One day, [Sawyl] and his party broke in [to the monastery of S. Cadoc], and carried off meat and drink, but did no further damage. Cadoc was absent at the moment, but on his return learnt what had been done, and was further informed that the marauders were at a little distance, eating and drinking what they had ravished from his larder and cellars.
After they had gorged themselves with meat and ale, Sawyl and his rogues lay down to sleep. Cadoc seized the opportunity to inflict on them a stinging insult. He set his monks to shave half the heads of the drunken men, and then with the razors to slash off the ears and lips of their horses.
We are informed that Sawyl and his men had retreated to a hill-top for their carouse, and if our identification of the localities be accepted, this can have been none other than the Garn Goch. When the barbers had done their work, Cadoc and fifty of his clerics assumed their ecclesiastical vestments, and marched in procession to the hill to meet, and if possible, to mitigate the resentment of the freebooter.
What happened is veiled in fable. The earth opened and swallowed up Sawyl and his men, "and the ditch where they were engulfed is known unto this day to all the passers-by". That nothing of the sort took place we may be pretty sure. What probably occurred was that the settlers in the neighbourhood assembled and assumed a threatening attitude, and the bully was fain to decamp.
[..] After this, Cadoc sang Te Deum, and blessed the men who had made his adversaries ridiculous, and had so barbarously mutilated the dumb beasts.
That last sentence sounds like S B-G disapproves of animal cruelty, which is pleasing. Surely saints shouldn't be asking people to do such things. He supposes Sawyl might have been based at Pen-y-Ddinas (although that seems rather a long way to walk to go pilfering from monasteries). From The Lives of the British Saints, volume 2, by Sabine Baring-Gould (1908).
It was possibly whilst Cadoc was at Llangadog that he was annoyed by Sawyl Benuchel, who had established himself in the pleasant mountain basin of Cynwyl Gaio, where a bunch of rock, starting out of the level bottom that was once a lake bed, offered a suitable position for a caer, commanding as it did the entire basin. It bears the significant name of Pen-y-Ddinas, showing that at one time a stronghold occupied its crown, but the ruins of prehistoric fortifications have disappeared, as the hill has been converted into a rabbit-warren.
Below it stands Llansawel, leaving us to suspect that this ruffian in his old age turned saint and founder [...] The church is supposed to be dedicated to S. Sawyl Felyn ab Bledri Hir, and this may have been the chief who worried Cadoc, and later turned serious and founded the church [...]
Coflein notes that the area known as 'the Warren' was said to show remains of the fort at the turn of the 19th century. The hill has since been quarried.
A legend featuring Sawyl is connected with Carn Goch.
After almost (but not quite) making it to Dinas Emrys last October - actually ending up on the hill opposite, like a prize muppet... must do better next time - an opportunity to visit another site associated with the legendary sorcerer is some recompense. To be fair the name does give prospective visitors a hint of sorts...
Merlin's Hill is (very) prominently sited a little to the approx east of the busy former Roman port of Carmarthen, the latter cited by Gerald of Wales, in 1188, as being nothing less than the wizard's birthplace. Needless to say yer man Emrys wasn't around to contradict such tomfoolery, allowing Gerald to no doubt dine out on the local innkeepers' generosity for months.
The locals are still in touch with the Arthurian vibe, the Alltyfyrddin Farm playing host to the 'Merlin's Hill Centre' offering activities (presumably) for those with children - B&B as well if you like, something which would certainly get you in the little blighters' good books... for a while, anyway. Of course some of the more traditional heads out there (he says) may well tremble at the prospect, like I did... but there is no need to fret... a public footpath ascending the hill from the approx west through woodland. In short everyone's a winner. The centre is signposted from the A40, those not visiting the farm currently able to park at a left hand junction some way beyond and walk back, the hillfort towering above to the south.
Upon arrival at the summit, following a somewhat steep clamber up the aforementioned public footpath, this visitor initially doesn't see a lot of 'hillfort', to be honest. The site is more subtle than that. What is immediately apparent, however, is the inspired setting, the enclosure completely dominating the Dyffryn Tywi to the south, the Afon Tywi executing a series of wondrous, lazy loops as it meanders its way to Carmarthen Bay to the south-west, incidentally beneath the watchful gaze of another Iron Age enclosure (surmounted by later medieval castle) at Llansteffan. Perhaps the best view, however, is that beside the main entrance to the east looking toward another distant castle at Dryslwyn. Unfortunately the defences of said entrance - pretty substantial, it should be noted - are located behind a barbed wire fence, as are what transpire to be equally formidable (if disintegrating) univallate earthworks upon the southern and western flanks, the terrain here sloping away sharply. Arguably there is a case for some serious conservation activity here? Happily, however, the northern bank - again, apparently univallate - is accessible to everyone and remains very powerful indeed, facing the direction of probable attack in times past.
So, clearly Merlin's Hill was an Iron Age enclosure of some stature, well worth the diversion if you happen to be in the area. And of course we're all suckers for legendary tomes of sorcery permeating our past like the wreathes of mist clinging to our mountain tops. Here is a place to linger a while and appreciate why this is so. Hey, why not follow the Twyi's example and let the mind 'go serpentine' for a few hours? And if you do happen to discover the old dude imprisoned up here, kindly inform the local police. Oh, and needless to say keep him away from that J.K Rowling woman... he would no doubt have suffered enough across the centuries as it is.