6. Penygaer

SH 750 693

This hillfort is quite remote but can be reached by a small road that leads north-westwards up the hill from Llanbedrycennin, which lies just east of Tal-y-Bont on the B5106 road, south of Conwy. There is a small car park by the fort. The footpath to the fort leads from a stile a little further along the road.

The path from the car park leads up to and through the fort entrance, all the other gaps through the walls are modern breaks. Just below the entrance is an area of scattered large stones. These were deliberately placed as part of the fort’s defences to hinder attackers and make them easier targets. Excavations carried out in 1906 showed another similar area of upright stones placed in the bottom of the outer ditch on the south side.

One side of the hill has a very steep natural slope and has only one rampart but the other sides were less steep and so easier to attack have three ramparts. The inner rampart was the main wall of the fort, a bank of stone rubble with a stone wall facing, part of which can still be seen within the entrance and along the south side of the fort. The outer ramparts were just banks of stone and earth. The facing of an entrance through the inner rampart can be seen close to the modern footpath over it, as it approaches inner rampart at the west side of the fort.

There are traces of about a dozen roundhouses inside the fort but they are difficult to see because they are just circular platforms terraced into the hill slope. There are some on the south side and some on the north side. The lack of traces of stone walls suggests that the houses had walls of wood.

Several roundhouses and other areas were excavated in 1906. Traces of iron working were found as well as rubbing stones, a stone spindle whorl and sling stones, but nothing that would show what date the fort was occupied. However, the absence of Roman period pottery suggests that it was occupied only in the Iron Age and abandoned at or before the Roman conquest of north Wales in the 1st century AD. At Caerhun, in the valley by the River Conwy, far below the fort, a Roman fort was built and the location may have been chosen partly to replace the previous commanding position of the hillfort and the status it had as a local tribal centre.

Close to where the footpath crosses the outer rampart are walls that are the remains of a probable medieval homestead consisting of a small house, outbuildings and yards. Below these, just outside the outer rampart are two small but prominent mounds. One of these was excavated in 1906, revealing much charcoal, fragments of burnt bone and pieces of copper but nothing to show what period the mounds belong to. They are rather different to Bronze Age burial mounds and the proximity to the fort suggests that they were associated with the fort, perhaps the site of cremation burials, the copper pieces being parts of an object burnt with the cremation. The type and position of the mounds are unusual and may show some kind of ceremonial connected with the abandonment or defeat of the fort during the Roman conquest. Future excavation may be able to find out what they were really for.

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 lies within the Snowdonia National Park. Please report any problems or damage.

Snowdonia National Park: 01766-770274
Cadw: 01443-336000
Gwynedd Archaeological Trust: 01248-352535. Web: www.heneb.co.uk