Castle Dinas Bran
Dramatically situated high on the hill that overlooks Llangollen, Dinas Bran must be one of the most romantic and magical places in Britain.
In song and story it is the castle of the Holy Grail! Although the stone ruin of Castell Dinas Bran is medieval, it stands on the site of an ancient Iron-Age hill-fort. The ditch and earth banks that enclose the southern and eastern parts of the fortress date to the Iron Age. It was the home of the Princes of Powys until the 8th century, but the hilltop had strategic value long before they came here.
The word, "Dinas," has its origins in the Iron Age and it is found in the names of Iron Age hillforts throughout Wales. In the Dark Ages, Dinas Bran was associated with King Elisedd (see Eliseg's Pillar). There are much earlier stories though and the castle is named after Bran the Blessed, a deified hero from Welsh and Irish mythology. His name means "Raven" and his story also connects to the legend of the ravens on Tower Hill in London.
Dinas Bran is also known as Castle Corbenic in the legend of the Holy Grail. Corben is a French word for crow or raven and means Bran in Welsh. In Welsh myth, Bran went on a long journey from Harlech to Ireland to recover a magical vessel of plenty - a Cauldron of Rebirth which was the forerunner of the Grail. Like the Grail King, Bran was wounded by a spear and the land became a wasteland until he was healed. It is said that the wound was in the groin and would not heal leading to loss of potency. The link between the sexual vigour of the king and the fertility of the land is common to many cultures. Later, his head was cut off, but continued to speak. Following his instructions, Bran's head was taken to the hill that was to become the site of the Tower of London. It was buried and as long as it remained there it would guard the land. Strange that the present day ravens at the Tower are still said to perform that function.