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Bryn Castell


<b>Bryn Castell</b>Posted by GLADMANImage © Robert Gladstone
Nearest Town:Barmouth (5km SSW)
OS Ref (GB):   SH65072042 / Sheet: 124
Latitude:52° 45' 50.87" N
Longitude:   3° 59' 59.96" W

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<b>Bryn Castell</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Bryn Castell</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Bryn Castell</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Bryn Castell</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Bryn Castell</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Bryn Castell</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Bryn Castell</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Bryn Castell</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Bryn Castell</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Bryn Castell</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Bryn Castell</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Bryn Castell</b>Posted by postman <b>Bryn Castell</b>Posted by postman <b>Bryn Castell</b>Posted by postman <b>Bryn Castell</b>Posted by postman <b>Bryn Castell</b>Posted by postman <b>Bryn Castell</b>Posted by postman <b>Bryn Castell</b>Posted by postman


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Ah, hill forts.... of all the myriad monument types featured within - or should that be on? - TMA I would have thought the hill fort would be the simplest to define? A fort built upon a hill, right? What could be easier? Hmmm. For starters, how does one define a hill? My Oxford English Dictionary reckons a hill is "A naturally raised area of land, not as high or craggy as a mountain", whereas a mountain is "A large natural elevation of the earth's surface rising abruptly from the surrounding level; a large steep hill". Pretty woolly explanations, to be fair. Open to interpretation, particularly when, for example, the locals upon The Isle of Skye refer to the peerless, 3,000ft plus naked rock of The Black Cuillin as 'hills'. Depends on your point of view.

Herein, then, lies my dilemma when attempting to categorise the superb little fortress of Bryn Castell. As we human are wont to do. In my estimation a 'mountain' imparts a certain mind set upon the visitor, irrespective of height above ordnance datum. An (apparent) appreciation that primeval forces - represented, perhaps, by the extreme application of adverse conditions such as cold, wind, precipitation etc - are acting upon the human cognitive process, somehow accessing seemingly forgotten memes (or other ancestral 'group knowledge' cascaded down the millennia - hey, clearly I'm no expert here) long since subsumed beneath an accumulation of modern behaviours and values which, I guess, only time will reveal may or may not represent an incremental advancement of our species. A feeling that, just perhaps, the landscape may actually be 'speaking' to us, unlocking that door in the psyche behind which a lot of interesting 'stuff' lies in cold storage. Reminding us that we should really be taking a lot more notice of the base forces which shape our environment. That we should show more respect to the Nature of Darwin and Hawking, venture forth from the geodesic dome on a more regular basis. Like Michael York who, upon finding that his 'life clock' is now blinking, decides to do make a break for reality in Logan's Run. Making sure not to forget Jenny Agutter as he does so, naturally. Or something like that. Whatever the truth... for me, Bryn Castell is a 'mountain fort' since it causes me to think of such things.

The current 1:25K OS map depicts Bryn Castell as a 'Settlement'. Not something to raise the pulse, to be honest. However, needs must. The site featured upon my 'bad weather list' invoked upon those unfortunately all-too-frequent days when cloud sits upon the North Walian uplands like a gigantic mothership with intergalactic pilots having much to learn in the parking department. As if maintaining solidarity with said cloud base, my mood is not lifted by the presence of one of those black-clad heddlu individuals pointing his little laser at me as I (somehow) miss the turning at Bontddu first time around. Look for the massive blue (I think) 'chapel' and follow the very steep, very minor road to its eventual terminus at a parking area beyond a gate (SH657202).

I ignore the rough track heading left, instead venturing forth straight ahead through a gate to ascend a green track... the old London to Harlech 'road', no less, travelled when 'horse power' was quite literally just that. And employed by all. At a (presumably relatively modern) marker stone a track veers to the left (west) while the main, walled route continues to ascend the excellent, grassy Y Braich - or 'The Arm' - reaching down from the heights of the southern Rhinogydd above and beyond. Now since Bryn Castell is located upon the southern-most extremity of Y Braich sticking to the main route will do; however I veer to the west to enjoy what, in my opinion, is a much more memorable approach, the site towering dramatically above to my right.

So... a short climb finally brings me to the fine, univallate 'fort. As Postman says, the view southwards across Aber Mawddach toward Cadair Idris is absolutely stunning, even when viewed under somewhat less than ideal conditions. However it is that to the north, looking up the aforementioned Y Braich to the high summits of Y Rhinogydd, the latter obscured by swirling vapour, that seems to awaken the hunter-gatherer in me. The 2,462ft Diffwys periodically beckons through the gloom, the brutal landscape occasionally illuminated by washes of sunlight all too quickly extinguished, as if by the silent admonition of a cosmic Warden Hodges: 'Put that bloody light out you ruddy 'ooligan!'. The path appears tempting, the foreshortened scene promising an memorable afternoon... if only the cloud would break. I wait in vain, deciding to return and make the climb some other time. As it is the weather provides an opportunity just two days hence. The route is a lot steeper than it appears.....

Suffice to say, then, that Bryn Castell occupies a damn fine spot. But what of the archaeology? Well, for such a small site the defensive wall is pretty strong (albeit clearly robbed to the east to build a dry stone field wall). Furthermore, the northern high point of the enclosure features the remains of an enigmatic round structure which could, I guess, be variously interpreted as 'round house', proto-donjon or round cairn. Or none of the above. For what it's worth, the feature is perfectly profiled upon the skyline when viewed from the valley below, a characteristic suggestive of a cairn. But then again... Guess only excavation will confirm. Yeah, right. A retrospective perusal of Coflein suggests that, as with a number of other upland defensive enclosures clustered around Cadair Idris, the small size of Bryn Castell might suggest use as a temporary citadel rather than permanently occupied home?

Despite the impressive, nay, intriguing remains, for me the primary reason to come here is to enjoy that (obviously) indefinable 'mountain vibe'. As with Crug Hywel upon the southern slopes of Pen Cerrig-calch far to the south, Bryn Castell belongs to the uplands, as if a small, wild bird cupped in the grasping hand of Y Rhinogydd. To call it a mere hill fort is to do it an injustice.
18th March 2018ce
Edited 18th March 2018ce

This is not the best hill fort in North Wales, it's not even the best hill fort within site of Cader Idris, bit it is a North Walean hill fort within site of Cader Idris and that alone gets it on to my list.
Leaving Barmouth east alongside the Mawddach estuary on the A496, turn left at Bontddu, and follow this road all the way, one gate has to be opened and shut, a large parking place soon presents itself, avail yourself of it's services, and walk. It's a gentle up hill walk for about a half mile, the fort is soon in view.
It's only a small settlement, large enough for a single house with family, but they still felt the need to build a large wall round it. Perhaps the other fort across the river had some impact on them.
The highest point of this little fort has a large pile of rubble on it, I don't know what it is or was, I like to think it is the site of the house, surely it must be.
The stone rubble that was the wall round it does not now go all the way round it, on the west side it's all grassed over, to the extent that I could not discern an entrance to the site.

It was the mountain view that drew me here, and had the sky remained the same all day it would have been a fine view. But sadly the day has turned, the mountains hidden in cloud and now i'm being snowed on, so it must be time to go, but not before I up my thumbs to the Mawddach estuary and Pared-y-Cefn-Hir hill fort across the way, always great in any weather.
postman Posted by postman
26th March 2017ce
Edited 27th March 2017ce