Monday, 18 October 2010

Castell Dinas Brân

Nobody knows for sure why this ancient fortified site is called Castell Dinas Brân, or "Castle of the city of crows". It's known locally as "Crow Castle", but the word "Dinas" is common in the titles of several Welsh hill forts, so perhaps it has a wider meaning as a fortified site.
This fabulous location is a couple of miles out of Llangollen, on the site of an iron age hillfort. The present ruins date from 1260 and were probably built by Gruffydd II ap Madog, a Welsh warlord and ally of  Prince Llywelyn ap Gruffydd. The paths to the castle are impossibly steep for anything but an approach on foot; certainly grocery deliveries must have been problematic.

When Petra and I visited, there was a misty haze, adding a sense of strangeness to the ruins. Even in the mist, it was possible to just make out the arches of Pontcysyllte aqueduct, a few miles away to the west. On a clear day, the views must be truly spectacular.

The amazing limestone crags of the Eglwyseg hills are close at hand, making me wonder whether the hill that the fort is sited upon is a reef knoll, although the castle itself is made of harder rock. I can't imagine the builders carrying materials up that steep approach, and can only think that the walls are built from material quarried from the moat.

Speculation aside, this is a wonderful site and well worth a visit. The signboard in the castle helpfully shows a reconstruction of the place with a potted description, which some helpful individual has scribed with "English scum"...a descendant of  Gruffydd II ap Madog, perhaps?


Zabdiel said...

I think Dinas can mean a fortified site in place names. Just checked the OS Glossary and they agree. Does it mean "city" in modern Welsh?

Iain Robinson said...

Thanks, yes, "Dinas" means city in Welsh.

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