This week I visited the strikingly beautiful landscape of the hilltop ruin of Castell Dinas Brân in the Vale of Llangollen. Previously, I’ve posted about this wonderful 13th-century castle here, here and here.

dsc09542This time I went with my PhD student Abigail and we explored the Iron Age hillfort encircling the hill. We then wandering about the castle ruins and took in the views of the Vale of Llangollen.

dsc09540As well as reflecting on the traces of the distant past here, we encountered traces of recent human mortality.

dsc09499On the path, in plain sight, we encountered ash. Human cremains. Burned and then ground, these pulverised traces are a constant companion of my visits to archaeological sites. This ‘ash’ was beside the castle on the path up from the town of Llangollen. The place chosen for ash-scattering was therefore not random; it was at a point just below the ruins and where views over both the town and Vale were possible.

dsc09502Leaving the castle and driving along beneath Trevor Rocks, we also encountered ash at a beauty spot with views of the castle.

dsc09554Scattered down a steep slope close to the Offa’s Dyke Trail and proximal picnic benches, the cremains were freshly strewn. Connected to these cremains, at the top of the slop, we also encountered ephemeral memorials. One commemorated what I guess is a cat or a dog: flowers and a paw-shaped wooden memorial. The other was comprised of a framed card and flowers, commemorating an elderly female. The card expressed the affinity of the deceased with this particular spot.


Castell Dinas Brân is situated in a component of town and country. It is a landscape of farming, a canal, a river, walking, cycling and climbing. Yet it is also in a landscape of ash-scattering.