Following a somewhat illuminating time - in the metaphysical sense, you understand - at the Nant-y-Llys and Pen-y-Gwryd cairns, Bryn-y-Castell hillfort beckons... well, there are several hours to spare before darkness... and it's been on the 'list' for a long time now. Too long, in fact, despite a very dodgy evening weather forecast. Unlike Postman, I approach via Betws-y-coed and the Machno Valley, the drive up Cwm Hafodyredwydd (take care) and across the brutal Migneint a perennial favourite shortcut, what with the funerary cairn-topped Arenigs crowning the south-eastern horizon... a real sense of 'I don't know what' pervading through the open car window. Joining the B4391 to Ffestiniog, a short, if exceptionally vertiginious drive above Cwm Cynfal (nice waterfall, by the way... but stop before you look!!) leads past a car park to a minor road on the left. Wishing to approach on foot, I park upon the verge just before this and take the public footpath (signposted) across the road.
Passing through a gate, a track leads towards a copse of trees and walled courtyard, beyond which a craggy hill rises. I climb this for a great initial view of the hillfort I've come to see to the north-east... and my first indication that the forecast of 'deteriorating conditions' was no fallacy. In a short while I attain the ramparts of a nicely compact little fortress, the walls - except where apparently somewhat reconstructed - little more that footings, but the siting is such that this is of small consequence. Yeah, the attuned psyche can easilly add the missing pieces of the jigsaw in a place such as this and visualise what once stood here. Not just gaunt, drystone walls, but the human element which built and occupied them, too. What a place to live on one of those glorious Snowdonian days when the light is the match of any Shakespearian sonnet, what with Manod Mawr presenting an exquisite facade to the north, and Moelwyns Mawr and Bach offsetting a glorious coastal view to the approx south-west!
But on a day like today.... with sudden weather fronts sweeping in from the aforementioned coast to literally blow me off my feet? Thoughts turn to how hardy the inhabitants must really have been and how humble I feel (trying to stand) here against the onslaught. Eventually it is too much, even properly equipped for such conditions, and I seek the lee of the north-eastern walls to ponder awhile. Perhaps it is at times like this when the door of the past can be coaxed ajar... if only a little. Dunno.... are there distant, repressed folk memories which are released only in such situations? Perhaps, perhaps not. Whatever the truth, I cannot leave until darkness leaves me no choice.
Take the B4391 out of llan Ffestiniog, at the first right turn, turn left up rough track through two gates and park at some kind of monitoring station amongst a dozen or so fir trees.
The first point of interest is just yards from the car, a copy of a 5th to 6th century grave stone bearing in latin the inscription:- Cantiorix lies here he was a citizen of Venedos cousin of Maglos the magistrate. see interesting, where is Venedos and who was Maglos.
From here follow the path between two hills, well, one hill and a mountain, for incredible views and a look down onto the fort climb the small mountain.
The fort has been partially reconstructed around the north facing entrance which is next to a snail shell hut, once a round house but then turned into an iron smelting furnace. Fifty metres north outside the fort another iron smelting hut is consolidated and preserved it's even got slag still in situ, as it were. The fort isnt a big one, maybe 30m x 25m but the reconstructed part really makes up for any size issues (size isnt everything, it depends where you put it and how good it looks)
Inside the fort there are weird little standing stones which threw me a little bit untill I realised they were markers for buildings maybe, one of them looks like a small four poster right in the middle of the fort. There are also two more round huts to be seen in the fort but they're walls aren't high.
As with most ancient places in Snowdonia they take a back seat to the scenery, Manod Mawr (661m) is the domineering influence here, from the south it looks like a single hugely gigantic lump of rock ( I mean sacred hill)
But we can also see down to Cricceth and the sea, and the bigger mountains to the north west, the forts position guards the entrance to the hidden valley, it's invisible from the road, and a good source of iron ore.
A weirdly wonderful and magical place marred only by big ugly quarries, which were easily ignored.
I apologise only mildly for the plethora of pictures as its a really photogenic place with lots of features, and seeing as its just me doing Snowdonia in detail, it might be some time till someone comes here.