AHNE Bryniau Clwyd / Clwydian Range AONB

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Castell Dinas Bran - secure in the landscape

For over 600 years people lived within this hillfort which offered security and defence from other tribes and possibly, valley flooding. The building of the medieval Welsh Castell, 2000 years later, changed the shape of the landscape again, elevating its dominance in both space and story. 


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Crowning a craggy hilltop high above Llangollen, Castell Dinas Brân - “the Crow's Fortress” ­- is one of the most dramatically-sited and legend-haunted strongholds in all Britain. Set within the corner of an Iron Age hillfort, it is one of the few surviving Welsh-built stone castles, constructed in the 13th century by Gruffudd ap Madoc, ruler of northern Powys.

The castle's air of mystery is enhanced by the fact that it can only be reached on foot, after quite a stiff climb. But the walk has been made easier by a wide range of improvements undertaken by AONB staff and volunteers, who have been busy installing stiles, waymarking and kissing gates and stone pitching paths at the castle itself.

The rewards of the climb are not only fabulous panoramic views over the Dee Valley, the Berwyns, and Eglwyseg rocks but also the chance to explore the castle ruins.

Surrounded by a rock-cut ditch and steep drops, these include remains of a gatehouse, keep, and characteristic D-shaped “Welsh tower”. A closer look reveals traces of features like wall-plaster, fireplaces and even 'en-suite' toilets, demonstrating that this was once a splendid and well-appointed as well as an immensely well-defended fortress. 

Dinas Brân's active life, however, lasted scarcely 20 years. Begun in the 1260s and abandoned and burnt by its Welsh defenders in 1277, it was then only briefly garrisoned by the English - whose commander remarked “there is no stronger castle in all Wales, nor has England a greater”. But its inaccessibility ensured that it was soon abandoned again to the crows which gave it its name, and the legends which have surrounded it ever since.

Castell Dinas Brân Information leaflet

Castell Dinas Brân Information leaflet

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