At last I have managed to visit this small round Somerset hillfort. Access is very easy via foot paths from Dunster but it is six hundred feet up and is a pretty stiff climb, the views from the fort are well worth the effort.
It has low ramparts made up of small pieces of local stone piled up into banks. I doubt it is as high as it used to be as it appears to be very disturbed in places. No doubt it has been used as a quarry by local people. For most of the circumference there are two banks and a ditch. The interior covers three and a half acres and evidence of occupation has been found.
Saint Carannog had had a busy time in Ireland, "converting districts of Irishmen against the wishes of the companies of magicians", after which he went back to Ceredigion. He lived at Llangrannog - you can see his cave, and apparently there's a chair-like rock there called 'Eisteddfa Carannog'. He was very busy doing miracles there too, "which no-one can enumerate", so Jesus gave him a present:
.. an honourable altar.. the colour of which no person could comprehend; and afterwards when [Carannog] came to the Severn to sail over it, he cast the altar into the sea, and it went before him where God wished him to go.
In those times, Cato and Arthur lived in that country, dwelling in Dindrarthou; and Arthur went about that he might find out a very powerful, large, and terrible serpent, which laid waste twelve parts of the land Carrum; and Carannog came, and saluted Arthur, who rejoicing, received his blessing from him.
Well, Carannog asked Arthur if he'd seen his altar anywhere. Arthur was remarkably cheeky and said he wanted paying for it - Carannog should fetch the sepent first. So Carannog had a pray and "immediately the serpent came with a great noise, running as a calf to its dam." It bowed its head humbly. Carannog popped his robe round its neck (which was the thickness of a seven-year-old bull's) and the serpent trotted along with him to the castle - "it did not raise its wings or claws."
The people in the castle wanted to kill it - but Carannog wouldn't let them, as he said it showed the power of God to them. There's a touching scene at the end, like something off Animal Hospital: "And afterwards he went without the gate of the castle, and loosed it, and in its departing, he commanded that it should hurt no one, nor return any more; and it injured none as God had commanded."
But back to the altar - which Arthur was trying to use as a table! "But whatever was put thereon, was thrown off to some distance," so it was no use anyway. Carannog was allowed to build a church where it had landed, and then he popped the altar back in the sea, where it sailed off to Guellit, and he built another church there.
Carannog gets lots of variation in his name - St Carantoc, for example. And so does Dindraithou, Din Draithou, Caer Draithou, Caer Ddraitou.. this is said to be Dunster. But surely, SURELY this would be Bats Castle. Because Dunster castle was only built in Norman times and as any fule kno, King Arthur was around long before that.
Quotes from 'Lives of the Cambro British Saints' by Thomas Wakeman and William Jenkins Rees (1853) p398-99, which is online at Google Books.
Close to the national trust site , Dunster castle , the trust website calls Bats castle an iron age hillfort. I will be visiting this place in the very near future and will add fieldnotes and photos to T.M.A. soon.