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Dinas Emrys Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Castell Dinas Emrys

In the community of Beddgelert.
In the historic county of Caernarfonshire.
Modern authority of Gwynedd.
Preserved county of Gwynedd.

OS Map Grid Reference: SH606492
Latitude 53.02156° Longitude -4.08011°

Dinas Emrys Castle has been described as a certain Timber Castle, and also as a certain Masonry Castle, and also as a certain Palace.

There are masonry footings remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


A complex stone-walled fort occupying the summit of a volcanic outcrop overlooking the Gwynant valley. This is traditionally the site where Vortigern attempted to build a fortress and where the boy Merlin prophesied about dragons. Excavations, in 1910 and 1954-6, have produced evidence for Iron Age, Roman and early Medieval (Dark Age) occupation, whilst some of the surviving stone work is also thought to be medieval in date. The fort extends over an area of about 200m east-west by 100m. The main, inner enclosure has an entrance on the west beyond which are two further lines of walls with gateways, the lowest close to the foot of the rock. The route up through the three gates is torturous, involving blind alleys and zigzags. The razor back ridge connecting the rock to the mountain proper offers a relatively straightforward approach. At the highest point of the hill top are the remains of an oblong stone keep 13m by 11m, of medieval date. This is thought to one of a small cluster of early stone-built castles constructed in Gwynedd at the end of the twelfth century, together with Castell Aber Ia (Castell Deudraeth) (NPRN 302700), Carn Fadrun (NPRN 95275), Tomen Castell (NPRN 303046) and Castell Pen-y-garn (NPRN 407747). These were not placed to withstand alien invasion, but were rather an expression of a Prince's power and lordship in the unsettled period following the death of Owain Gwynedd in 1170 and the subsequent division of the county between his sons. (Coflein–Louise Barker, RCAHMW, 5th June 2008)

A fort on a small hill at the S end of Nant Gwynant. The site was excavated in 1910 by C E Breese and again in 1954-56 by H N Savory. The present remains consist of a ruinous wall encircling the hill top, with some outer works at the W end; the foundations of a square stone tower; and slight remains beside a pool. The dating of the remains is not conclusive, although late Prehistoric, Roman, sub-Roman and Mediaeval periods would appear to be represented. The encircling wall is not an impressive feature, surviving as a grass-covered stone bank varying between 1.0 and 2.5 m wide and 0.5 m high. At the W entrance the wall is 3 m wide and 1.2 m high. About 40 m below the entrance is another length of walling 40 m long, with an entrance centrally placed. 75 m below this is a further short length of ruinous wall blocking the access up the hill. The square tower, assumed to be Mediaeval, has walls 1.2 m wide, 1.0 m high from the outside and 2.0 m high from the inside. There is a good inner face on the E and W sides. The interior of the tower measures 9.75 m by 7 m. An ash tree is growing on the W wall. Immediately S of the tower is a precipitous drop down to the remains of the pool. Between the base of the cliff and the pool is a modern sheepfold. The pool is visible as a marshy area, overgrown with rushes, and with stones set around the NE side. It overflows through a narrow rivulet on the SW side. On the N and S sides of the hill, outside the inner rampart, are remains of terraced walling. These are fragmentary and overgrown, but still visible. The round hut shown on the RCAHMW plan was not identifiable. (Scheduling Report)

Hillfort here was inhabited in C5, and there is speculation that it may have been the residence of Vortigern. Later legends associate the place with Merlin the Magician (a.k.a. Emrys) and the Arthurian legends. In C9, Nennius told the tale that two dragons fought beneath the hill of Dinas Emrys. One dragon was white, representing the Saxons, and one dragon was red, representing the Britons (Welsh Celts). In C13 a stone keep, possibly erected by Llewelyn ap Iorwerth was built atop the hill.
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This record last updated 05/07/2016 21:50:33