|I approached Maiden Castle from Harkerside Moor, the weather was filthy with fog and rain. I was also hassled by screeching peewits who are currently in the middle of their breeding season, the only other sound to be heard was an intermittant cuckoo.
The site is on the north facing slope of Swaledale and quite difficult to spot.
So what is it? I don't know but it isn't half impressive and must have took some building.
Firstly you've got an tumbled down dry stone avenue 4m wide and 110m long. The avenue runs from the east and appears to narrow to about 3m at the entrance to the enclosure. At the beginning of the avenue is a large mound, which may be a spoil heap but I don't think it is especially being so close to the entrance. There is a structure built into the avenue but I think this may be a recent grouse butt.
The enclosure it self is a massive wonky pear shape 140m (E-W) X 120m (N-S). It is surrounded by a rubble wall and deep ditch 4m deep with steep sides and 10m wide. The floor is fairly flat with 1 possibly two stone structures built into the southern side of the entrance.
The site is overlooked by the hillside on the southern edge so could not be a defensive structure, the enemy could fire down into the enclosure.
The site does not dominate the hillside but fits neatly into it and cannot be seen from the road which is only 200m away.
The structure seems too elaborate and too large to be an animal enclosure, why bother building a huge ditch and wall when a gorse hedge would suffice. There are a lot of man hours in this structure.
To get a good idea of the site, check out the aerial photo on multimap at 1:10000.
It has the feel of Mayburgh Henge but hmmm.. the wall is inside the ditch....... I just don't know
If you want to visit, the easiest way is to take the Grinton, Crackpot (really!) road and walk the 200m up the hillside, it's well worth it.
Posted by fitzcoraldo
8th June 2002ce