The first fortifications were created on the later castle’s hill already in the Iron Age, around 600 BC. The medieval stone castle was built in the mid-13th century, probably by Gruffydd II ap Madoga, Welsh ruler of the principality of Powys Fadog. When he died in 1269 or 1270, the castle was passed to his four sons. Madoc was the eldest son and senior, but each of the younger heirs could live in Dinas Bran.
In 1276, war between England and Wales began, and Edward’s army soon invaded the enemy. Two brothers, Llywelyn and Madoc, made peace with the king, but still fighting younger brothers, Owain and Gruffudd, were in the castle. In the face of Earl of Lincoln, Henry de Lacy’s forces, the brothers set fire and left the stronghold. The castle, however, was not seriously damaged, and the fire was mainly limited to timber structures inside the walls. Henry de Lacy recommended king Edward, that the castle should be repaired and staffed with an English garrison.
The history of Dinas Bran during the Second War of Wales Independence, which broke out in 1282, is not known. The Welsh could recapture it like many other fortresses in the first months of the war, but eventually it fell to the English. After the war, most of the Powys Fadog principality and the castle were given to John de Warenne, Earl of Surrey. Instead of rebuilding it, Warenne decided to build a new castle in Holt, and Dinas Brân fell into disrepair.
The castle was erected on a high hill near its northern and western slopes. There, external earth fortifications were not needed due to the high and steep hillsides. From the other sides, the approach to the castle was secured by a wide, 6-meter-deep, rock cut ditch.
The castle was founded on a rectangular plan with the main element in the form of a four-sided, two-story keep on the eastern side. It was fully extended in front of the perimeter of the defensive walls, and this location can be explained that in this area terrain reached the highest height. The massive building could also flank the bridge and the entrance gate due to the protruding walls. Both the keep and gate towers were equipped with latrines, as evidenced by the preserved outflows.
Access to the castle led along the timber bridge through the north – east gate, consisting of two narrow towers in the shape of elongated horseshoes, flanking the passage between them. The gate’s passage was topped with a rib vault. An additional horseshoe tower was erected within the southern curtain. It probably had three floors with living rooms at the highest floor. Right next to it was a rectangular building of the great hall, after which two large ogival holes in the perimeter wall are visible. It was a large room for serving meals and greeting guests, connected with a kitchen, located in the ground floor of the southern tower. In the south-western part of the defensive wall there was a small postern gate. The area of the castle ward was occupied by stables, workshops, outbuildings and perhaps a chapel, all made of wood.
The castle today is a poorly preserved ruin. Visible are mainly the relics of the keep, the towers of the gate and the defensive wall at which the building of the great hall stood. The dry moat of the castle is also visible. Entrance to the ruins area is free and relics of buildings were described with information boards of the government agency Cadw. From the castle hill there is a wonderful view, also for this reason it is worth visiting Dinas Brân. In addition, the ruins of the Abbey of Valle Crucis are nearby.
Davis P.R., Castles of the Welsh Princes, Talybont 2011.
Kenyon J., The medieval castles of Wales, Cardiff 2010.
Lindsay E., The castles of Wales, London 1998.