After almost (but not quite) making it to Dinas Emrys last October - actually ending up on the hill opposite, like a prize muppet... must do better next time - an opportunity to visit another site associated with the legendary sorcerer is some recompense. To be fair the name does give prospective visitors a hint of sorts...
Merlin's Hill is (very) prominently sited a little to the approx east of the busy former Roman port of Carmarthen, the latter cited by Gerald of Wales, in 1188, as being nothing less than the wizard's birthplace. Needless to say yer man Emrys wasn't around to contradict such tomfoolery, allowing Gerald to no doubt dine out on the local innkeepers' generosity for months.
The locals are still in touch with the Arthurian vibe, the Alltyfyrddin Farm playing host to the 'Merlin's Hill Centre' offering activities (presumably) for those with children - B&B as well if you like, something which would certainly get you in the little blighters' good books... for a while, anyway. Of course some of the more traditional heads out there (he says) may well tremble at the prospect, like I did... but there is no need to fret... a public footpath ascending the hill from the approx west through woodland. In short everyone's a winner. The centre is signposted from the A40, those not visiting the farm currently able to park at a left hand junction some way beyond and walk back, the hillfort towering above to the south.
Upon arrival at the summit, following a somewhat steep clamber up the aforementioned public footpath, this visitor initially doesn't see a lot of 'hillfort', to be honest. The site is more subtle than that. What is immediately apparent, however, is the inspired setting, the enclosure completely dominating the Dyffryn Tywi to the south, the Afon Tywi executing a series of wondrous, lazy loops as it meanders its way to Carmarthen Bay to the south-west, incidentally beneath the watchful gaze of another Iron Age enclosure (surmounted by later medieval castle) at Llansteffan. Perhaps the best view, however, is that beside the main entrance to the east looking toward another distant castle at Dryslwyn. Unfortunately the defences of said entrance - pretty substantial, it should be noted - are located behind a barbed wire fence, as are what transpire to be equally formidable (if disintegrating) univallate earthworks upon the southern and western flanks, the terrain here sloping away sharply. Arguably there is a case for some serious conservation activity here? Happily, however, the northern bank - again, apparently univallate - is accessible to everyone and remains very powerful indeed, facing the direction of probable attack in times past.
So, clearly Merlin's Hill was an Iron Age enclosure of some stature, well worth the diversion if you happen to be in the area. And of course we're all suckers for legendary tomes of sorcery permeating our past like the wreathes of mist clinging to our mountain tops. Here is a place to linger a while and appreciate why this is so. Hey, why not follow the Twyi's example and let the mind 'go serpentine' for a few hours? And if you do happen to discover the old dude imprisoned up here, kindly inform the local police. Oh, and needless to say keep him away from that J.K Rowling woman... he would no doubt have suffered enough across the centuries as it is.
When I was living in Carmarthen we used to go out to Merlin's Hill. I don't think there's public access up there, but we were young and foolish. I remember trying to sneak past the farm without the dogs spotting us.
Up at the top is a beautiful meadow. I remember taking a very large pink kite up there and flying it. Some friends back home were looking out for the kite, but although Merlin's Hill itself is really obvious from town, the kite was too darned small. Happy (and in hindsight very innocent) memories. This is a beautiful spot!
The end or final fate of Merlin is surrounded by mysteries. A few years ago when I was staying n the neighbourhood of Carmarthen, Merlin's Hill (Bryn Myrddin) was pointed out to me where the great magician still lives (so they say) in a cave in that hill, and held there in imprisonment by an artful woman who contrived his disappearance from among human beings. Moreover, it is added, that if you listen in the twilight, you will hear his groans, and also the clanking of the iron chains which hold him bound. Others say he is heard working in this underground prison.
From 'Folklore of West and Mid-Wales' by J C Davies (1911).
The Coflein record says that "A single massive rampart crowns a visually distinctive, flat-topped hill, creating a roughly triangular enclosure, about 300m east-west by 180m." Visually distinctive eh, catching the eye of those folk and their stories. Marie Trevelyan tells us:
Merlin's Cave is in Merlin's Hill, above the secluded village of Abergwilli, near Carmarthen. Old stories state that Merlin is held there in bonds of enchantment by Nimue-Vivien, and it was firmly believed in the eighteenth century that the celebrated magician could be heard at certain seasons of the year bewailing his folly in allowing a woman to learn his secret spell.
This webcam has Carmarthen in the forground and Merlin's Hill in the distance (on the horizon to the right of the church tower). The camera is very strangely positioned, so I'm not sure if it's been accidentally moved, or if this is the intended view.
The Merlin's Hill Centre have designed nature trails that lead you up onto the fort. Also, choose 'Merlin' from their index for a drawing of the fort in the Iron Age complete with pointy roundhouses, and the river winding through the valley below.