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Vortigern Castle, Pistyll

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Nant Gwrtheirn

In the community of Pistyll.
In the historic county of Caernarfonshire.
Modern authority of Gwynedd.
Preserved county of Gwynedd.

OS Map Grid Reference: SH34954518
Latitude 52.97662° Longitude -4.45919°

Vortigern Castle, Pistyll has been described as a Timber Castle although is doubtful that it was such.

There are uncertain remains.


Lewis writes "To the east of the church is a vale called Nant Gwrtheirn, or "the vale of Vortigern," whither that prince is said to have retreated for shelter from his infuriated subjects, and where he built a castle, which is reported to have been destroyed by lightning."and "Near the shore is a verdant mound, said to have been the site of Vortigern's castle; and near it was formerly a tumulus, designated Bedd Gwrtheirn"

A tumulus of stone within, and externally covered with turf called Bedd Gwrtheyrn, stood on the hill now called Castell Gwrtheyrn. It was open, exposing a stone coffin, containing the bones of a tall man (RCAHMW, 1964) Castell Gwrtheyrn is an isolated stack of glacial boulder clay left after severe coastal erosion of an old platform, part of which forms the nearby fields. The stack has two shelves, on the lower is a group of boulders that appear to have been placed together. At the south-west end a more pointed slabby boulder is set upright, north of it is the remains of a pit, fill from which has been cast up around, mainly on the north-west. The upright stone may have been set there when digging out the rest but otherwise this is clearly a stone setting which has later been dug into and so fits the early description well except that there is no mound or cairn. If there was it was quite small in size and height. Probing suggests the robbing pit is about 0.8m deep below the land surface. (Gwynedd Archaeological Trust HER)

Although a site built by the 5th century Vortigern would be outside the scope of this website the description of a verdant mound might be considered suggestive of a motte. However it does seem to be Lewis who suggests a 'castle' here, the earlier authors clearly calling the mound a burial site. Extensive quarrying in the area may have destroyed or hidden this feature.
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This record last updated before 1 February 2016