What a lovely place to come for a picnic / walk in the summer!
From the village of Pontneddfechan the forestry commission site is clearly sign posted. There is a large free car park and the first thing that strikes you is the huge, flat, near vertical rock face which had a couple of climbing ropes dangling down it. There is an information board and map of the walks available from the car park. The info board states Craig -Y –Ddinas means 'Fortress of the Rock' and seeing the afore mentioned rock face you can easily see how the place got its name! Strangely enough there is no mention of a Hillfort and it is not marked on the otherwise fairly detailed map. There are several paths to follow and I decided on the one which leads to the nearest waterfall and is an easy 400 metre walk along the river bank (wheelchair friendly). I passed a small cave entrance on the left, below the sheer cliff face and the gently flowing river was on my right. When the path ends you are close to a small waterfall. Very pretty. A group of 'gorge walkers' had just taken the plunge into the icy water!
As for access to the Hillfort itself, I couldn't find any! (Unless I joined the climbing club who had just started scaling the cliff face!) There must be a way up to have a Hillfort here in the first place but there was no obvious route. The information board states that there were a lot of explosives used in the area in the past (one walk is called the gunpowder path) so perhaps the original access way has been destroyed?
Anyway, this is such a pretty place to visit that I shall return in the summer with Karen and the children and will have another look for a path to the Hillfort.
Visited 8.11.2009, as part of a walk to the spectacular waterfalls nearby, with a group of friends. The fort itself was at the very end of a 10 mile circular route up the Nedd valley and back down the Afon Mellte valley.
According to the information board the name means "Fortress Rock". Approached from the north-east (bridleway from Sgwd yr Eira waterfall), there is not a great deal to see in the way of defences. There appear to be two low banks running on the NW and SE sides of the promontory, but not much else. However, once on the promontory itself, it is clear that the site is well protected on the north, west and south by forbidding cliffs. There is a steep path down from the fort to the car park, hemmed in by rocks on either side - not somewhere you'd happily attack in earnest.
On the SE bank stands an upright stone, not sure if this is natural or artificially erected - it's not mentioned anywhere that I've found and seems rather odd on a grass bank.
If you're in the area, the woods and rivers nearby are beautiful and the waterfalls spectacular, so well worth a trip out. As this was a rare trip by car for me, I'm not sure what the local public transport is like for getting here.
"This," said the narrator, [being a story about Gitto Bach] "made me more anxious than ever to see the fairies," and his wish was gratified by a gipsy, who directed him to find a four-leaved clover, and put it with nine grains of wheat on the leaf of a book which she gave him. She then desired him to meet her next night by moonlight on the top of Craig y Dinis. She there washed his eyes with the contents of a phial which she had, and he instantly saw thousands of fairies, all in white, dancing to the sounds of numerous harps. They then placed themselves on the edge of the hill, and sitting down and putting their hands round their knees, they tumbled down one after another, rolling head-over-heels till they disappeared in the valley.
The next anecdote is told by another person present, about the Vale of Neath, so I feel sure this is the right Craig y Ddinas. From 'The Fairy Mythology' by Thomas Keightley
, on line at the sacred texts archive. http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/tfm/tfm163.htm
This narrow fort on a promontory above Pontneddfechan is fantastically well defended by its sheer cliffs. There's a car park conveniently at the bottom, and a bridleway makes its way up to the top.
Wirt Sikes has this to say:
Especially does a certain steep and rugged crag [in the Vale of Neath] called Craig y Ddinas, bear a distinctly awful reputation as a stronghold of the fairy tribe. Its caves and crevices have been their favourite haunt for many centuries, and upon this rock was held the court of the last fairies who have ever appeared in Wales*. Needless to say there are men still living who remember the visits of the fairies to Craig y Ddinas, although they aver the little folk are no longer seen there. It is a common remark that the Methodists drove them away, indeed there are numberless stories which show the fairies to have been animated, when they were still numerous in Wales, by a cordial antipathy for all dissenting preachers. In this antipathy, it may be here observed, teetotalers were included.
*Don't take this to heart as it is an obvious lie. Quote from Sykes's 'British Goblins', 1880.
Edwin Sidney Hartland, in 'The Science of Fairy Tales' (1891) explains the Arthurian connection of the site:
A Welshman, it was said, walking over London Bridge with a hazel staff in his hand, was met by an Englishman, who told him that the stick he carried grew on a spot under which were hidden vast treasures, and if the Welshman remembered the place arid would show it to him he would put him in possession of those treasures.
After some demur the Welshman consented, and took the Englishman (who was in fact a wizard) to the Craig-y-Ddinas and showed him the spot. They dug up the hazel tree on which the staff grew and found under it a broad flat stone. This covered the entrance to a cavern in which thousands of warriors lay in a circle sleeping on their arms. In the centre of the entrance hung a bell which the conjurer begged the Welshman to beware of touching. But if at any time he did touch it and any of the warriors should ask if it were day, he was to answer without hesitation "No; sleep thou on."
The warriors' arms were so brightly polished that they illumined the whole cavern; and one of them had arms that outshone the rest, and a crown of gold lay by his side. This was Arthur; and when the Welshman had taken as much as he could carry of the gold which lay in a heap amid the warriors, both men passed out; not, however, without the Welsh-man's accidentally touching the bell. It rang; but when the inquiry: "Is it day?" came from one of the warriors, he was prompt with the reply: "No; sleep thou on."
The conjurer afterwards told him that the company he had seen lay asleep ready for the dawn of the day when the Black Eagle and the Golden Eagle should go to war, the clamour of which would make the earth tremble so much that the bell would ring loudly and the warriors would start up, seize their arms, and destroy the enemies of the Cymry, who should then repossess the island of Britain and be governed from Caerlleon with justice and peace so long as the world endured.
When the Welshman's treasure was all spent he went back to the cavern and helped himself still more liberally than before. On his way out he touched the bell again: again it rang. But this time he was not so ready with his answer, and some of the warriors rose up, took the gold from him, beat him and cast him out of the cave. He never recovered the effects of that beating, but remained a cripple and a pauper to the end of his days; and he never could find the entrance to the cavern again.