Defence and offence - Explore our coastal fortifications

The coast has always been the front line for repelling invaders. Forts and castles dating from the Iron Age right through to the Second World War provide some of the most dramatic and obvious man-made structures along the entire length of the South West Coast Path.

Headlands provide excellent vantage points and are comparatively easy to defend. Iron Age forts with earth ramparts and ditches are common on headlands along the South West Coast Path.

In several later periods the need to control the English Channel led to construction of major defences along the south coast of Cornwall, Devon and Dorset. Some of these were reoccupied during the nineteenth century, and a further ring of forts (‘Palmerston follies’) was created around Plymouth at that time.

The Coast Path also links together numerous traces of Second World War defences. These range from individual pillboxes to an entire deserted village at Tyneham in Dorset. Tyneham was one of two sites depopulated to allow military training to take place, but its inhabitants were never allowed to return.