen is Merlin's Hill, the summit of which resembles a chair. Merlin is said to be sleeping inside the hill, and is also associated with a sacred tree within the city.

Merlin's Mound, Marlborough (SU183686)

About eight kilometers east of Avebury, within the grounds of Marlborough College, is a terraced earthwork known as Merlin's Mound, once thought to be his grave. Marlborough was Latinized as Merleburgia, and this may have suggested the connection with Merlin.

Moel Arthur, Clwyd (SJ145660)

Moel Arthur, or "Arthur's Hill," is an ancient hillfort in north Wales.

Mousehole, Cornwall (SW470259)

At the southern end of Mousehole (pronounced "Mouzel") quay, rising from the water, is Merlin's Rock. Here Merlin is said to have prophesied:

In 1595 four Spanish galleys fulfilled this "prophesy."

Orkneys

In some later versions the Orkney Isles, off the coast of northern Scotland, are home to the rebel king Lot and his sons, Gawain, Agravaine, Gaheris, and Gareth.

Pen Arthur, Dyfed (SN717237)

A hill in south Wales where, according to one legend, Arthur hurled a boulder from the summit into the River Sawdde a mile away. This hill may also be one of the places where Arthur and his men, in Culhwch and Olwen, fight the boar Twrch Trwyth.

Pendragon Castle, Cumbria (NY782026)

Traditionally the fortress of Uther Pendragon, Arthur's father, "the Castle of Pendragon" is in Malory given by Lancelot to the young knight Sir Cote Male Taile.

The Pillar of Eliseg, Clwyd (SJ202445)

The broken shaft of a stone cross which bears a Latin inscription mentioning the tyrant Vortigern.

St. Govan's Chapel, Dyfed (SR967929)

St. Govan's Head is on the southwest coast of Wales, near the village of Bosherton, south of Pembroke. A stone chapel there is thought to have been the hermitage of St. Govan, a sixth century Irish monk. William of Malmesbury writing in the twelfth century, claimed that Gawain's tomb had been found in Pembrokeshire, and Govan's Chapel was thought to be the site. There is little evidence to support an older association with Gawain.

Samson, The Isles of Scilly (SV8712)

According to Chrétien, Tristan fought his duel with Morholt (Malory's Sir Marhaus) on the island of Samson. The island, named after the sixth-century Cornish saint, is now uninhabited.

Silchester*, Hampshire (SU640625)

According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, Arthur was crowned in this Roman city (Calleva Atrebatum). Extensive excavations have revealed the circuit of the city walls, what may be an early basilical church, and continued occupation into the fifth and sixth centuries. A very small museum is on site, while most of Silchester's artifacts are at the nearby Reading Museum.

Slaughter Bridge, Cornwall (SX109855)

Near Camelford there is an ancient granite bridge which crosses the River Camel. The area is associated both with Arthur's birth and with his death at the Battle of Camlann.

South Cadbury*, Somerset (ST628252)

The hill at South Cadbury, sometimes called Cadbury Castle, is over 500 feet high, with five massive earthen ramparts enclosing a plateau of about eighteen acres. The Tudor antiquarians Leland and Camden recorded local belief that the hill was none other than Arthur's Camelot. Large-scale excavations there in the 1960s revealed sub-Roman occupation of an Iron Age hillfort. This occupation included new ramparts, a gatehouse, and several buildings on the plateau including a great feasting hall.

Stonehenge, Wiltshire (SU122422)

This famous megalithic structure on Salisbury Plain owes its Arthurian connection to Geoffrey of Monmouth, who describes it as a British war memorial erected by Merlin.

Tintagel*, Cornwall (SX0588)

According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, Tintagel Castle was the site of Arthur's conception and birth. A Norman castle was later erected on the site of a sub-Roman settlement, the foundations of whose small buildings can still be seen. Once thought to have been a monastery, scholars now prefer to see Tintagel as a secular stronghold or trading center with early Christian activity at the nearby parish churchyard.

Tristan's Stone, Cornwall (SX111522)

Near Fowey stands a stone monolith with the inscription DRUSTANS HIC IACIT CVNOWORI FILVS, "Here lies Drustanus, son of Cunomorus." Some have interpreted this as reference to Tristan and King Mark.

Wearyall Hill, Glastonbury (ST494383)

Where, according to late medieval tradition, Joseph of Arimathea planted his staff, and the Holy Thorn now grows.

Winchester*, Hampshire (SU478295)

Winchester is the site of a Roman town (Venta Bulgarum), a fifth-century cemetery, the Anglo-Saxon capital city under Alfred the Great, and a medieval cathedral city. Malory claimed that Winchester was the site of Arthur's famous court which the French writers called Camelot. The Round Table which hangs in the Great Hall of Winchester Castle was claimed, by Henry VIII and others, to have belonged to Arthur. Most likely this eighteen-foot tabletop originated as a thirteenth century pageant device repainted in the Tudor era.


Designed and maintained by Dr. Christopher A. Snyder, Chair, Department of History and Politics, Marymount University.  Last updated: June 30, 2005.

Contributors

Nick McElwaine.

Suggested Reading

Anderton, Bill. Guide to Ancient Britain. London: Foulsham, 1991.

Ashe, Geoffrey. Avalonian Quest. London: Methuen, 1982.

---. A Guidebook to Arthurian Britain. Wellingborough, Northamptonshire: The Aquarian Press, 1983.

---. The Landscape of King Arthur. With photographs by Simon McBride. Exeter: Webb and Bower, 1987.

Fairbairn, Neil and Michael Cyprien. A Traveller's Guide to the Kingdoms of Arthur. Harrisburg: Historical Times, 1983.

Hutchings, R.J. The King Arthur Illustrated Guide. Redruth: Truran Publications, 1983.

Miller, Helen Hill. The Realms of Arthur. New York: Scribner, 1969.

Snell, F.J. King Arthur's Country. London: Dent, 1926.

Snyder, Christopher A. Sub-Roman Britain (AD 400-600): A Gazetteer of Sites. BAR British  Series No. 247.  Oxford: Tempvs Reparatvm, 1996.

---. The World of King Arthur.  New York: Thames and Hudson, 2000.

Weatherhill, Craig.  Cornovia: Ancient Sites of Cornwall and Scilly.  Alison Hodge.

Internet Resources

Green, Thomas. "Arthurian Sites" <http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~tomgreen/artharch.htm>

Britannia's "The Arthurian Traveler" <http://www.britannia.com/history/artpage.html#artrav>

Snyder, Christopher A. "A Gazetteer of Sub-Roman Britain (AD 400-600): The British Sites." Internet Archaeology 3 (Summer 1997) <http://intarch.york.ac.uk>.