AHNE Bryniau Clwyd / Clwydian Range AONB


Historic landscape

The Clwydian Range contains sites of past human activity and occupation dating back to at least 30,000 BC. 

The Iron Age hillforts which crown the Clwydian Range are the most obvious and best-known archaeological feature of the area. Dating from about 800 BC to 43 AD, the six forts vary in size from the massive Penycloddiau to the more compact Moel Arthur. They still dominate the landscape.

Moel Gamelin

The Range also contains many Bronze Age burial monuments, dating from about 2,000 to 800 BC. Bronze Age peoples may have used the sites of succeeding hillforts, as implied by the discovery of a Bronze Age hoard of axes at Moel Arthur and similar activity at nearby Moel y Gaer, Rhosesmor.

Much of the landscape pattern visible today of villages and isolated farmsteads dates from the medieval period. There are medieval churches in many of the villages in the AONB.  Denbigh and Ruthin castles were established in the time of Edward I and large parts of the Clwydian Range were still owned by the Ruthin Castle estate right up until the middle of the 19th century.

In more recent years several large parkland estates were developed including Golden Grove and Colomendy. Some were the result of wealth built up from the expansion of local industries, particularly lead mining, and extensive remains of this mining activity are still visible in the limestone areas. Of the four remaining Cornish engine houses in Denbighshire, three lie within the AONB and the fourth just outside.

Throughout the Range water was harnessed to provide power – on the Alyn for lead mining and on the Wheeler for corn mills, tin plate works, paper mills and sawmills. It was at this time that transport within the Clwydian Range began to change. Gradually a network of tracks was replaced or superseded as the use of motorised vehicles increased. A railway crossed the Range to the north.

There are outstanding cave sites with Neolithic remains in the limestone between Graianrhyd and Llandegla, while the ridge line of Llantysilio Mountain shows widespread evidence of prehistoric settlement, including monuments such as Moel y Gaer hillfort. Another nationally important prehistoric fort is Caer Drewyn in the Morwynion Valley near Corwen.

There are ancient cairns and standing stones on the high ground at Cyrn-y-Brain and Ruabon Mountain and a cluster of prehistoric burial monuments at Newtown Mountain.

The landscape is astonishingly varied and still reflects the way it was used by many generations of farmers, quarrymen, miners and industrialists.

There are still ancient woodlands and irregular, organic field enclosure patterns in the Morwynion valley. On the eastern slopes of Ruabon Mountain medieval field patterns are intact. The open heather moorland on Llantysilio Mountain is still grazed by sheep as it has been for centuries.

Valle Crucis

The Vale of Llangollen and Dee Valley hold perhaps the most spectacular concentration of historic landscape features. These include ancient monuments such as Castell Dinas Brân and Valle Crucis Abbey, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal World Heritage Site – 11 miles of awe-inspiring Georgian engineering stretching from the aqueduct itself to the Horseshoe Falls at Llangollen – and the Vale of Llangollen and Eglwyseg Landscape of Special Historic Interest. 

Nationally important Chirk Castle, now in the care of the National Trust, still dominates the strategically vital borderlands at the gateway to the Vale of Llangollen.

You can still walk some of the historic routes across the AONB. The most famous of these is Offa’s Dyke National Trail, which runs through the area around Cefn Mawr and Froncysyllte, takes in the spectacular landscape around Llangollen and the Eglwyseg Rocks, and passes over Ruabon Mountain and through Llandegla Forest before following the heather-clad hills of the Clwydian Range.

Less well-known are the routes across Berwyn Mountains North including the so-called Abbots Path to Valle Crucis Abbey north of Llangollen.


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