The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

Pen-y-Castell Hillfort



Coming straight from a - it has to be said - magical visit to the Dinas hill fort to the (approx) east... featuring enigmatic warrior burial and glorious views... Pen-y-Castell might well have proved an anti-climax, a disappointment. That it is nothing of the sort could mean I'm easily pleased; or that Pen-y-Castell is simply a great site in its own right? Needless to say this is no doubt a rhetorical question... utterly subjective. For what it's worth, however, I reckon the latter option holds sway.

For one thing there is no direct comparison between the landscape context of the two sites. Not at all. Passing the llynnau of Blaenmelindwr and Pendam along the Penrhyn-coch road from Ponterwyd, I park up opposite the dwelling of Bryn-goleu. My (library sale) OS map helps, but is not conclusive... I decide the public footpath heading downhill to the left is a better bet than the unmade vehicular track. The thought occurs..... 'why am I heading down hill to a hillfort?' Surely this can't be right? I guess the question is valid at the time. However in short order the hill fort is visible below, rising above the 'Rheidol Study Centre' through a break in the forestry. I'm reminded somewhat of Exmoor's wondrous Cow Castle. Ok, this isn't in the same league, but then again... what is?

The soggy footpath directs me to tarmac and hence a path following the left hand bank of a small lake, the hill fort rising upon a hill.... funnily enough.... to my left. Ignore the initial gate unless you have fingers of steel - I can not for the life of me open it and am aware that people at the 'Study Centre' may well be 'studying me' - since there is an 'official' entrance a little further along. The ramparts are but a short climb away, an apparently prehistoric monolith yours for the visiting en-route, if that's your bag.

The setting of the enclosure is sublime, if not as dramatic as the previously mentioned Dinas, with an excellent, open panorama to the west contrasting with encircling hills to the other points of the compass. The natural defences are more than sufficient, the ground falling away sharply except to the east where, as you would expect, the main (only?) entrance is situated. The single bank is more substantial than I expected, albeit subject to significant erosion in places, damage which nevertheless affords an insight into construction techniques, as noted previously by Kammer. Another feature of the site is the presence of a number of boulders of no discernable function; I've noticed these at a number of Welsh hillforts... what were they for? Surely some genius out there has a theory? Whatever, Pen-y-Castell provides a fine, evocative hang for a few hours.

So, Pen-y-Castell solves the conundrum of 'how to follow Dinas'... by being completely different, there being no relevant criteria for comparison. Hey, I can live with that. Still, it's bloody weird ascending a steep hill on the way BACK from a hill fort to the car. Right on! I can live with that, too.
2nd December 2012ce
Edited 3rd December 2012ce

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