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 the whole of 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 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 waymarking, kissing gates and stone pitching paths at the castle itself.
The rewards of the climb are not only fabulous panoramic views but also the chance to explore the castle ruins.
Did You Know?
Some people maintain that The Holy Grail lies buried in a cave deep below Castell Dinas Brân.
Surrounded by a rock-cut ditch and steep drops, these include the 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 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 it’s inaccessibility ensured that it was soon abandoned again to the crows which gave it its name.