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Castell Dinas

Hillfort

<b>Castell Dinas</b>Posted by GLADMANImage © Robert Gladstone
Nearest Town:Crickhowell (12km SSE)
OS Ref (GB):   SO17883010 / Sheet: 161
Latitude:51° 57' 46.14" N
Longitude:   3° 11' 43.26" W

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Fieldnotes

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Low cloud continues to lie - like a wet blanket, perhaps - upon the high mountain summits of South Wales. However it's not unusual. As that bloke from around these parts once sang.. what was his name, now? Big fella, bit hairy, wore a medallion? Consequently the Mam C and I embark on one of those 'let's drive around a bit and see what turns up' mornings, the ones we subsequently pretend were clinically planned to the last detail... if everything works out.

Anyway, to cut a long story short we eventually find ourselves in the pub car park at the foot of Y Grib, a wonderful, narrow, grassy ridge which provides arguably the finest line of ascent to the high peaks of The Black Mountains. Not that you would realise any of this today. Not with an impenetrable wall of opaque vapour smothering the landscape to the east virtually down to ground level. Nevertheless, after handing over the quid parking fee (it goes to a local charity, by the way), we decide to visit the hillfort-cum-castle of Castell Dinas, which crowns the isolated, initial 'hillock' of Y Grib somewhere within the mist. Follow the footpath sign from the car park, descend to - and cross - the stream (no bridge), then basically head uphill. Even in virtually zero visibility (like today) it's impossible to get lost, although the steep gradient, not to mention soaking hillside, means it's all too easy to slip up in less abstract ways. Wear your boots... I performed a near perfect double twist with pike, but the Russian judge still wasn't having it.

The initial outer defences encountered are comparatively minor - as you would probably expect - the ramparts presenting an attractive aspect courtesy of numerous skeletal trees diffusing the flow of clammy vapour. Very ethereal. The main citadel crowning the summit, however, is anything but minor. A medieval castle, apparently dating to the later 12th century, occupies/overlies the northern section of a fair sized Iron Age enclosure, the latter divided by a cross-rampart. Although no doubt repaired to serve the later castle, the inner ramparts remain very impressive, indeed, with an entrance at the north. The stump of a masonry gate tower here would suggest the practical Iron Age choice facing the easiest approach was adopted by the later inhabitants, too. Well, if it ain't broke..... the remains of some kind of Great Tower crown the highest point of the enclosure, presumably medieval in origin.

As we walk the defences breaks appear in the swirling mantle of mist to reveal tantalising glimpses of Mynydd Troed to the south-west... and the rest of Y Grib rising to the Black Mountain summits to the north-east. Yeah, the next 'hump' in sequence, overlooking Bwlch Bach a'r Grib, possesses a Bronze Age cairn I've wanted to re-visit for a while now. Oh, why not? It'd be rude not to, now we're here.

Finally note that the so called 'holy well' of Dinas Well can be found in the immediate northern environs at SO17893022 (shown on my 1:25k OS map). Holy? Perhaps. Practical? Definately.
GLADMAN Posted by GLADMAN
16th March 2011ce
Edited 18th March 2011ce

Visited this site last summer and although it involves a fair hike uphill it is easy enough to get to. Heading North along the A479 towards Talgarth you pass a pub on your right (can't remember name). There is a parking area next to the pub with information boards. All you have to do is follow the fairly obvious path up hill. At the top are the scant remains of a castle which is said to be the highest castle in Britain - cracking views. From what I remember it took me about 20 minutes to reach the top. Posted by CARL
6th May 2010ce
Edited 2nd June 2010ce

Miscellaneous

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This site occupies the initial summit of a long, grassy ridge - known as Y Grib - which penetrates the fastness of The Black Mountains like some Masada siege ramp. During the course of relatively recent fieldnotes made at the Bwlch Bach a'r Grib cairn, I pondered that the remains of this medieval fortress looked very 'hillforty' in nature....

http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/site/11781/bwlch_bach_ar_grib_cairn.html

Somewhat surprisingly, I was in fact correct. According to Coflein:

'The complex of defensive earthworks at Castell Dinas cover an area c.363m by 280m and represent the remains of an extensive masonry castle constructed over the site of an Iron Age enclosure'.

Although clearly best appreciated from the surrounding hills and mountains - particularly from Mynydd Troed across the valley - nothing suffices like actually setting foot upon the ramparts.... so another for the list, I guess.
GLADMAN Posted by GLADMAN
10th December 2009ce
Edited 10th December 2009ce