7. Pen y Castell, Maenan

SH 793 665

This hillfort lies on a spur on the east side of the Conwy Valley, north of Llanrwst, close to the former abbey of Maenan, now Maenan Abbey Hotel. From the hotel on the A470 road take the minor road immediately to the east up the hill, taking the left fork at the first junction and a small car park will be found, signposted to Cadair Ifan Goch and with an information panel and map on which the fort is shown. Cadair Ifan Goch is a famous viewpoint on the cliffs on the valley side, and in the care of the National Trust. The footpath to Cadair Ifan Goch passes close to the fort but it is all in dense woodland so not easy to see. There are no cleared paths to the fort, the approach through dense woodland is therefore difficult and the slopes on the sides of the fort are steep so care needs to be taken.

The fort lies on a narrow rocky ridge, about 150m long and 50m wide that  extends south on the edge of the valley. Most of it has very steep slopes except at the north and highest end where it joins on to the main hillside. The sides with steep slopes are defended by an intermittent stone wall. There is an entrance at the west side, which has possible small guard chambers on either side. Otherwise there are no signs of any settlement within this larger fort. The approaches from the north are defended by a large ditch across the  ridge and by a massive stone wall up to 5m wide, defining an ‘inner fort’  separated by a cross wall, which is much slighter than the outer small fort wall and certainly does not provide a strong defence against attack from this side. Within this inner fort, which is level, are traces of a building of uncertain shape, suggested to have been the base of a round tower, but possibly the platform for a rectangular timber building. There is no definite entrance into the smaller fort. It has been suggested that the larger fort may be of Iron Age date while the smaller fort may be a Medieval stronghold, or the whole fort may be of the later date.  However, there have so far been no excavations or finds to provide any further evidence.

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. Please report any problems or damage.

Cadw: 01443-336000
Gwynedd Archaeological Trust: 01248-352535. Web: www.heneb.co.uk