Blog – Foel Drygarn Hillfort: Foeltrigarn: Moel Trigarn

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  • Crymych, Pembrokeshire, Wales.
  • OSGB – SN 15771 33600
  • Scheduled Monument.


Bronze Age burial cairns. Oval multivallate Iron Age hillfort. Possible prehistoric village.

The name can be translated roughly as “The hill of the three cairns” and although the cairns within the hillfort have tentatively dated to the Bronze Age there is some debate that they may even date back to the late Neolithic period.


Foel Drygarn Hillfort, near to Crymych, Pembrokeshire.
By Dave Price, CC BY-SA 2.0,


The site is situated on Moel Trigarn, at the end of the Preseli’s range and has extensive views including overlooking the sea, St. George’s Channel, and towards Ireland. Foel Drygarn is a large hillfort for the area and there is some speculation that it may have been a tribal centre for the Octapitai Tribe during the Iron Age.

Foel Drygarn is defended by three ramparts constructed of earth and stone.  There are traces of a ditch located outside the inner rampart only and this is believed to have been cut during the initial stage of construction. The two outer defences, mainly located on the north and east sides, show signs of being later additions – possibly when the Romans made incursions towards this area?

The site encloses 1.2ha and the entrances are located on the south, east and west sides. Within the main enclosures there is evidence of 227 hut platforms, leading to the hypothesis that this was a main tribal centre. There are a further 42 platforms which do not adhere to dwellings and their function is as yet unknown.

Also within the main enclosure are three large burial cairns, as follows –

  • Eastern Cairn – 22m in diameter, standing between 1.7-2.9m in height.
  • Central Cairn – 18m in diameter, standing between 1.7-2.9m in height. There is an OS pillar on its summit.
  • Western Cairn – 24m in diameter. standing between 1.7-2.9m in height.

These, as mentioned, have been dated to the Bronze Age, with an hypothesis of placing them in the Late Neolithic period, however, it is also considered that they may be contemporary with the fort, belonging to the Iron Age. Further investigations will reveal it true dating.


At the centre of the hillfort are three huge stone cairns.
By Hoddyfool – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Looking through the images that have been posted online regarding the site, I am surprised to see people walking all over these cairns. As burials I would give them the due respect, and stay off them so as not to damage the monument – but there again, the OS pillar, located on top of the central cairn, does invite people to go and read what is scribed upon it…..a bit of a quandary!

The fact that stone has not been robbed from these burial cairns during the various construction phases of huts, walls and other buildings in it’s past, demonstrates a level of respect for the cairns and those buried there, by the people of the past.

As previously mentioned, it is believed that this hillfort belonged to the Octapitai Tribe, a possible sub-tribe of the Demetae. The tribe’s history has been lost to time however they are mentioned by Ptolemy, so their name lives on!

The tribe held land in the St. David’s head region in southwest Wales, and although the Roman’s never ventured into their territory, as far as we know, could they have collaborated with them to be left alone in peace and ruled as client kings? We may never know. But thanks to Ptolemy we know of their existence.

Due to our lack of knowledge of the Octapitai and with the site only having one excavation undertaken back in 1899, the timeline of this site is a bit thin, but as you can see, many images have been taken for research purposes.


Foeldrygarn in the eastern Preseli Hills.
By Jeremy Bolwell, CC BY-SA 2.0,


Timeline of the site –

4000-2300 BC     Neolithic: Possible dates for cairns and/or hillfort.

1600-700 BC      Bronze Age: Possible dating for the three burial Cairns.

800 BC – 43 AD   Iron Age: Contour hillfort constructed.

1899                 Excavated.

1927                 Research image.

1989                 Aerial photograph.

1991                 Aerial photograph. Research image.

1995                 Research image.

1996                 Aerial photograph.

1998                 Aerial photograph.

1999                 Aerial photograph.

2002                 Aerial Photograph.

2006                 Research image.

2009                 Research image.

2010                 Research image.

2012                 Research image.

2013                 Aerial photograph.

2015                 Aerial photograph.

2017                 Research image.


The archaeology, uncovered in 1899, is puzzling in that it throws up some interesting questions regarding the Romans and their influence within the area.

Finds include,

  • Iron Age pottery.
  • Roman pottery.
  • Fine glass beads.
  • Sling shot stones in two significant piles.
  • Spindle whorls.
  • Jet ring.

Only further archaeological investigation will answer the mountain of questions that we have about Foel Drygarn. And possibly answer, once and for all, the debate surrounding the dating of the site and cairns, and phases of construction.


Further questions –

  • What were the 42 platforms located within the main enclosure used for?
  • Even though Roman pottery has been excavated at the site, did the Romans ever venture this far, or is this evidence of adopting some Roman ways of life?
  • What is the true dating of the cairns and the hillfort construction?
  • What is so significant about the three burial cairns?
  • Why are there three burial cairns – are they related family members or the leaders slain in battle?
  • What is so significant about these cairns that their material has not been robbed for other purposes?
  • Will we ever be able to uncover more information relating to the Iron Age Octapitai Tribe?


If you can, visit the site, enjoy the views and check out the defences!


Gap in the rampart on Foeldrygarn hillfort.
By Humphrey Bolton, CC BY-SA 2.0,


References & Bibliography.

Coflein. 2023. Foeltrigarn; Moel Trigarn; Foel Drygarn Hillfort. Available at

Cummings. V., & Whittle. A. 2017. Places of Special Virtue: Megaliths in the Neolithic Landscapes of Wales. Oxbow Books.

Driver. T. 2018. New Perspectives on the Architecture and Function of Welsh Hillforts and Defended Settlements, Internet Archaeology 48.

Knight. G. 2011. Merlin and the Grail Tradition. Skylight Press.

Lewis. S. 1840. A Topographical Dictionary of Wales: Comprising the Several Counties, Cities, Boroughs, Corporate and Market Towns, Parishes, Chapelries, and Townships, with Historical and Statistical Descriptions · Volume 2. S. Lewis.

Parker Pearson. M. 2012. Stonehenge: Exploring the Greatest Stone Age Mystery. Simon & Schuster UK.

Phillips. A. 2014. Castles of Wales. Amberley Publishing.

Phillips. G. 2019. Wisdomkeepers of Stonehenge: The Living Libraries and Healers of Megalithic Culture. Simon & Schuster.

Wainwright. G. 2003. Forward. In RCAHMW. 2003. The Archaeology of the Welsh Uplands. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales. p. 7.


Image References

Foel_Drygarn_527375. Foel Drygarn Hillfort, near to Crymych, Pembrokeshire. By Dave Price, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Foeldrygarn in the eastern Preseli  Hills. Foeldrygarn_in_the_eastern_Preseli_Hills_(geograph_3448384). By Jeremy Bolwell, CC BY-SA 2.0,

At the centre of the hillfort are three huge stone cairns. 1920px-Foel_Drygarn_Hillfort_Cairns. By Hoddyfool – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Gap in the rampart on Foeldrygarn hillfort. Gap_in_the_rampart_on_Foeldrygarn_hillfort_(geograph_5192442). By Humphrey Bolton, CC BY-SA 2.0,


2 Comments on “Blog – Foel Drygarn Hillfort: Foeltrigarn: Moel Trigarn

  1. A very enjoyable article on a site of which I knew very little.

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