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SJ 00040412

This long narrow fort is of interest because of the surface evidence of enlargement, the existence of vitrified stone in its south-west rampart, and for its superb views. It is built in a naturally defensive position, with steep, unbroken slope to the valley floor on the south-east. The original fort ran from the north-east tip to the highest point of the ridge – a narrow, triangular enclosure with a curving south-west bank and an awkward entrance in the apex, with perhaps three gateways in line one behind the other. The south-east side needed little extra defence; on the other there were two banks, essentially scarps, with a small ditch between.

The curvature of the south-west end is the clue to the enlargement of the fort, for the smooth line of the extension is broken where the original incurve began. This can be on the ground quite easily on the south-east side, and on aerial photographs it is very obvious; even the line of the demolished rampart across the hill can be made out. The added defences on the south-west are much more substantial than the original ones, largely because the hill became less steep here. The most notable feature is a deep rock-cut ditch fronting a higher and stonier rampart with its own counterscarp bank. No new entrance was provided, which must have made life difficult for the inhabitants, for access to the north entrance is awkward, even for friendly visitors! The present gap in the western defences is modern, though a little further south is an original uncut section of ditch, perhaps an informal crossing point.

Vitrified stones, presumably fallen from the rampart above, have been found in the ditch on the north-west corner. Vitrification of stone normally arises from the burning of a timber-laced rampart (a stone wall braced by a timber framework) but only excavation could confirm the presence of this feature. It is an aspect of military design which was thought to be restricted to a certain period and to certain groups, possibly with Scottish connections, but this has not been convincingly demonstrated.

Patches of dark vegetation can be seen in the fort on aerial photographs, and sometimes on the ground. These may mark sub-surface features, probably round house sites. No finds have been reported from the site, although the interior has been cultivated at some period, for cultivation ridges can be seen on the summit in suitable lighting conditions.

From Bala, take A494 NE for 7km (4.5 miles) and turn left at Bethel onto narrow road and continue along contour for 3.5km (2 miles) to complex junction at Tyn y Bwlch. If coming from the A5, turn west at Maerdy onto narrow road opposite Goat Hotel. From Tyn y Bwlch turn sharp left (signed Cwm Main); continue for 1km (0.75 mile) past No Through Road sign. Park where road bears right and is gated; follow fence to left directly up the hill or follow path ahead then walk back along the ridge to enter fort at SW end. This is all Access land but use only the paths and stiles provided. Bracken can be a problem in high summer.

Distance: 1.25km (0.75 mile)
Difficulty: Easy
Time: 1.5 hours

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