1. Dinas, Great Orme

SH 779 830

This fort can be reached on foot by a short but steep path from Llandudno, up Happy Valley, starting from close to the pier. It also lies next to the Ski Centre and can be reached by a narrow road, with a small car park just next to the fort. The road to the Ski Centre is signposted through Llandudno.

This fort occupies a projecting spur of the cliffs on the south-east side of the Great Orme which itself was protected by the sea and by marshland where Llandudno is today. Its strong defences and commanding views over the whole area would have made it a formidable presence to any potential attackers. However, apart from the steep natural cliffs the fort’s defences are on a quite a small scale compared to some hillforts.

This is an unusual fort because of its coastal position and has particular significance because the Great Orme was very important because of the presence of copper ores that were mined in the prehistoric and possibly Roman periods. This was a very valuable mineral and the origins of the fort may have been connected with the mining and the ores that were produced and traded.

The fort relied on natural defences of steep natural cliffs or slopes on three sides but on the north-west side, where it is lower, there are three or possibly four lines of defensive banks through which the original main entrance track led. The defensive banks are quite slight now but were up to 2m high originally, probably consisting of a core of rubble faced with a stone wall. Their purpose was to hinder an attacker and make them easy targets to hit with sling stones.

The innermost defence consisted of a stone wall, traces of which can be seen by the inner entrance and along the west side of the fort. The inner entrance is much eroded now but would have had a heavy timber gate to defend it. There were also two smaller entrances at the west and south-west, which were only narrow footpaths and difficult to approach.

Within the fort are 65 circular platforms for roundhouses, which vary from 6 to 8m in diameter. Some still have traces of walls. Some consist only of circular platforms, perhaps for timber huts and some are quite small and may have been stores or animal sheds. If each held a family of about 5 the population must have been between 150-300 people. There was probably once a spring or pond within the fort or on the slopes below it to provide drinking water.

There has been no excavation of the defences of the fort but two of the roundhouses have excavated. Both produced butchered cattle, sheep and pig bones as well as limpet, mussel and oyster shells showing that the inhabitants had a varied diet depending on both mixed farming and coastal resources. There was also one piece of Roman pottery, a deer antler knife handle and a bone needle. Although the fort was therefore occupied in the Roman period it almost certainly originates sometime in the first millennium BC during the Iron Age or Celtic Period. Several hillforts in North-west Wales show evidence of occupation in the Roman period but probably with defences that were disused and perhaps with reduced populations, which was likely to be the case here.

The fort and area around it are protected as a Scheduled Ancient Monument in the care of Cadw. Any kind of damage, digging or metal detecting is prohibited. The fort also lies within the Great Orme Country Park and the paths are cared for by Conwy County Council. Please report any problems or damage.

Conwy County Council, Countryside Section: 01492-575200
Great Orme Country Park: 01492-874151
Cadw: 01443-336000

Gwynedd Archaeological Trust: 01248-352535. Web: www.heneb.co.uk