Friday, 21 July 2017

Deganwy Castle, Conwy Valley

Another trip with my sister and nephew while they were visiting from New York, and another place I've wanted to go for a long time, but haven't until now. We took the opportunity of a beautifully sunny afternoon to explore the meagre ruins of Deganwy Castle on the Vardre. (The word 'Vardre' apparently comes from the Welsh term for a settlement, 'maerdref'.) The English castle of Conwy is still very impressive on the other side of the river, but Deganwy castle has been reduced to just a few scraps of wall and ditch.

I had always thought that Conwy was the English castle and Deganwy, the Welsh. What I hadn't realised until now was that it was built by the Anglo-Normans and strengthened by the Welsh, before being razed by the Welsh under the threat of English invasion. A very comprehensive history and walking guide to the area can be found in pdf form here, and makes a fascinating read.

It's a very easy walk up to the base of the two hills that the castle spanned. Access is via a footpath leading from Gannock Park road in Deganwy, where the road loops in a circle. The hills themselves are the hard remains of volcanic plugs, like a miniature version of the hill upon which Edinburgh Castle is built.

Looking back along the footpath towards the houses of Deganwy, you can see how close this site is to civilisation.

The smaller of the two hills has an impressive remnant of wall built up against it. An interesting video of a one person's 3D imagining of how the castle looked can be seen here.

A still from the youtube video shows a rather impressive structure.

A remnant of wall between the two hills. Most of the remains aren't much larger than this. (My son has been edited out of this one.)

There's something rather beautiful about this tilted piece of wall half covered by grass, like a shipwreck emerging from the sand.

One of the taller pieces of wall, with a hole all the way through, and the Great Orme and Llandudno in the background. It looks like a lone sentry left behind to guard the pass between the hills.

 This is a rather impressive ditch at the north of the site between the two hills.

 A view back down towards Deganwy and the river Conwy, with the town of Conwy in the distance.

The path up the side of the larger, western, hill (with my son rather crudely edited out of the foreground.) This is a relatively easy, gentle climb up a good mud path.

This is the first shot of something of a panorama, looking up the river Conwy, with a view of some of the flatter land at the base of the hill, and other rocky tumps in the background.

From the larger, Western hill, Conwy is in the background at the left, with Deganwy and the Deganwy Docks, now redeveloped and rather pretentiously named the 'Quay,' in the foreground.

The panorama continues, looking over towards the Conwy marina, the Morfa beach, and towards Conwy Mountain (site of an impressive Iron Age hillfort).

In the far background to the right you can see the flatness of Anglesey, and Puffin Island. This castle commanded an incredible view. You can also see little in the foreground. Next time I'll take a carrier bag and clean up a bit.

Again, my son is crudely edited out of this. But what an amazing view they had from this place, over to the Great Orme and Llandudno. In some ways it seems a better location than Conwy. Perhaps Conwy was better for trade but as a watchtower Deganwy is hard to beat.

Looking from the top of the larger western hill towards the smaller eastern hill.

Some more tumbled pieces of wall, and the smaller hill beyond. Building this castle must have taken a lot of hard work, but razing it couldn't have been easy either.

We found a surprise on the top of the larger hill - what appears to be a small quarry. There are suggestions it was used to store water while the castle was in use, since there's no natural water source up there. The video linked to above shows it as being covered with a wooden structure. Unfortunately there's a lot of rubbish left in the dip. It also smells strongly of sheep, and I suspect they use it as shelter in bad weather.

To the rear of the quarry is a small, shallow cave. Tall enough to stand up in, but not quite deep enough to be exciting. The dung points to it being a favourite place for sheep to shelter.

Looking out over wall remnants on the larger hill, towards the estuary and the Great Orme.

The castle seems to be built of a rather lovely yellowish stone, which must have made it look impressive when complete. It must have glowed gold in the sunset.

The colour of the stones has a very seaside feel to it, especially combined with the beautiful blue sea and sky beyond.

The slope is precipitous, and makes a great natural defence.

This curved piece of wall, probably the remains of a tower, is one of the few pieces left that really give you an idea of the structure that was once here.

Looking back from the larger hill and toward the smaller. There's an easy natural path up the larger hill, but the other one is a steep climb.

A little bit of wall built into the rock as you descend from the larger hill.

Another piece of fallen masonry that looks like a wrecked ship in the sand.

Climbing the smaller hill was a breathtaking experience, quite literally. Perhaps there's an easier way somewhere, but this involved a very steep climb through bracken. Hardly any remains were visible up here.

That ditch between the hills is very visible from this position.

A last view of the castle, that solitary pillar of stonework with its little square hole. This was a lovely walk and a fun place to explore, and I look forward to taking the rest of the family.

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