Just a short drive away from Tower Hill Barns is a 13th century castle with amazing panoramic views. Superlatives are often overused in describing lovely places to visit, but suffice to say that visitors to this historic site frequently review the surroundings with words like, ‘indescribable’, ‘magical’, and simply, ‘WOW!!’.
That’s because on reaching the castle ruins you’re rewarded with a full 360° window across the North Wales countryside, reaching out all the way towards the Shropshire Plain to the East, and into Snowdonia to the West. Some people describe Castell Dinas Bran as one of most spectacular natural locations in the whole of Britain.
Literally translated as ‘Castle of the City of Crows’
In English it’s called ‘Crow Castle’, but the Welsh title, ‘Castell Dinas Bran’ literally means Castle of the City of Crows. A steep walk on foot is the only option for reaching the summit, so it’s worth bringing waterproofs with you, as well as decent walking shoes and warm clothing. The Welsh weather can turn quickly. In fact, it’s entirely possible for you to feel as if you’re experiencing many extremes of British weather almost at the same time. Be assured though, that even in less clement weather you’re in for a treat with that fantastic view.
The Romance of Fulk Fitzwarine
When you arrive up the zigzag path to the top of the hill, you’re free to wander around freely, enjoying the visual beauty of the scenery, and reimagining the location’s rich and legendary history which extends back as far as 600BC when it was the site of an Iron Age Fort. The historical and mythological roots of Crow Castle are first documented in a 12th century historical document entitled ‘ The Romance of Fulk Fitzwarine’ (or ‘Fouke le Fitz Waryn’).
In that account we are told of King Bran who built the stone structure to protect himself from an evil giant by the name of Gogmagog, a man who roamed the countryside possessed by an evil spirit. terrorizing the townsfolk. It says that King Bran chose to position the castle on top of the steep hill in order to thwart the giant’s attempts to attack, which made the evil spirit even more furious.
The site of hidden treasure that has never been found
Of course, all such romantic tales call for the services of a valiant knight, and in this case it was a brave Norman hero named Paine Peveril who came to the rescue. Courageously seizing the giant’s mace, he slayed him, and in doing so saved the people from years of terror. However, in a frustrating twist, with Gogmagog’s dying breath, he uttered some secrets to the knight, concerning buried treasure beneath the hill – a golden ox, together with idols in the form of horses, peacocks and swans – withholding the key information about the exact location of the stash…
A magical place to visit
It’s literally the stuff of legends, but it adds somehow to the drama and theatre of the stunning location as visitors ponder on the possibility of stumbling over a valuable and ancient artefact as they explore. Some have even speculated that Castell Dinas Bran may be the final resting place of the holy grail. If that’s the case, it could hardly be hidden away in more beautifully evocative surroundings.
For more practical information to help with your visit, be aware that the castle is at a height of 320m and it takes around ¾ to walk the distance of 1 ¼ miles to the top. You can park in Llangollen Riverside Car Park for a small fee, and then it’s a steep climb up from the town, followed by a rather more leisurely walk up the zigzagging pathway. As a final tip (courtesy of Tower Hill Barns’ local knowledge!) the scenery is especially magical during a clear sunset.