Corwen is a town in Denbighshire, North East Wales. It sits at the foot of the Berwyn Mountains on the banks of the River Dee. The town is situated between the Welsh Border Lands and the Snowdonia National Park being some 22 miles east of Betws y Coed, 11 miles west of Llangollen and 13 miles south of Ruthin. Corwen is most well known for its connections with Owain Glyndŵr, sometimes Owen Glendower, the Welsh nobleman who declared himself Prince of Wales and led the Welsh in their final struggle for independence from the English. Glyndwr lived close by in Glyndyfrdwy and the history and reasons for his early 15th century rebellion can be found here >. To this day the townspeople of Corwen celebrate their most famous son and a grand bronze statue was erected in 2007 to commemorate his deeds.
Due to its strategic location on a bend in the River Dee the area we now know as Corwen has been occupied for many thousands of years. The iron-age hill fort of Caer Drewyn close to Corwen has been witness to the often-violent history of the Dee Valley from Roman times through to the medieval campaigns of the English Kings and indeed may have protected Glyndwr himself in the early 15th century.
Corwen has always had to bear the influx of strangers be they the armies of the Romans, the English invaders or the Welsh defenders. In later times the town became a centre for the cattle drovers en-route to England, and in the early 19th century Corwen was to find itself as a stopping point on Thomas Telford's magnificent achievement the A5 road from Holyhead to London. With the coming of the stage coaches the people of Corwen welcomed travellers to their picturesque little town.
An overgrown mound on the town outskirts is scheduled as a Prehistoric Round Barrow and also described as a Medieval Motte.
Corwen Church: The present structure of the church, dedicated to St Mael and St Sulien, is of Norman origin but was founded in the 6th century by the Breton-Welsh saints Mael and Sulien. The church is an example of the desecration of churches throughout history, this time the vandals were the Victorians who drastically remodelled the interior in the 19th century. But more by accident than design the church still has many interesting features including a preaching cross dating from the 9th century, a 12th century font, a massive dug-out chest, and the carved memorial to a 14th century vicar. A prehistoric standing stone has been built into the entrance porch -'Carreg y big yn y fach rhewllyd', 'the pointed stone in the icy corner' – probably indicating that this was already a pagan sacred site when Mael and Sulien came here.
The lintel above the south door of the church has a mark said to have been made by Owain Glyndwr's dagger, thrown in rage from Pen-y-Pigyn, the hill behind the church. In the churchyard is the tall shaft of a medieval cross.
Capel Rûg: Close by is Capel Rûg built in 1637 by William Salesbury. The Chapel contains fine seventeenth-century interior fittings. Salesbury scorned the plainness of the Puritan Chapels and fortunately for us had the money to do something about it. He gave free reign to craftsmen and the result is a collection of fantastic carved screens, pews, and most spectacular of all is the roof, panelled and coloured from end to end, decked with cut-out angels, and lined with a frieze of flowers and beasts. A real poke in the eye for the Puritans who had desecrated so many of the old Welsh Churches. However, despite the flamboyant decorations we are brought back down to earth by a rare 17th century wall painting with skeleton, skull and hourglass reminding us that time flies by and life is short.
Walks, Cycle Trails and Other Activities
Today the tourist trade is an important part of the Welsh economy and Corwen is no exception in offering a warm welcome to a new class of visitors to Wales ...tourists. Activity holidays and heritage and culture holidays are ever more popular and Corwen is ideally placed to benefit from this interest. The county of Denbighshire itself is awash with history, narrow country lanes lead to historic villages and market towns. Moreover, they all seem to have a castle or an ancient church!
They may be off the beaten tourist track but that is part of the pleasure in exploring this delightful part of Wales. For activity and adventure enthusiasts Corwen sits between the towns of Ruthin, Llangollen and Bala. Between them they offer a wide range of activities including mountain bike trails, kayaking, canoeing, sailing, white water rafting, trekking and guided walks into the hills and mountains of Wales.