Saturday, 16 November 2013

Castell Dinas Bran

This is a short and sharp walk up to Castell Dinas Brân from the car park in the centre of Llangollen. It is only 1 and a half miles to get up to the castle, but it feels a lot more. The path is well marked and the going underfoot is pretty well drained. This is a walk with history and the views are spectacular.

View Castell Dinas Bran in a larger map

The hill seems to stand guard over the whole vale and has clear views on every side. It was occupied in very early times. Bronze age axe heads have been found and there appears to have been a fort here in Iron Age times - some of the banks can still be seen. Legend has it that Brân , one of the twin sons of an ancient duke of Cornwall, inherited this site and fortified it and then named it after himself. His mother, Queen Corwenna, founded the nearby town of Corwen. His brother Beli, went to New Troy (London).
However the castle which is now in ruins was actually built by Gruffydd ap Madoc, Prince of Powys, sometime before his death in 1269. This stone fortress had a very short life. It was besieged in 1277 by the Earl of Lincoln and the Welsh, realising their hopeless cause, set fire to Dinas Bran. The castle was never rebuilt and fell into disrepair. This story shows why so many of the Iron Age hill-forts were never reoccupied. These forts may have been built to show which group of warriors dominated the area and therefor could levy taxation and exert control. As defensive structures against a properly supplied army they were absolutely useless. The invaders simply had to surround the fort and wait for it to surrender when food and water ran out.

The path has good sign posts.
It's an uphill struggle, but well worth it, particularly when the trees are as beautiful as this.
In the foreground you can see a crow, which is quite fitting as the word brân also means crow in Welsh. Perhaps this is the true background to the place name.

Much of the stone appears to have been quarried from the hill itself.
The limestone cliffs of World's End, viewed from the fort.
It is hard to work out the exact design of the castle from the ruins.
Views from the ramparts towards the west.
Views to the south east and the Shropshire Plain.
The view down into Llangollen (where I parked the car).

Views to the north west.

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