The lofty setting of Dinas Bran gives the ruined castle a mystical appeal as it overlooks the picturesque town of Llangollen and the Dee valley with its limestone escarpments on the edge of the Berwyn mountains. It is a truly beautiful view from the castle and the history goes back into the ancient past, the myth and folklore refer to mystical tales of giants in the landscape and some believe King Arthur and Merlin are also linked to the area. Dinas Bran stands on guard as a sentinel overseeing the surrounding lands from its strong strategic position, looking out for the march of armies and the enduring march of time.
Dinas Bran is located in north east Wales in the county of Denbighshire close to the border with England and on a good day you can see the counties of Shropshire and Staffordshire across the English border. The town of Llangollen at the base of Dinas Bran is steeped in its own history and tradition of railways, canals and it is home to the international music and dance festival Eisteddfod, which attracts people from all around the world each and every year.
The castle today is a ruin, in fact it was visited by the antiquarian John Leland around 1536 who described the castle as being “Now all in ruin” so we know it has lay in ruins for a long time. It is believed the Welsh occupiers destroyed their own castle rather than let it fall into the hands of the invaders under the rule of Edward I in 1277. The castle was utilised by Edwards army briefly before abandoning it to time because of the extent of damage.
The remnants of the stone castle we see today was most probably built by by Gruffudd ap Madog around 1260. Dinas Bran was built within the ramparts of a much earlier hill fort which dates back to the iron age who’s story has been lost to legend, the original earth ditches and earth embankments to the south and east, date from this period which must have been a huge undertaking of man power for the time period. The later stone castle of Dinas Bran was in service for only a few decades before it was destroyed and has remained in disrepair ever since.
Dinas Bran translates as Raven city or Raven castle, Bran in Welsh translates as raven. In folk lore Bran the Blessed was a primordial god and guardian of the Welsh and Irish whose totem was the raven. In mythology Bran ordered for his own head to be removed, in order that it was still able to speak words of prophecy. The myth continues that the head was then buried possibly at Tower Hill at the Tower of London and there is a similarity to the myth that if the ravens ever left the tower, the kingdom would fall. Perhaps another interpretation of the story would be that if the head of Bran (the raven) ever left the Tower, the kingdom would fall, such was the belief in the power of the Celtic gods.
The name Dinas Bran or raven city echoes similarities with Arthurian legends, where Arthur was also referred to as the raven. There is another connection to the Arthurian legends in the French name Corbenic which also translates as crow or raven. In the Lancelot-Grail Corbenic holds the Grail and was described in this story as being in a kingdom in a foreign country, perhaps there is a link with this story to Dinas Bran.
Today The castle of Dinas Bran still holds its magical attraction. The poetic connection to a different age, high upon a hill in beautiful countryside is enough for anybody to wonder about its story and origins. The views are breathtaking, the castle ruins fascinating and there is great food to be had waiting in Llangollen below to welcome you back down to earth.