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Places to Go: Badbury Rings

Places to Go: Badbury Rings

Badbury Rings is a part of the Kingston Lacy estate, which is owned by the National Trust. If you’re in the area anyway, you’ve got no reason not to pay a visit to this Iron Age hill fort! It used to be under the control of the Durotridges, a Celtic tribe who also owned Maiden Castle (another hill fort).


The ancient fort sits 100 metres above sea level, close to the town of Wimborne. It features 3 rings, which means that 3 hilly-looking things defend the central part of the fort, which would have been where people lived and where more valuable things were kept. Nowadays, it looks like 3 hills defending some lovely woodland with a small clearing. Sheep graze the land and there are lots of rabbits that live there. Unfortunately, when the fort was privately owned, the Bankes family were not keen on investigation of the area. This means we don’t know quite so much about it as we do about other Iron Age hill forts, but excavations and investigations have been taking place recently.


A study in 1998 revealed that there may once have been 28 huts on the site. Excavations began in 2004, and they found lots of pottery from the late Iron Age. However, studies have also found that the fort declined as the Roman settlements began to build up after the invasion in 43AD. The Romans built quite a few roads that crossed over at Badbury Rings, including one that led to what is now Salisbury and another that led to Bath. Excavations also revealed that close to Badbury Rings is a Roman/Celtic temple, which was in use from about 0AD to 400AD. Roofing tiles, painted wall plaster, jewellery and pottery were found at the site, as well as both Roman and Durotrigian coins. 


After the Romans fell, the site of Badbury Rings may have been reoccupied in the Saxon era. Badbury Rings is associated with Arthurian legend – some locals say it was the site of the Battle of Mount Badon, in which King Arthur apparently fought against the invading Anglo-Saxons. This view was advanced by a couple of Victorian writers, and some local historians suggest that Arthur had some troops stationed at Badbury Rings. However, whether this battle happened (or even that Arthur actually existed) is debated, and Badbury Rings competes with 2 other locations for this claim. Edward the Elder also stationed some of his men there after he became king in 899AD, in order to face down a challenge to his authority by the son of Ethelred (the former king of Wessex).


Badbury Rings is a pleasant car journey, through an old and beautiful avenue of beech trees. Some of these trees are over 250 years old, and they are all part of the Kingston Lacy estate. You can also cycle there from the town of Wimborne, which is just 3 miles away. If you like horse riding, a bridle path runs through the site. The surrounding countryside is lush, green, and beautiful. There are plenty of traditional country pubs that serve hearty food all day, so why not reward your day of exploration with a tasty roast dinner?


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