Derwen lies in a peaceful secluded spot some 5 miles southwest of Ruthin, just off the A494 road. High above the River Clwyd and overlooking the valley, the views are stunning. Clocaenog Forest is not far to the North West.
Little is known of the history of the village, and place name investigation asks more questions than it answers. The village was recorded as 'Derinney' in 1254, but 'Derwen' in 1291. The village is named as 'Derewenenyall' in 1392 and 'Derwenynynial' in 1535, which suggests a meaning of, 'desolate' or 'wild'. Names to conjure with no doubt, and perhaps a reference to its isolation, a sense which certainly still resonates today, although perhaps best described as tranquil. Place name studies also would suggest the possibility of a prominent oak tree, of which many still exist in the area, which perhaps stood near to where the various lanes in and out of Derwen converge. The great Edward Lhuyd, who visited the village in the late 17th Century, called it 'Lhan Dherwen', powerfully associating it with the Church of St Mary's which certainly dominates the village today. Lhuyd describes a place no more than a hamlet, with 4 houses about the church, and Derwen had clearly become no bigger by the time of a mid 19th century Tithe survey. Other than place name study, there is little that gives us a sense of Derwen's history. The churchyard of St Mary's, with its possible curvilinear lay out hints at an early medieval origin, but of course this does not definitively suggest the presence of a settlement.
Noted now for the Church of St Mary and its famous 15th Century cross, the village is well worth a visit, as much for the fabulous views along the valley as for the treasures of the church itself.