Gwynedd Archaeological Trust
Regional Historic Environment Record

Hillfort, Dinas Emrys, Beddgelert

Primary Reference Number (PRN) : 1462
Trust : Gwynedd
Community : Beddgelert
NGR : SH60604920
Site Type (preferred type first) : Early Medieval HILLFORT
Legal Protection : Scheduled Ancient Monument

Summary :
Dinas Emrys is well known as the site of the legendary confrontation between Vortigern and Ambrosius, recounted by Nennius in the 9th century. The site occupies a small, steep-sided hill some 70m above the floor of the Glaslyn valley. The summit is craggy and irregular with an enclosed area of approximately 1.2 hectares.

The fort was partially excavated by H.N.Savory in 1954 and since then a number of different and occasionally contradictary interpretations of the site have been offered. However the main phases of occupations seem to start with a possible palisade of pre-Roman date, followed by an early Romano British phase evidenced by 1st century AD pottery. A later Romano British phase is indicated by ceramics and glassware, including late 3rd or 4th century mortaria and colour coated wares. The glassware is dated as late or post Roman. An imported amphora and a sherd of pottery stamped with the chi-rho symbol are evidence of early medieval use of the site - this is also the period to which the ramparts are thought to date. The latest phase of activity on the site is the rectangular stone tower, likely to belong the the reign of Llywelyn ap Iorwerth (d.AD 1240).

Description :
A fort occupying a small hill the ancient remains are generally ruinous and confused.

The entrance seems to have been from the west end, the natural line of the ascent in narrowed by a ruinous wall. Above this the ascent led to a gap in a second rampart, about 80yds east of the first. This rampart extends for about 40yds ending on the top of the precipices. The innermost rampart lies 40yds further east penetrated by a gap. Halfway between these two ramparts access is further hindered by a natural crag about 10ft high, ending on a precipices, and only to be passed by a narrow track.

The ramparts are very ruinous, but they appear to have been about 10ft thick, of rubble faced with laid stone. Where natural slopes provide sufficient defence the walls seems to be absent or have been reduced to no more than an ordinary field boundary in thickness.

A tower measures 32ft N - S by 23ft the walls are about 4ft thick with the external face battered of rubble masonry laid dry and jointed with clay, there is no visible entrance.

The remains are probably those of a 12th century tower comparable to the earlier building at Dolwyddelan.

Dinas Emrys figures in several traditional stories Nennius records magical events associated with Vortigern's attempt to build a palace above the spring there, later the burial of the dragons which appear in that story is explained, and a very late tradition makes the fort the site of a battle between Owen son of Maximus, and the Irishman Urnach. <1>

An Iron Age bronze teret from this site is now in the NMW. <2>

Dating of a sample of wood from a 1.2m deep posthole yielded a date of 650+ or -100yrs. The sample was originally thought to be Iron Age. C14 date of 650+/- 100yrs unexpectedly late. Sample originally thought to be Iron Age with site extending into the 12th century. <3>

Site description <4> <5> <6>

A stone walled fort making use of natural scarps or slope and therefore irregular in outline, with a lower annexe enclosing a lower terrace of the hill. (Smith, 2006)

Sources :
Smith, G. , 2006 , A Survey of Prehistoric Defended Enclosures in North-west Wales 2005-6: Gwynedd Dwyfor and Meirionnydd. Part 2: Management Gazetteer
Smith, G. , 2006 , A Survey of Prehistoric Defended Enclosures in North-west Wales 2005-6: Gwynedd Dwyfor and Meirionnydd ( © GAT)
Royal Commission on Ancient and Historic Monuments , 1960 , Caernarvonshire , <1>
Ordnance Survey , 1976 , SH64NW 2 , <2>
Taylor, A. J. , 1980 , Culture and Environment in Prehistoric Wales , <3>
Davidson, A. , 1988 , FMW Caernarvonshire , <4>
Breese, C. E. , 1930 , Archaeologia Cambrensis , <5>
Savory, H. N. , 1960 , Archaeologia Cambrensis , <6>
Davidson, A. , 1993 , Dinas Emrys Camp , <7>
Brooks, I. & Laws, K. , 2002 , Topographical and Geophysical Surveys at Dinas Emrys , <8>
Campbell, E. , 2007 , Continental and Mediterranean Imports to Atlantic Britain and Ireland, AD 400-800 , <9>
Russell, M. , 2009 , Current Archaeology , <10>
Taylor, A. J. , 1951 , The Archaeological News Letter , <11>
Avent, R. , 1983 , Castles of the Princes of Gwynedd , <12>
Davies, W. , 1982 , Wales in the Early Middle Ages , <13>
Cathcart King, D. J. , 1983 , Castellarium Anglicanum , <14>
Avent, R. , 1994 , Chateau Gaillard , <15>
Kenyon, R. & Williams, D. , 2010 , The Impact of the Edwardian Castles in Wales , <16>
Barker, P. & Higham, R. , 2004 , Timber Castles , <17>

Events :
42000 : Cn 018 Fmw Site Visit (year : 1988)
42001 : The Fort of Dinas Emrys (year : 1910)
42002 : Excavations at Dinas Emrys, Beddgelert, 1954-56 (year : 1956)
40996 : C14 Dates (year : 1980)
42003 : Cn 018 Fmw Site Visit (year : 1993)
40618 : A Survey of Prehistoric Defended Enclosures in North-west Wales 2005-6: Gwynedd Dwyfor and Meirionnydd (year : 2006)

Related PRNs :


The above data are supplied by GAT in partnership with its Local Authorities (Anglesey, Conwy and Gwynedd County Councils, and Snowdonia National Park Authority), © GAT 2014 (and in part © Crown, 2014 - as indicated)
This information is supplied for the purposes of personal interest only and may not be used as part of a commercial project.

September 19, 2014, 5:50 pm - HTML file produced from Gwynedd Archaeological Trust Regional HER
Gwynedd Archaeological Trust, Craig Beuno, Garth Road, Bangor, Gwynedd.  LL57 2RT
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