A Game of Crows

I’m back everyone (obligatory apology for my long absent with the following excuses of holidays, revision and subsequent illness) now that’s out the way lets get to it…

I’m back in Snowdonia now after spending a rather rainy Christmas with my family in Sussex. One of my favourite things about driving myself to Snowdonia is that I have the freedom to stop off anywhere I want along the way and since the weather was unusually sunny, I decided that it was too good an opportunity to miss.

On my way down to Sussex I stopped off at the Valle Crucis Abbey just outside the town of Llangollen, a bit of research later showed that this little town had a great deal of little interesting sites to visit, well worth a return visit. I parked near the centre of town, which was only £1 for fours hours, a rare steal in Wales! Walking along the high street, I soon came upon Llangollen’s famous bridge.

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The Llangollen Bridge

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The Llangollen Bridge is listed as one of the Seven Wonders of Wales in a anonymous poem, along with the Pistyll Rhaeadr Falls, which I visited last September. The bridge traverses the expanse of the River Dee and has lasted since the 16th century when it was first built, making it a grade 1 listed structure and a Scheduled Ancient Monunment.

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The River Dee rages below

I continued on past the canals and into the outskirts of the town where my target for the day lay, isolated on a small hilltop, Dinas Bran.

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Llangollen canal
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The Berwyn Mountains

Dinas Bran translates to the City of Crows and though today the name applies to the castle built on the hilltop, the name itself is actually much older and is likely a reference to early hilltop settlements founded on the same site. The current structure was built in the 1260s and founded by Gruffydd ap Madog, son of Madog ap Gruffydd Maelor, who founded Valle Crucis Abbey. Gruffydd ruled the Welsh kingdom of Powys Fadog, while Valle Crucis was the spiritual centre of the Kingdom, Dinas Bran formed its military and aristocratic heart. The castle was both a show of military strength and severed as a royal mansion for Gruffydd and his family.

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Dinas Bran
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Inside the ruins

However the castle was not in operation for long, after Gruffydd’s death in 1270 the castle passed into the possession of his four sons. In 1276 war came to Wales when the army of Edward I invaded, two of Gruffydd’s sons quickly surrendered and Henry de Lacy, the Earl of Lincoln led a force to capture Dinas Bran. Desperate for the castle not to fall into enemy hands, the defenders, including Gruffydd’s two other sons, set fire to the castle and fled. The remains of the castle were briefly occupied by English soldiers and some repairs were carried out, however by 1282 the castle was completely abandoned.

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With its hilltop position the view from the castle is quite commanding, however it does mean you have to enduring a short slog to reach the top. Little remains of the actual castle, apart from a few scattered stone ruins, but it makes for a very atmospheric sight, especially when the morning mist rolls in and the hundreds of crows that live in and around the castle begin to caw. From the top you can see all of Llangollen below, the Berwyn Mountains, the Dee Valley and the huge rocky escarpment know as the Eglwyseg Rocks.

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The Eglwyseg Rocks

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Although I started the climb in brilliant sunshine, by the time I’d reached the top, thick clouds had begun to roll in. After a session of avid photo-taking, and with the sky darkening and with the ominous cawing of the crows in my ears, I decided it was best to head back down to my car. In all a nice 2 hour long walk, with some amazing scenery, hopefully today’s sunny weather is herald of things to come this term and I will be able to get out in the countryside more often.

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An image of what Dinas Bran use to look like
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Crows  mark the path to Dinas Bran

Thus concludes my tale, if you enjoyed this story feel free to write in the comments, or leave like and thanks for reading.

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9 Comments

    1. There wasn’t any ghosts for me, but a 12th century book called The Romance of Fulk Fitzwarine cites the castle as being the location of a great battle between a knight called Pain Peveril and a Welsh giant, possessed by an evil spirit named Gogmagog. the ginat ended up dead so there could be one massive ghost hiding among the ruins 😛

      Liked by 1 person

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