Ruins of a Legendary Medieval Castle Uncovered in Scotland

Ruins of a Legendary Medieval Castle Uncovered in Scotland

A legendary castle dating back to the 12th century has been relocated after being lost for more than a century. The building was uncovered during work by Scottish Water in the area of the medieval village of Partick, now Glasgow, in Scotland. The ruins of the castle were swept away by the building of a Victorian railway station.

Excavation of Partick Castle walls and ditch. ( GUARD Archaeology Ltd )

For decades, archaeologists believed that the castle may have been built in Partick on the banks of the River Kelvin by a king of Strathclyde. The settlement existed from the 7th century, when the first hunting lodge in the area was built. The construction of the castle was linked to the creation of a medieval church in Govan dedicated to St. Constantine, on the other side of a ford across the River Clyde.

A 19th century artist's impression of the second Partick Castle on the banks of the Kelvin, looking south towards Govan. ( Mitchell Library, Special Collections )

According to the Scotsman, the physical remains of the legendary Partick Castle have been uncovered by construction workers carrying out improvements to the city’s waste water infrastructure. In medieval times, the castle was a country retreat for the powerful bishops of Glasgow. The results published by experts from Guard Archaeology say that they've already discovered fragments of metalwork, pottery, glass, leather, and animal bones.

A variety of fragments that survived under generations of industrial use on the site. ( GUARD Archaeology )

Hugh McBrien, of West of Scotland Archaeology Service, said:

“No-one knew anything about the 12th century castle in Partick. There was documentary evidence that the bishops of Glasgow spent time in Partick and there have been historical references to charters signed at Patrick. But that’s all. It has been known that there was a tower house or castle in the 17th century but all we had were antiquarian drawings and documents that refer to Partick Castle. So we expected there was archaeology in this area, because of historical records, but this discovery is the first hard, tangible evidence that both castles existed.”

In 1880, the castle was in ruins, so the officials decided to clear the area and build the station. The station was closed in 1964, and later the site was occupied as a scrapyard. In the meantime, the territory of Partick became a part of Glasgow (in 1912).

The excavations began due to the decisions of developers. They had planned to build student housing at the site of the Partick Castle. It is unknown if will they change their mind after this discovery, which may be an interesting tourist attraction.

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The finding became possible after a long analysis of the plans of Partick. The history of this area is well documented on old maps. In 19th century plans it is possible to understand the industrialization of the time. The village Partick was first known as Perdyc, and was founded during the reign of King David I of Scotland, who granted parts of the area called "lands of Perdyc" to Bishop John Achaius in 1136 AD.

Govan, Scotland region (from the 1654 Blaeu map of Scotland). Partick is found in the upper left corner of the map.

However, the name Partick comes from much earlier times, during the period when the Kingdom of Strathclyde ruled the area. The territory which belonged to them also contained Govan on the opposite side of the River Clyde. The local language was a form of Cymro-Celtic, which highly influenced modern-day Welsh. The earliest name of Partick comes from the Cymro-Celtic. Per means sweet fruit, and Teq means beautiful or fair.

The Kingdom of Strathclyde collapsed in the 12th century. As mentioned before, the village of Partick became the property of bishops. It was perhaps also an important religious center during the 13th and early 14th century, but there is no archaeological evidence for that.

Partick Bridge over the Kelvin, 1846. ( Gregor Macgregor )

The final version of Partick Castle was built in 1611 for George Hutcheson , a wealthy Glasgow merchant and benefactor. Hutcheson was also one of the brothers who founded Hutchesons' Hospital and Hutchesons' Grammar School in Glasgow.

Historians writing in the 19th century suggested the castle was abandoned by 1770 and most of its stone was reused by locals. Partick Castle had almost completely disappeared in the early 19th century.

The remains are thought to be of two buildings, one dating back to the 12th or 13th century, and a later structure from the early 1600s. ( The Scotsman )

Now, after 800 years, the discovery of Partick Castle is described by McBrien as” the most significant archaeological discovery in Glasgow in a generation.". This castle appears as a symbol of the former power of Scotland.

Featured Image: Partick Castle , a watercolor painting by John A. Gilfillan (1793-1864). Source: The Glasgow Story


Scotland Travel Guide

It may be a cliche, but nevertheless true that Scotland as a bit of something for everyone from the historic city of Edinburgh to the glorious unspoiled peaks of the Cuillin Hills on the Isle of Skye, there truly is something to appeal to every taste. Here we give a very brief overview of the major Scottish regions. Use this as a starting place for planning your own Scottish travels. You won't get to it all the Britain Express family hasn't managed to get to every corner of Scotland - yet - but there is sure to be something to appeal to you no matter what your tastes.

Travelling very roughly south to north .


Skeletons Found Under Parking Lot In Scotland May Belong To Medieval Knight's Family

Archaeologists have unearthed skeletal remains of eight people that may be the relatives of a medieval knight discovered under a parking lot last month in Scotland. The team uncovered one partial skeleton and seven complete skeletons, including one infant and an adult female.

The remains were all buried behind a wall in what may have been an ancient family burial crypt.

"This site just keeps getting more and more interesting, it is turning out to be a real treasure trove of archaeology," Ross Murray, a former student at the University of Edinburgh, said in a statement. "These new finds look likely to be the possible relations of the suspected Medieval knight we found earlier this year. The skull of the skeleton found immediately beneath the location of the knight looks like that of a female and the remains found on the other side of the ornate slab belong to an infant from the same period." [See Images of the Knight's Family Crypt]

Last month, archaeologists on hand at new building construction site unearthed a medieval skeleton under a parking lot in the Old Town of Edinburgh, Scotland. The skeleton was near a slab engraved with a Calvary cross and sword, markers of nobility.


This carved slab, thought to be the headstone of a medieval knight, was found under a parking lot in Edinburgh. Now researchers say they have unearthed what may be the knight's family.

Archaeologists anticipated finding historic remains, because the site had once been a 13th-century Blackfriar's monastery.

"We always knew that the building retrofit might uncover historical artifacts — given the site's history — but this knight is an extraordinary and exciting find," said Andy Kerr, director of the Edinburgh Center for Carbon Innovation, which is undertaking the construction at the site, told LiveScience at the time.

Scientists still have to analyze the bones and teeth of the skeletons to determine how old they are and how they are all related.

During last month's excavations, archaeologists uncovered some of the ruins of the monastery, which was destroyed in the 16th century during the Protestant Reformation. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the site held two high schools.

And there may be even more skeletons yet to unearth, said the researchers, who plan to continue excavating at the site.


Ancient burial crypt unearthed under a Scotland parking lot.

Parking lots have become rich veins for archaeological discoveries in England. A lost medieval church was buried under a parking lot and more recently, researchers unearthed the bones of King Richard III under a parking lot in Leicester, England, presumably buried there after the Battle of Bosworth Field during the War of the Roses. The notorious King's discovery has spurred passionate debate about who the man was and how King Richard's bones should finally be laid to rest.


Discover Fife: 6 fascinating historical places to explore

From Wemyss Caves to the resting place of Robert the Bruce, discover six fascinating historical places in the kingdom of Fife, Scotland.

This competition is now closed

Published: April 14, 2021 at 9:30 am

A lost people who have left little trace in the annals of history a series of mysterious drawings and carvings that went undiscovered for hundreds of years and a race against time to preserve a rich archaeological treasure trove. We introduce Wemyss Caves in Fife, a fascinating place to learn more about the Pictish influence in Scotland…

Venture to the north shore of the Firth of Forth in Fife and you will discover Wemyss Caves. Just a stone’s throw away from Macduff’s Castle, these ancient sea caverns were created by waves crashing against the rocks around 8,000 years ago.

Wemyss Caves are home to the largest collection of Pictish-inscribed symbols in one place. These remarkable carvings match carvings of symbols and animals found throughout Pictish territory in early medieval Scotland, and offer one of our only windows into Pictish culture.

Please check the relevant Covid-19 restrictions before planning a visit to a historic site. If visiting Wemyss Caves, please adhere to any warning signs and/or wait until guided tours are available.

Who were the Picts?

We know surprisingly little about the Picts, but their influence can be felt in various parts of Scotland – from a Pictish monastery at Portmahomack in Easter Ross, to a 1,400-year-old Pictish cemetery located on the Black Isle.

The term Picts itself refers broadly to various tribes of people living north of the Roman frontier in Britain from the late third century. For a long while, the Picts have been regarded by some as being enigmatic ‘savages’ who fought back against the Roman occupation in Britain, however more recent evidence suggests that they established a sophisticated culture in northern and eastern Scotland. One of the earliest-known mentions of the Picts comes from a Roman writer, who mentions “Picts and Irish [Scots] attacking” Hadrian’s Wall in AD 297.

Because the Picts did not leave a written record of their own history, it is difficult to decipher the finer details about their society – and they are frequently regarded as a lost people who disappeared from history. As such, drawings such as the ones discovered in Wemyss Caves are all the more significant for what they can teach us about Pictish culture.

Did you know?

The word ‘Picts’ derives from the Latin picti or ‘painted’, and possibly refers to a custom of body painting or tattooing.

There were initially 11 caves in total within the Wemyss Caves complex, with six remaining today: Court Cave, Doo Cave, Well Cave, Jonathan’s Cave, Sliding Cave and Gas Works Cave. All of the caves are accessible to the public – with the exception of Well Cave, which has experienced some recent roof collapse – and all of the caves have fascinating stories to tell.

Take, for instance, Court Cave – named because it is thought to have been used as a court in the medieval period by a laird [the Scottish equivalent of a lord] who was living in Macduff’s Castle. This cave boasts 10 Pictish carvings, plus two additional markings that do not conform to Pictish standards. One particularly fascinating Pictish carving – located in a passageway adjacent to Court Cave – shows a masculine figure holding a hammer – who locals have affectionately nicknamed ‘Thor’ – alongside a goat.

Or consider Jonathan’s Cave, also referred to as Factors Cave and Cat Cave. There are 11 Pictish carvings to be found here, the most notable being a carving of a six-oared boat that some believe to be the earliest depiction of a boat in Scotland. Boasting a number of Christian crosses, it is also postulated that this cave may have been an early place of worship, or perhaps a place that pilgrims visited (Fife was, indeed, a hotbed for pilgrimages during the medieval period).

A number of the Pictish symbols found in the caves are abstract in nature, showing strange beasts or unusual patterns. It is difficult to ascertain their meaning, but they undoubtedly were important to the people who created them. To put into context the rarity and significance of the symbols discovered at Wemyss, it’s worth noting that the caves contain 49 of only 60 examples of Pictish symbols documented in caves in Scotland.

Today, a dedicated team of volunteers work hard to preserve Wemyss Caves and the treasures they contain. Save Wemyss Ancient Caves Society (SWACS) usually runs tours of the caves on the first Sunday of each month, although these are currently not taking place due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Visitors can, however, explore the caves for themselves (although SWACS recommend that people wait to book a guided tour). It is recommended that people park at the east end of the village and follow advice on the information boards to locate the caves.

There is an additional option for those who wish to learn more about the caves from the comfort of their own home. Thanks to the efforts of SWACS, you can now virtually explore each of the caves online. Utilising laser scanning and drone photography of the site, the 4D model of the caves offers a virtual window to the past, with explanations of what you’re looking at and even a Facebook chat function for those who want to ask questions about the caves. “Maybe nothing can quite replace the experience of actually being there but in the face of necessity we have to be inventive,” comments SWACS Vice-Chair Sue Hamstead. “The virtual tour can show you what the site looked like in ages past. It can also take you into a cave that is no longer accessible and show you carvings that no longer exist.”

The kingdom of Fife: 5 more fascinating places to explore

Macduff’s Castle

No visit to Wemyss Caves would be complete without an additional look at this ruined castle, discoverable via a long staircase situated near Doo Cave. The ruins today comprise just one surviving tower, but visitors can easily envision the original castle’s dominant position overlooking the Fife coast and imagine what its inhabitants might have felt looking out of its windows each night.

Those familiar with William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth will recall that Macduff’s Castle takes centre stage in the climax of Act IV, Scene II, when Macduff’s wife, Lady Macduff, and her son are put to death following orders from the play’s titular character. Dramatic and entertaining as Shakespeare’s play is, the real story of the Macduffs – the most powerful family in Fife during the Middle Ages – is trickier to uncover. We don’t know for definite whether Macduff’s Castle was ever their home, but it is generally thought that they were responsible for building an earlier version of the castle.

The present castle was built towards the end of the 14th century as the home of the Wemyss family, who are descended from the Macduff clan. However when the Wemysses joined forces with Robert the Bruce, King Edward I of England ordered its destruction.

No respectable ruins would be complete without a ghostly presence, and Macduff’s Castle is said to be haunted by a ‘grey lady’. Legend suggests that the ghost is that of a woman called Mary Sibbald, who died in the castle after being found guilty of theft.

Macduff’s Castle has recently been added to a free app that allows people to explore historic sites around Fife using augmented reality. Find out more here

Fife Pilgrim Way

Uniting the north and south of the county, Fife Pilgrim Way snakes from either North Queensferry or Culross to St Andrews. It is 72.9 miles long (117.4 kilometres), providing a plethora of walking options for those wishing to embark on an outdoor adventure. The route is unbroken and can technically be completed in a single journey (earlier this year three ultrarunners ran the entire Pilgrim Way in just one day). For those wanting a slightly easier time of it, the route is helpfully split into seven sections (each comprising a more manageable 8–11 miles).

As its name suggests, the route encompasses one of the paths taken by medieval pilgrims to St Andrews. For around 400 years, people would flock to St Andrews from all over medieval Europe with a view to being close to the bones of St Andrew, one of Jesus’s disciples. Fife is scattered with remnants of these pilgrimages many of the inns, chapels, bridges, roads and crossing points were created to ease the path of the pilgrims. Building these facilities was considered an act of piety that would ease an individual’s path to heaven.

Falkland Palace

Falkland Palace was built between 1501 and 1541 by King James IV of Scotland and his son, James V. It was a popular retreat for Stuart monarchs, and a particular favourite of Mary, Queen of Scots, who enjoyed spending time on the estate falconing, hunting and playing tennis (on what is reportedly one of Britain’s oldest tennis courts).

The fine Renaissance palace is beautifully kept – largely thanks to the efforts of John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, the 3rd Marquess of Bute, who saved Falkland from falling into ruin in the 19th century. It is a rather difficult palace to photograph in its entirety, largely due to its location on a fairly busy street.

Fans of popular historical drama Outlander may recognise Falkland Palace it was used as an apothecary in the season two episode ‘The Hail Mary’.

Dunfermline Abbey

Dunfermline Abbey holds a fascinating place in Scottish cultural history, with many of Scotland’s greatest monarchs being laid to rest within its walls. Its most famous resident is arguably Robert the Bruce, who famously defeated English king Edward II at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314 in what was a decisive battle in the Scottish Wars of Independence.

Bruce’s history with Dunfermline Abbey is an interesting one he financed its rebuilding after it was badly damaged by Edward I, adding an imposing monks’ refectory. He had every intention of being buried within its walls, leaving behind detailed instructions on how his body was to be entombed there.

How did Robert the Bruce die?

It’s unclear how Robert the Bruce died, although it is known that he suffered ill health throughout his life. Some of his contemporaries suggested he had leprosy, however recent research by academics at the University of Western Ontario has dispelled this.

In accordance with these wishes and following his death on 7 June 1329, Bruce’s body was embalmed and his heart was extracted. Sources are conflicted on the matter of where Bruce wished his heart to be buried, although some suggest that it was intended to be taken on a tour of the Holy Land (Bruce had long wanted to go on a Crusade, but had ultimately been unable to fulfil this goal). This plan was put on hold when the knights responsible for the heart were called to fight in Spain, however they did take the heart with them in an urn (and legend suggests it was thrown at an enemy mid-confrontation). Ultimately the heart was returned to Scotland and found a final resting place at Melrose Abbey in Roxburghshire. It was buried here in the 14th century and uncovered during excavations at the abbey in 1921.

Bruce’s other remains were buried in 1329 in the choir at Dunfermline Abbey. Much like his heart, it would be many years before they received their final burial (his tomb was destroyed during the Reformation). Fragments were discovered in the early 19th century and these remains were subsequently reinterred – with suitable pomp and splendour – beneath the abbey. In recent years, Scottish heritage organisations have joined forces to create a digital reconstruction of what Bruce’s original tomb might have looked like. A resulting half-scale 3D-printed model is now permanently housed in the abbey.

Aside from its Robert the Bruce ties, the abbey’s large nave is well worth a look – a visually resplendent example of Romanesque architecture within Scotland.

St Andrews Cathedral

Frequently dubbed Scotland’s ‘greatest cathedral’, these mighty ruins in St Andrews were once a magnet for pilgrims from across Europe. The cathedral – and, indeed, the wider town of St Andrews, have long been tied to the story of the Apostle Andrew one version of the tale suggests that a monk called Regulus was inspired by a vision to steal the relics of St Andrew and flee to Scotland. He landed on the coast of Fife, ultimately depositing Andrew’s bones at St Andrews.

Examination of the ruins suggests that the original building was around 119 metres (390 ft) long, which would make it the largest cathedral ever built in Scotland. It would have been a marvel to behold in its heyday – but in 1559, in the midst of the Reformation, a group of Protestants ravaged the building and destroyed much its interior. From thereon, the cathedral served as building material for the rest of the town. Despite its ruin, it remains a remarkable place to visit today, and visitors to the site can still gain a full sense of the vastness of the original cathedral.

What to look out for

St Andrews Cathedral houses a number of fascinating sculptures, relics and artefacts, including the remarkable St Andrews Sarcophagus – a Pictish monument first excavated in 1833 and which some historians believe may have been commissioned by the king of the Picts, Óengus I.


1. Kelburn Castle and Country Centre

Kelburn belongs to a new breed of stately home which is constantly thinking up quirky things to see and do for visiting families. Its colourful graffitied walls are just one of its unique draws.

Location: Near Fairlie, North Ayrshire

Admission: Child (3-17) – £5, Adult – £7, Concessions – £5, Family (peak ticket) – £30

Kids will love: Exploring the Secret Forest, a network of winding woodland trails and elevated walkways with surprises waiting round every corner. Then there is the Adventure Course, an aerial playground of suspended walkways and rope swings, not to mention the Stockade, a fort with a 20 ft tower! Younger children can also get stuck in at the Playbarn, an exciting maze of slides, creepy caves, a ball pool, a climbing wall and a castle. 2020 will see the Kelburn Garden Party return (3 – 6 July) and will see an exciting music programme being brought to life across 7 unique stages get ready for dance, folk, funk, disco and more!

You will love: The chance to experience some of the best horse riding in Scotland. Whether you’re an experienced rider or a complete novice, Kelburn offers everything from gentle paddock rides to hacks around the extensive Kelburn Estate. The castle also hosts children’s birthday parties, wedding, functions and garden parties too.


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Archaeologists are describing the discovery as the most historically significant in the city for a generation.

The first structure, dating back to the 12th or 13th century, is likely to be the base of a bishop’s castle. There is documentary evidence that charters were signed in Partick in medieval times, but until now there was no proof of where such a building stood.

The second ruin is believed to be a later Partick Castle built in 1611 for George Hutcheson, a wealthy Glasgow merchant and benefactor. Historians writing in the 19th century suggested the structure was abandoned by 1770 and most of its stone was reused by locals.

Experts from Guard Archaeology, who were hired by Scottish Water, were able to recover fragments of pottery, metalwork, leather, glass and animal bones.

The site of the castle was later cleared by the building of Partick Central station in the 1880s at a time when the area was rapidly industrialising.

Partick, once an independent burgh, was merged into Glasgow in 1912. The station closed in 1964 and was later occupied by a scrapyard. A new development of student housing is planned for the site.

Hugh McBrien, of West of Scotland Archaeology Service, said: “There was documentary evidence that the bishops of Glasgow spent time in Partick and there have been historical references to ‘charters signed at Partick’. But that’s all.

“It has been known that there was a tower house or castle in the 17th century but all we had were antiquarian drawings and documents that refer to Partick Castle.”

Scottish Water environmental advisor Simon Brassey said: “The history of the area in this part of Partick, where Scottish Water needs to replace our existing CSO, is documented on old maps but it is only when the ground is opened up that you can fully understand what has survived 19th century industrialisation.


Olsztyn Castle, Olsztyn, Poland

Olsztyn Castle is set on a dramatically bumpy hill among limestone rocks, overlooking Łyna River in northeastern Poland. The castle was built sometime before 1306. It was expanded by Casimir the Great between 1349-59 to defend against the Czechs. Olsztyn later gained a military garrison and was renovated in the Renaissance style in the 16th century.

At that point, it was built on three levels with drawbridge entrances and a moat. In the following years, however, the Hapsburgs and then the Swedes caused significant damage, and the castle fell out of use. Today, visitors can still see the original gothic tower and explore the ingenious manner in which the built elements integrate the area&rsquos rocks and karst caves.


Dark Ages royal palace discovered in Cornwall – in area closely linked to the legend of King Arthur

The mysterious origins of the British archaeological site most often associated with the legend of King Arthur have just become even more mysterious.

Archaeologists have discovered the impressive remains of a probable Dark Age royal palace at Tintagel in Cornwall. It is likely that the one-metre thick walls being unearthed are those of the main residence of the 6th century rulers of an ancient south-west British kingdom, known as Dumnonia .

Scholars have long argued about whether King Arthur actually existed or whether he was in reality a legendary character formed through the conflation of a series of separate historical and mythological figures.

But the discovery by English Heritage-funded archaeologists of a probable Dark Age palace at Tintagel will certainly trigger debate in Arthurian studies circles – because, in medieval tradition, Arthur was said to have been conceived at Tintagel as a result of an illicit union between a British King and the beautiful wife of a local ruler.

The account – probably based on an earlier legend – was written by a Welsh (or possibly Breton-originating) cleric called Geoffrey of Monmouth. The story forms part of his greatest work, Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain), one of the most important books ever produced in the medieval world.

Significantly, it was almost certainly completed by 1138 – at a time when the Tintagel promontory (where the probable Dark Age palace complex has been discovered) was uninhabited. The medieval castle, the ruins of which still stand today, was built almost a century later. Geoffrey of Monmouth’s assertion that King Arthur was conceived in an earlier by then long-abandoned great fortress on the site would potentially therefore have had to have come, in the main, from now long-lost earlier legends, claims or quasi-historical accounts.

The probable palace which the archaeologists have found appears to date from the 5th and 6th centuries AD – which would theoretically fit well with the traditional legends of King Arthur which placed him in precisely those centuries. Whether coincidence or not, the way in which the new evidence resonates with Britain’s most enduring and popular medieval legend is sure to generate renewed popular and scholarly interest in the site.

What the archaeologists have found is of major historical significance – irrespective of the ve racity of any Arthurian connection . It’s the first time in Britain that really substantial buildings from the 5th and 6th centuries – the very heart of the Dark Ages – have been found. So far the excavations have revealed massive metre-thick masonry walls, steps and well-made slate flagstone floors.

Some of the buildings were relatively large. Around a dozen have been archaeologically or geophysically located over recent months. Two are around 11 metres long and 4 metres wide.

The people who lived in these well-constructed buildings appear to have been of elite status. The archaeological evidence – scores of fragments of pottery and glass – show that they were enjoying wine from what is now western Turkey and olive oil from the Greek Aegean and what is now Tunisia. What’s more, they ate their food from fine bowls and plates imported from western Turkey and North Africa, while they drank their wine from the very finest, beautifully painted French-made glass cups.

Over the past few weeks around 150 shards of pottery have been found – including fragments of amphorae (used to transport wines and olive oil from the Eastern Mediterranean) and fine tableware.

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The probable palace appears to have been the more luxurious part of a much larger complex of literally dozens of buildings which covered most of the Tintagel promontory. These other structures may well have housed artisans, soldiers and other retainers who worked for the ruler who lived there – probably the King of Dumnonia

The whole complex appears to have come into existence some time in the 5th or the early 6th century AD – but was probably in decline by the early 7th.

So far, no evidence of any catastrophic destruction has been found. However, the latter half of the 6th century and the 7th century were notorious for a terrible plague pandemic (an early version of the later medieval Black Death) which almost certainly devastated parts of Britain after having killed millions throughout the Mediterranean world. It is conceivable therefore that Dark Age Tintagel declined and was eventually abandoned partially as a result of bubonic plague rather than any political or military conflict.

Quite apart from what the new discoveries tell us about royal life in Britain 1,500 years ago, they also shed additional light on western Britain’s place in the world all those centuries ago.

Although eastern and much of central Britain had been taken over by Germanic (ie, Anglo-Saxon) conquerors and settlers from what is now Germany and Denmark, much of the west of Britain (including Cornwall) remained under native British control.

These native British areas seem to have maintained or more likely revived their trading and political links with the Roman Empire. The Romans had abandoned Britain in AD410 and had completely lost the whole of Western Europe to Germanic barbarian invaders by 476. However, by 554 the Empire (by then entirely based in Constantinople – modern Istanbul), was reconquering parts of the Western Mediterranean world - namely Italy, North Africa and southern Spain. As a result Roman trade into the Western Mediterranean and the Atlantic (including Britain) began to flourish once again.

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The big incentive for the Romans to trade with Britain was probably Cornish tin, which they needed for their bronze-making industries. It’s also conceivable that they regarded Dumnonia, or indeed other western British kingdoms, as client states or official allies, possibly with some quasi-official status within the Empire. Indeed, officially, they may have regarded the loss of Britain in 410 as a temporary and expedient measure rather than a permanent change in legal status. Certainly there is historical evidence that the Empire gave financial subsidies to Britain in the 6th century – ie, well over a century after the traditional date for Britain’s exit from the Empire. There is even evidence suggesting that the 6th century Roman authorities tried to use their theoretical "ownership" of Britain as a territorial bargaining chip in wider geopolitical negotiations.

This summer’s excavation at Tintagel, which finished on Tuesday, has been directed by archaeologist Jacky Nowakowski and James Gossip of the Cornwall Archaeological Unit – part of Cornwall county council.

“The discovery of high-status buildings – potentially a royal palace complex – at Tintagel is transforming our understanding of the site. It is helping to reveal an intriguing picture of what life was like in a place of such importance in the historically little-known centuries following the collapse of Roman administration in Britain,” says Win Scutt, English Heritage’s properties curator for the West of England.

The Tintagel promontory – the site of the famous ruined 13th century castle – is managed by English Heritage and is open to the public.


Ruins of medieval chapel found in Bishop Auckland

The ruins of a large medieval chapel, comparable in size and cost to some of the most famous in Europe, have been uncovered in Bishop Auckland.

Destroyed in the 1650s, the chapel was built by Bishop Anthony Bek during his reign as Prince-Bishop of Durham between 1284 and 1310. As Prince Bishop of Durham, Bek had far-reaching rights and powers to mint coinage, raise armies and rule his territories in the north of England on the king&rsquos behalf.

As well as being one of the most senior churchmen in England, being raised to the Patriarchate of Jerusalem in 1306, Bishop Bek was also a noted warrior, fighting alongside King Edward I in the Crusades and the Wars of Scottish Independence in 1298. He substantially rebuilt Somerton Castle and Auckland Castle, the location of the chapel, and built the &ldquoGreat Hall&rdquo at Durham Castle.

Uncovered at Auckland Castle during a five month dig, the bishop&rsquos chapel was, at the time it was constructed, larger than the royal chapel at Westminster, rivalling continental structures such as Paris&rsquos Sainte-Chapelle in its size and opulence. The foundations of the building indicated that the walls of the chapel were 1.5m thick, 12m wide and 40m long, and further excavations found huge bases for internal columns, buttresses along the chapel&rsquos sides and even part of the floor. Archaeologists found more than 300 pieces of carved stone on the site, ranging in size from tiny fragments to pieces weighing as much as small cars.

The chapel was destroyed with gunpowder charges following the English Civil War in the 1650s, at the hands of the parliamentarian Governor of Newcastle, Sir Arthur Haselrigg. Archaeologists from Durham University and The Auckland Project, the charity that owns and manages Auckland Castle, say that the locations of those charges can be identified from the remaining ruins.

For centuries after the destruction of the chapel its exact location was a mystery, but after years of work by archeologists, surveyors, and researchers, the ruins were excavated and accurate reconstructions of the chapel were composed by analysts. John Castling, Archaeology and Social History Curator at The Auckland Project, praised the historical and architectural importance of the find, saying: &ldquoIt&rsquos difficult to overstate just how significant this building is&rdquo. It&rsquos hoped that the rediscovery of the Chapel will also aid the Auckland Project in aiding the economic regeneration of the wider Bishop Auckland area.

The chapel will be the subject of a special exhibition, featuring items recovered from the ruins, at Auckland Castle, from Monday, 4 March to Sunday, 6 September this year.


Archaeology shock: Scottish researchers unearth 'mind blowing' Pictish hillfort

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The fort, overlooking the small village of Rhynie, is believed to be one of the largest ancient settlements ever discovered in Scotland. Researchers think that as many as 4,000 people may have lived in more than 800 huts on the Tap O&rsquoNoth in the fifth to sixth centuries. However, the settlement may date back as far as the third century, which would make it Pictish in origin.

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Known as 'Picti' by the Romans, meaning 'Painted Ones' in Latin, the Picts were a collection of Celtic-speaking communities who lived in the east and north of Scotland during the Late British Iron Age and Early Medieval periods.

These northern tribes constituted the largest kingdom in Dark Age Scotland.

They repelled the conquests of both Romans and Angles, creating a true north-south divide on the British Isles.

The Picts would later merge with the Gaels, with whom they went on to create the Kingdom of Alba.


SCOTTISH archaeologists have uncovered the ruins of a giant hillfort (Image: GETTY)

The fort, overlooking the small village of Rhynie, is believed to be one of the largest (Image: GETTY)

The size of the hillfort has stunned archaeologists, as conventional wisdom has it that settlements of that size did not appear until about the 12th century.

In its heyday, the settlement may have even been on a par with the largest known post-Roman settlements in Europe.

Professor Gordon Noble, who led the team of researchers from the University of Aberdeen, claimed the find &ldquoshakes the narrative of this whole time period&rdquo.

He told Sky News: &ldquoThe size of the upper and lower forts together are around 16.75 hectares and one phase at least dates from the fifth to sixth centuries AD.

The Picts would later merge with the Gaels (Image: GETTY)

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"This makes it bigger than anything we know from early medieval Britain.

"The previous biggest known fort in early medieval Scotland is Burghead at around five and a half hectares, and in England famous post-Roman sites such as Cadbury Castle is seven hectares and Tintagel around five hectares.&rdquo

He added that the site was &ldquoverging on urban in scale and in a Pictish context we have nothing else that compares to this".

The team used radiocarbon dating to ascertain timeframes and based on the way the buildings were distributed, think that they were built and occupied at a similar time.

The size of the hillfort has stunned archaeologists (Image: GETTY)

&ldquoThe size of the upper and lower forts together are around 16.75 hectares" (Image: GETTY)

They have conducted extensive fieldwork in the area since 2011, focusing on the lower valley long noted for its Pictish heritage.

Here at a settlement in the valley they discovered evidence for the drinking of Mediterranean wine, the use of glass vessels from western France and intensive metalwork production.

This all suggested it was a high-status site, possible even with royal connections.


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