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History at Bath Skyline

Views of Bath from Little Solsbury Hill at Bath Skyline, Bath.
Views of Bath from Little Solsbury Hill at Bath Skyline, Bath. | © National Trust Images/Dawn Biggs

History hides beneath the surface along the Bath Skyline, from springheads and stone markers to Iron Age field systems. Previous finds have included pre-historic flints, Samian pottery and Roman coins. Evidence of Roman roads and burials have also been discovered. Find out more about the archaeological features of the different areas of this wide open space overlooking the city of Bath.

Bushey Norwood

The northern edge of Bushey Norwood is formed by the rampart of an early Iron Age stock enclosure which is a Scheduled Ancient Monument of national importance. To the south of the rampart is a late Iron Age field system which includes evidence of a contemporary building.

Standing stones

Towards the southern end there’s a large standing stone. The origins of the stone are uncertain, but it may be a marker stone forming part of the 18th century racecourse or it was erected by Duncan Skrine in 1933 to commemorate the burial of a favourite horse.

The origins of a line of smaller standing stones running in a northerly direction also remain a puzzle.

Trees, grass and wildflowers at Bushey Norwood, Bath Skyline.
Bushey Norwood at the Bath Skyline. | © National Trust Images/Trevor Smithers

Bathwick Woods

There are a great number of archaeological features across the woodland and fields below Sham Castle Down, many with links to providing water to the city of Bath in past centuries. In Bathwick Woods there are remains of an 18th and 19th century water supply system for Bath developed by the Duke of Cleveland and Bath Corporation.

Transferring spring water to the city

Stone spring markers signal the source of fresh spring water, which was transferred to the city by stone conduits and reservoirs. You can also see stone recorder houses, stone basins and water troughs.

The water trough could indicate that this area was used for grazing, whilst within the woods there’s evidence of extensive stone quarrying. In the field below there are signs of terracing and building platforms, which may show occupation and cultivation were carried out close to the stone quarries.

Claverton Down

Within the fields of Rainbow Wood Farm, although not visible from the public footpaths, are Celtic field systems. These include the remains of a wind pump and stone reservoirs, the site of Flatwoods army camp and elements of the Medieval deer park boundary wall.

Valuable Bath stone

Within the area of Claverton Down there are former stone quarries, one of which is now the woodland play area. There are also spoil heaps from these quarries. The quarries contained the stone used during the Georgian period to build many houses in the city.

Important neighbours

The cycle path which runs north from North Road alongside Monument Field is the boundary between the great deer park (to the east) belonging to the Bishop of Bath and Wells and the deer park (to the west) belonging to the Prior of Bath (the ‘Prior’s Park’).

Volunteers at Little Solsbury Hill, Bath Skyline, Bath.
Volunteers at Little Solsbury Hill, Bath Skyline, Bath. | © Images/Dawn Biggs

Little Solsbury Hill

Solsbury Hill was occupied as a hillfort during the early Iron Age, between 300BC and 100BC and one of the southernmost of fortifications across the Cotswolds. During this time, huts were built from timber and wattle and daub. A 20-foot-wide rampart was constructed around the settlement, flanked on both sides by dry stone walls.

Tales of temples and kings

In previous times, there were tales of a temple on the top to Bladud, the legendary king of the Britons, and that the visible remains were of a Saxon fort used in the siege of Bath in 577 AD.

Archaeological excavations in the area suggest that the site was occupied from about 500 to 100 BC with up to 30 huts in occupation at any one time. Possibly the huts were then burned and the rest of the settlement destroyed and abandoned.

Agricultural field systems

In later history, Little Solsbury Hill is a possible site of the Battle of Badon, fought in around 496AD between the Saxons and the British. There is also evidence of medieval field systems on the hilltop.

The site also has a history of agricultural use. Barley was grown on the summit at the end of the 18th century and the hill was still under cultivation well into the 19th century.

Smallcombe Wood carpeted in wild garlic in spring, Bath Skyline, Somerset

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