AHNE Bryniau Clwyd / Clwydian Range AONB

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Penycloddiau - a vast space

Visualising 21 hectares in your head is nigh on impossible, so we’ve done it for you, putting the huge size of this settlement into perspective. Were the roundhouses positioned along the edge to gain shelter from the earth and wooden fenced ramparts? Did the roundhouses in the centre belong to a family of status or were they important community buildings?


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Audio Guide

Intro 1 2 3 4

Discover what has shaped and influenced the landscape you see today using your phone as you walk. Call 01745 222123 from your mobile or download the mp3 files here for free. The tour begins at Coed Llangwyfan car park between Nannerch and Llandyrnog. Meet characters who once lived here and let them show you around the features they left for us to find today.

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Information

Penycloddiau is the largest hillfort on the Clwydian Range and one of the largest in Wales, enclosing an area of 21 hectares.

It is multivallate (with multiple concentric ditches) with extensive ramparts to the north and north-west. The historic county boundary between Denbighshire and Flintshire follows much of the western rampart.

There are two original inturned entrances, one to the south and the other midway along the eastern rampart.

Evidence suggests that houses were built around the edge of the fort to make use of the shelter from the large banks and the large wooden fence that would have topped it.

Ponds in the centre of the fort may have provided the inhabitants with water.

People may have been using this site even before the Iron Age as there is evidence of a Bronze Age burial mound at the northern end of the hill.

As Forde Johnston noted [i] the site is not a contour fort as it dips from the highest point in the north to the entrance at the south.

The first reference to Penycloddiau is in Parochialia by Edward Lhwyd at the end of the 17th century when he writes “on top of Moel Ysweiliog is an old camp close on a mile in circumference”. [ii]

Lewis' Topographical Dictionary in the 18th century states the “principal and most extensive of the (Clwydian Range military posts) occupies the summit from which its strong foundations were called Bryn y Cloddiau or ‘the hill of the ditches’... and defended according to the facility or difficulty of access by single, double or triple and quadruple entrenchments...” [iii].

However, it is Canon Ellis Davies who gives the first comprehensive description of the site in his book The Prehistoric and Roman Remains of Flintshire [iv].

In the 1960s Forde Johnston expanded on the work done by Ellis Davies and suggested three possible stages of construction for the hillfort. The first was the inner bank and inner quarry ditch, the second the outer ditch and counterscarp bank and the third phase the outermost bank and ditch. He does suggest that phase one and two could represent one period of building.

As far as we can tell there has been no past excavation of Penycloddiau. In 2004 the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust (CPAT) carried out a topographical survey of the site which identified 43 possible platforms and in 2008 they dug an evaluation trench on the mound inside the hillfort to try to ascertain if it was natural or a man-made Bronze Age feature. A further excavation took place in 2009.

Also in 2008 Engineering Archaeology Services (EAS) and volunteers carried out a geophysical survey which revealed new roundhouses and a possible enclosure.

[i] Hillforts of the Clwydian Range Flintshire Historical Society Transactions

[ii] Parochialia Edward Lhwyd 1600's

[iii] Topographical Dictionary Lewis

[iv] Canon Ellis Davies 1949 Prehistoric and Roman Remains of Flintshire

How to get there

From Bodfari near Denbigh or Llanbedr DC near Ruthin, take the B5429 to Llandyrnog. Follow the signs for Llangwyfan, continue on this small country road through the village and onwards to a small car park 1/4 mile from the site. The fort can be accessed directly as Offa's Dyke National Trail passes through it.

OS map: Explorer 265
OS. Grid reference: SJ128678.

Penycloddiau leaflet

Penycloddiau leaflet

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