Castell Dinas Bran, Llangollan, Wales


Castell Dinas Bran looms high on the side of the River Dee valley, near Llangollen. The setting is truly spectacular, and it is easy to see why a castle was built here. The position is easily defensible, and commands views over movements on the surrounding countryside. More information on the King Arthur connection with Dibas Bran here.

Depending on interpretation, "Dinas Bran" can be translated as "Crow Castle,"  "Hill of the Crow," or "Bran's Stronghold." Iron Age man fortified the area as is seen by a ditch and earthen embankments round the southern and eastern portions of the stone fortress. The first castle on the site is thought to date from the 8th century. A castle is mentioned in 12th century historical documents as part of a medieval piece entitled  "The Romance of Fulk Fitzwarine.", which claimed  was in ruin as early as 1073.

The site was fortified by the princes of Powys Fadog in the mid 13th century. Nobody really knows just who did build Dinas Bran, but it was probably  Gruffydd Maelor II, son of Madog ap Gruffydd Maelor I, who began the castle in the late 1260's. If this is true, then the Welsh Princes were only able to occupy and defend the site for about 20 years So it came to pass that in n 1277, the Earl of Lincoln,during an English foray into Wales,  besieged the castle. The Welsh lord of Dinas Bran was forced to submit to the invading army. The English torched the castle, reducing it to a ruin. Edward I did toy with restoring the castle for his own use, but never did, and Dinas Bran has remained a ruin ever since.

Having had no Norman input, it was a typical Welsh-built castle. Simple in design, with a stone curtain wall following the hill contours.  This  wall enclosed an area about 300 feet long and 130 feet wide. The inner defences were a plain square keep and a great twin-towered gatehouse..

The Welsh again held the site in 1282, during Edward's second campaign into Wales. Dafydd ap Gruffydd, Llywelyn the Last's brother, held Dinas Bran. But he was captured by the English and executed in England.

Owain Glyndwr tried in vain to capture the site in 1402. and by Tudor times there is a record of the site being a complete ruin

The haunting beauty of the place have made it much painted - Turner for example has a dramatic painting of Dinas Bran. Wordsworth also visited Dinas Bran and  lamented the castle's fate in a poem

Today, a stiff climb takes you high up the valley to admit the ruins and the view, and meditate on the Princes of Wales

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