Dinas Bran soars high above the historic, Welsh border town of Llangollen in the verdant Dee Valley. The remains of a medieval castle sit on top of the summit, commanding 360° views. Below you nestles Llangollen in a serene vale amid a backdrop of the Berwyn foothills. To the west stretches the heather-covered Llantysilio Mountain and the breathtaking limestone crags of the Eglwyseg Escarpment, while the distant Shropshire Plain lies to the east. It’s worth the climb.
MEDIEVAL TREASURE TROVE
The most straightforward way to climb Dinas Bran is from the canal bridge above the River Dee in Llangollen, where a waymarked path leads steeply up to the hilltop.
Local Welsh ruler Prince Madog ap Gruffydd built the medieval castle in the 1260s on the site of a prehistoric hillfort, but the Welsh burnt much of it down in 1277 to thwart the invading English army. Although repaired and garrisoned for Edward I, it was soon abandoned.
The name Dinas Bran translates as ‘Crow’s Fortress’, and there are usually members of the crow family flying around. However, the hill may have also been named after an early ruler named Bran.
According to one legend, the first fortress here was built to house the Holy Grail. Another story tells of how an evil giant called Geomagog guarded a treasure trove here and, although he was defeated, the golden hoard still lies deep inside the hill.
Interesting features include the small postern gate, which you pass on the approach; the D-shaped tower with a chimney in the upper storey; and the large, arched windows of the medieval hall. The former keep and gatehouse stand above the deep ditch to the east, while only fragments of wall remain at the edge of the steep northern slope facing Trevor Rocks.
The summit makes a fine spot for a picnic on a calm, sunny day, although there is no longer a refreshment hut as there was in Victorian times.
Back down in Llangollen, famous for its hospitality and International Music Festival in July, you can take in the local museum and visit the beautiful Plas Newydd house, once home to the famous Ladies of Llangollen – two women who shunned marriage and whose relationship scandalised their contemporaries. Ride a steam train on the Llangollen Railway, which runs alongside the River Dee; or follow the Llangollen Canal towpath to the Horseshoe Falls.
Medieval Valle Crucis Abbey is only a short walk from the towpath, or you can access it from the A542 leading to the scenic Horseshoe Pass. Alternatively, relax on a leisurely horse-drawn canal cruise, or just admire the views from the bridge spanning the River Dee, one of the Seven Wonders of Wales.
The Corn Mill
Dee Lane, Llangollen LL20 8PN
Squirrels Guest House
Abbey Road, Llangollen LL20 8SP
A short walk from Llangollen centre.
Hill Street, Llangollen LL20 8AW
This fascinating 18th-century house contains fabulous wood carvings.