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Castell Cilan

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

OS Map Grid Reference: SH29452484
Latitude 52.79412° Longitude -4.53079°

Castell Cilan has been described as a Timber Castle although is doubtful that it was such.

There are earthwork remains.


Recorded antiquity at SH 2945 2484 called Castell Cilan (OS Survey 1920).
Castell Cilan appears to be a natural mound (RCAHMW).
Castell Cilan is a flat-topped mound rising on its N side to a maximum height of 5.0m. Its surface is stoney, which may indicate the site of a building, and it has extensive view to the N and W. There is however, no local tradition of there having been a castle here (OS Survey 1972).
A large glacial hillock surrounded by a clawdd bank which forms an enclosure of sub-oval plan attached to a small cottage - Castell Cottage. The interior of the enclosure seems to be lower than the outside, making it look like a defensive enclosure but there is no sign of any earlier bank or ditch. Perhaps lowered by quarrying to create a sheltered potato plot? (Smith 2003). (Gwynedd Archaeological Trust HER)

The site is a large glacial hillock, which rises to a maximum height of 5m. Its north slope has been significantly scarped. The flat topped summit is encircled by an earth and stone wall visible in the LiDAR image, however most notable is the huge earth bank which cuts across the summit, dwarfing the associated dwelling. The disproportionate size of the bank indicates it was defensive rather than functional. It is noted to have a 'stony' surface 'which may indicate the site of a building'. However the site lacks a defensive ditch, which is defining characteristic of ring-works.
The site holds a strategic and defensive position with extensive views to the North and West, notably of Porth Neigwl, the neighbouring commote and cantref of Neigwl.
There is no medieval church nearby, the nearest church is that of the parish church Llanengan, located over 1mile north. The church of St Engan, has its origins in the early medieval period, with surviving architectural evidence from the 13th century. However there is evidence for medieval strip fields discovered through aerial reconnaissance, located south of the site, on the edge of headland.
There is no direct documentary evidence for the existence of a castle. However, the place name, Castell Cilan (Cilan Castle) and the name of a cottage built into the south face named Castell Cottage (Castle Cottage), may provide evidence of its former use, now fossilised through place-name.
There are issues with the site as it has been proposed as a prehistoric round barrow ( There is a Neolithic chambered tomb, located to the south of the site, providing evidence of prehistoric ritual activity. However, it is more likely to be natural, as the RCAHMW have interpreted the site 'to be a natural mound' (RCAHMW 1964:52).

Castell Cilan is likely to be natural glacial hillock which was utilised for its strategic position and ready-made motte. Despite evidence for defensive modification through scarping and construction of an earth bank, the lack of ditch casts doubt upon the site. (Davies 2013)
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This record last updated before 1 February 2016