After spending the afternoon with Karen and Dafydd on the nearby Brecon Mountain Railway I took the opportunity to visit Morlais Castle which was once an Iron Age Hillfort. In fact, the Hillfort was still there until 1288 when the castle was built. I looked around for any remains of the Hillfort and could see banks / ditches but I do not know if these are related to the Hillfort or the later castle? There are plenty of collapsed stone walls about and good views north towards the Brecon Beacons.
Access: Heading into Merthyr follow the brown signs for the mountain railway. Just as you arrive at Pant station you will pass a golf course on your left. Drive up the lane into the golf course and park in the large car park next to the club house. You will need to ask permission at the club house for access as you have to walk across a couple of fairways to get to the site! Once you have permission, follow the path towards the first tee and keep heading to the left, across the fairway, heading for the higher ground. This is where you will find the Hillfort / Castle. You will need to walk through the 'rough' so wellies on a wet day would be a good idea. Otherwise you will get wet feet – like I did!
The Rev. B. Williams, of Dowlais, communicates the following facts:- "The idea of holding a prayer-meeting at Morlais Castle on Sunday morning struck these youths.
"Morlais Castle is a place where, on fine Sunday mornings, scores of the worst characters [from the iron-works] meet to drink and fight. They buy the beer on Saturday night, and carry it up there about four o'clock on Sunday morning. There is no house near; they cannot therefore get the drink in any other way. You may imagine what a den of wickedness that place is on Sunday morning. On a fine Sunday morning in June last, about twenty young lads could be seen wending their way thither, and they reached the polluted spot about helf-past five. There were scores of the characters mentioned in the place before them, who had already commenced their evil doings. One young lad said to them, that they had come to hold a prayer -meeting, at which idea the drunkards scoffed. But at such a welcome they were not discouraged. A Testament was opened and a part of a chapter read; a hymn was sung, and most melodious it was in the breeze of the morning.
By this time all had become quite serious. Not a laugh or a jest passed - nothing was heard but prayer and praise. Many a rough face was bathed with tears*. When the meeting closed, every one went home. All was serious and quiet. The beer was thrown away. Many swore emphatically that they would never go to Morlais Castle again for such a purpose. Many of them are known to have kept their word. This was continued for several Sabbath mornings, and in less than a month hundreds met on the highest summit of Morlais Castle to worship their Creator.
*Tired drunk people crying, not that surprising. And as for keeping their word, you might well not turn up again if you thought a bunch of hymn-singing teetotallers were going to be there. I could be wrong.
In 'The Welsh Revival' by Rev. Thomas Phillips (1860).