Ingleborough hillfort from the air MYD3700 (c) YDNPA 2023
The Iron Age hillfort on the top of Ingleborough is one of the highest in England. A rubble rampart surrounds the 6 hectare (15 acre) plateau and within the interior are at least twenty hut circles. The rampart is carefully built and consists of rubble contained within boxes of orthostats (flat upright stones) and dry stone walling. This building technique is believed to be unique in England though there are possible parallels in Scotland and Wales. Quarry scoops survive to the rear of the rampart and slight ditches outside the south east rampart are probably external quarry scoops and not defensive. The position of the original entrances is uncertain, but the most likely spots are on the east and north east sides. The massive dry stone walls below the north and west sides of the fort are crudely constructed and incorporate large boulders. Although built completely differently to the main rampart they may be of broadly similar date. Their function is unknown.
The twenty surviving hut circles lie mostly to the relatively sheltered eastern side of the fort. The huts tend to cluster in discrete groups. All are between 5.5 metres and 8.0 metres in diameter within rubble walls. Some of them have external drainage gullies.
So far there is no dating evidence for the site, but it seems likely that it belongs to the pre-Roman Iron Age. The site is so exposed that it is unlikely that people lived here all year round. There is also no permanent water supply. Seasonal occupation as part of a transhumance cycle, grazing stock on higher pastures in the summer and returning to the valleys in the winter may be a possibility. It may also have served as a place for ritual and the expression of power. It seems to have continued as a tribal centre right through until the Dark Ages.
Ingleborough hillfort – reconstruction © English Heritage Photographic Library
Bowden, M C B, Mackay, D A & Blood, N K (1989) ‘A New Survey of Ingleborough Hillfort, North Yorkshire’ Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society. Vol 55 pp267-271
White, Robert (2002) The Yorkshire Dales. A Landscape Through Time. Ilkley: Great Northern Books