Friday, July 15, 2016

Castell Dinas Bran

Situated high above the Dee Valley in north Wales are the remains of a medieval stronghold known as Castell Dinas Bran. It was built in the late 1260's by Welsh prince Gruffydd Maelor II. But this era was a turbulent time, and the fortress survived less than two decades before it was destroyed by the forces of Edward I, as part of his brutal subjugation of Wales.

The curtain wall of the fort encompassed an area of approximately 300 by 130 feet. At the east end was a two-story keep connected to a gatehouse. On the west end was a D-shaped tower that afforded a lookout over the most accessible approach up the hillside. There were also a two-story hall, where the lord would have had hosted banquets.

The hilltop was an important defensive site long before the medieval era. The earthworks below the ruins date from the iron age, indeed, "dinas" is an ancient term for hillfort. 

And the other part of the name comes from King Bran, who is mentioned in the Mabinogion, a collection of tales dating to the Arthurian era. Bran means raven, giving the site a further mystical appeal. 

The climb up the hill is steep, and even more challenging if, like me, you miss the marked pathway and end up bushwacking through the dense bracken.
Thank goodness for my fabulous boots.
But I would have happily struggled up a hill twice as steep to visit Castell Dinas Bran. The views are spectacular and the atmosphere magical.
I felt as if I had been transported back in time, and kept expecting to see a dark age army riding through the valley below or a lady garbed in a medieval gown walking through one of the stone archways.
And, as so often happens in Wales, I had the sense that this is a place where my spirit belongs. The genealogical research I've done so far hasn't turned up any Welsh roots, but they must be there somewhere. 

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