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Castell Dinas Brân

Castell Dinas Brân - Overview

The ruins of this medieval castle sit atop a prominent hill on the outskirts of Llangollen. The site originates with an Iron Age hillfort. Documentary evidence suggests the Princes of northern Powys built a timber castle here in the late twelfth century, but it burnt down without trace. It was probably Gruffudd ap Madog, son of the founder of nearby Valle Crucis Abbey, who rebuilt the castle in stone c.1270, but much like its predecessors, this third and last castle did not last long. When Henry de Lacy, commanding troops on behalf of King Edward I, approached in 1277, the Welsh defenders of the castle set fire to it so that it would not be of subsequent use for the invading English armies. The damage was not excessive as Edward I briefly garrisoned forces here, but the site was abandoned after Holt castle was built as the new centre of the Lordship after Llewelyn ap Gruffudd’s death in 1282.

According to legend, the Welsh princess Myfanwy Fychan lived at this castle and inspired the Welsh bard Hywel ab Einion to compose his famous ode in which he pines for her love. By the time the poem was written, Castell Dinas Brân had lain in ruin for quite some time and Myfanwy had married the nobleman Goronwy ap Tudur Hen, Lord of Penmynydd. It is said that this poem inspired the poem ‘Myfanwy Fychan’ by John Ceiriog Hughes as well as Richard Davies’ lyrics to the popular song ‘Myfanwy’, composed by Joseph Parry.

By the dawn of modern tourism, Dinas Brân was a spectacularly picturesque ruin sitting atop an exposed hill. Its proximity to Llangollen, situated on the historical main road through the north of Wales, ensured the ruins featured prominently in many travellers’ descriptions and drawings.

With assistance from Cadw, Castell Dinas Brân is now taken care of by Denbighshire County Council.

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