Garn Goch Iron Age hillfort
The skyscraper of its day and testament to the power and status of those who built it.
One of the largest Iron Age forts in the whole of Wales, Garn Goch is an unforgettable place that brings the power and ingenuity of the Iron Age to life.
Garn Goch, a major Iron Age settlement site near the town of Llandeilo, nowadays feels quiet and remote. However approximately 2500 years ago this hilltop would have been a thriving centre, where people lived and worked, food was grown and goods were produced and were traded. Its large stone defences, a large rubble bank today, once stood as stone-faced ramparts 10m high and 5m thick, and would have offered protection from natural dangers such as wild wolves and against other humans during periods of warfare.
There were two hillforts on the site. A smaller fort, Y Gaer Fach, sat in the shadow of its much larger and impressive neighbour Y Gaer Fawr.
The smaller fort, Y Gaer Fach, encloses an area of around 1.5 hectares, survives in a ruinous state and appears to be incomplete, perhaps abandoned part way through a programme of rebuilding that was never completed. This fort is dwarfed in comparison with the nearby Y Gaer Fawr, with its enormous stone ramparts and at least six separate entrances. At around 11.2 hectares this is one of the largest hillforts in the whole of Wales.
What was life like here?
Although there are many interpretations of the evidence Iron Age people left behind at this spectacular site, nobody is sure of the exact the purpose of these settlements. Were they simply defensive structures to be used for safety in times of trouble and warfare? Were they permanently occupied towns and centres of trade, or centres of religion and ritual? Did they serve a number of functions and were different things to different people?
Why not visit the sites, see for yourself and join us in our interpretation and speculation of the function of this magnificent Iron Age legacy?
What happened next?
In AD70 the Romans reached the Towy Valley, one of their critical marching routes through Wales. The inhabitants of Garn Goch must have fought hard to defend their land.
But inevitably the Roman conquest was completed and the communities of Wales gradually became part of the new imperial province of Britannia, or Roman Britain, which was to last for the next 300 years.
Visiting Garn Goch
Both forts are easily accessible from a small car park at the base of the hill, and the well-trodden path will take you first to fort Y Gaer Fach and then on to Y Gaer Fawr.
As you take the path up to the forts imagine the many people who have made this journey in prehistoric times, to visit the fort, to take refuge, to trade, find food and water, or shelter from the night on their travels.
Imagine the sights, sounds and smells of a busy Iron Age community 2500 years ago – children playing, dogs barking, men and women grinding corn, weaving baskets, tending farm animals or striking bargains around a hearth.
Several hundred people may have lived at Y Gaer Fawr, the larger of the two forts at Garn Goch. As well as being a bustling community it was also a defensive settlement with panoramic vistas ensuring that enemies would have found it hard to stage a surprise attack.
But the occupants took no chances. They built a massive stone wall, or rampart, around their settlement to discourage all but the most determined invader. Imagine the extraordinary effort this took.
Both forts occupy a hilltop and the views from the top are superb. Any visitor should take a moment to experience these views and remember that our ancestors stood in the same spot 2500 years ago and would have looked out on a very similar view; take away the modern field boundaries, farms and bridges and imagine the Iron Age landscape, of the river flowing down an open valley with hills rising in the distance, with perhaps few small scattered lowland settlements of roundhouses, animal pens and cultivated fields. This truly is a spot where the past feels closer than you think.
Leave our stones unturned!
The impressive stone cairn and ramparts that make Garn Goch one of the most spectacular late Iron Age settlements in Wales can easily be damaged. You can help us protect this Scheduled Ancient Monument by leaving stones where you find them and not building shelters in the ramparts.
Find out more
For further information about Garn Goch, download our site map and leaflet as a pdf: