I don't know how this little blighter passed me by, I first saw it on Coflein and then found that Rhiannon had already added it as a site here. Good isn't she.
It's been on the list for about three months.
When travelling west on the B4500 you come into Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog ( or Llanarmon DC for short ) a sharp left hand turn takes you over an old bridge, just before the road takes you left turn right up a steep narrow lane.
Pass Penybryn farm house, and keep going until the road leaves tarmac behind, I parked on a grass verge well out of the way and the fort visible on the hill top. Walk up the track til your just about east of the fort and a large boundary (?) stone is by a fence. Go through/over the gate and walk up hill to the trees, aptly or not called Roman camp wood. Apt or not coflein assures us the fort is definitely iron age.
I skirt along the south side of the trees and shortly arrive at the eastern extreme of the fort, it's in the trees to my right as well but i'll look in there on my way out.
I start the obligatory circumambulation round the fort, at its south east corner the ramparts are fairly slight and mellow. Oddly there are many large boulders in and next to the ditch, some are in lines and may be instructive in how to build an iron age fort, a chunk of the bank has eroded away exposing the interior, definitely instructive.
Walking west along the southern ramparts i'm sure I came across the worn down entrance, then twenty yards on another one. Then a fence cuts the fort in two, on this side of the fence it's all farmy and agricultered, but on the other side it's more wild, rough and more Welsh, I skip the fence with glee (I wasn't singing).
The banks here are higher, the ditch is deeper and there's no boulders in the ditch, I follow the rampart north. The rain is now coming at me sideways, blown into a near explosive force.
I make for the quartz outcrops on top of the hill but outside the fort, they make an adequate windbreak and the position affords a great view of the fort and all the quartz running across its summit, i haven't seen anything like this much quartz since Duloe or Henblas, there is more here.
I cross back over the well preserved western ramparts and make for the quartz crown at the top of the fort, it's still raining, so I sit among the giant white boulders and regard the northern aspect, the ramparts run by in front of me from left to right, and the hills beyond rise up to Vivod mountain. Back out into the stingy sideways rain (ably deflected by my new coat 'n boots) I follow the earthworks east, they are still high and defendable here. But now ive come back to the trees, so it's over the fence once more and a short snoop later and ive detected a good section of ramparts, though coflein says there is another entrance nearby. I think it must have been back near where I started, about twenty yards from where I finished.
So this was a little gem of a fort, and i'm non plussed as to its obscurity, even without all the tons of quartz it would still be high on your list of North Walean hill forts.
Come on a warm summers eve though ay?
The cave in the story is in amongst the crags below the fort and above the river.
Of the cave (Ogof y Coed Cochion) I have fond memories. About twenty-five or thirty men can stand inside it. That will suggest to the reader the approximate size. It is undoubtedly an artificial cave on the ledge of a steep castellated rock, and neither man nor wild beast could well approach and commit depredations if the caveman and his family kept their eyes open. It is a comfortable dry room in the rock right opposite the farm Sarphle, and has a crevice about four or five yards long, opened out to the surface, to answer the purpose of a chimney.
I once dug a hole in the floor of the cave in "search of treasure", or for pieces of brass left by the mythological smith who made the Brazen Head, the Pen Pres, as we call it. It was to this Ynca-fashioned high home in the frowning rock the farm-boys of the period crept from cliff to cliff on all-fours on Easter Sundays to boil eggs. To eat eggs on that day was a custom as sacred as those performed on Pancake Tuesdays and Hot-Cross Bun days. [..] It was a genuine traditional usage, and no wicked freak of servant boys given to steal eggs and eat them.
We quote Dr Phene's narrative, given the form of a dialogue between himself and his guide, Mr. William Jones, an inhabitant of Llangollen, and the Doctor's version of the legend:--
"We now approach Penbryn , the house of Mrs Phebe Hughes, mother to the poet John Ceiriog*. The house was placed near where the ridge terminated. It was just getting dark, and Mrs. Hughes was already preparing to retire, when Mr. Morris explained, in Welsh, my request that the tradition of the cave might be given me. The conversation was conducted in Welsh, and the narrative, which was evidently curtailed from the desire of Mrs. Hughes to retire, was as follows:--
" 'In former times a man, who was a smith, lived in the cave which overhangs the river Ceiriog. This man was commanded, by some unseen powers, to make a head of brass. It was to be of great size, and to be made after a style described to him. The smith was not to sleep during the whole time he was making the brazen head, nor until it had revealed to him all the knowledge man could know. The matter became known, and as soon as it was found that the head would require weeks to make, persons were directed to keep the smith awake, by pricking him with needles and pins. This continued until the smith's work was accomplished. This being so, the head began to speak, and, addressing its maker, stated:-- "I will tell you first three things, and then I will explain them, and give the knowledge to you. I know-- 1. What has been. 2. What is. 3. What will be." The assembled people were so astounded by the sound of a voice from the head, that their guard over the smith was forgotten. This no sooner ceased than the wearied metallurgist fell asleep, and the head ceased for ever the statement it had begun.' "
Next it's implied that there is a rock-cut chamber under the house (apparently with its own spring), and that's where the cave-dwelling smith made the head. But that seems so unnecessary when you've got a nice cave. And then there's an even more elaborate version of the story.
From Dyffryn Ceiriog Folk-Lore, by *John Ceiriog Hughes, in Collections Historical & Archaeological Relating to Montgomeryshire, v 17 (1884).