Vortigern Castle, Pistyll

Has been described as a Questionable Timber Castle (Motte)

There are uncertain remains

NameVortigern Castle, Pistyll
Alternative NamesNant Gwrtheirn
Historic CountryCaernarfonshire
Modern AuthorityGwynedd
1974 AuthorityGwynedd

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)

Gatehouse Comments

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.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSH349451
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink

No photos available. If you can provide pictures please contact Castlefacts

Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.

Calculate Print


  • RCAHMW, 1964,_A Survey and Inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Caernarvonshire_ Vol. 3, West (HMSO) p. 91, 96b online copy
  • Lewis, Samual, 1849, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales online copy
  • Pennant, T. (Rhys, John, ed.), 1883 (orig pub 1784), Tours in Wales Vol. 2 p. 379-81 online copy


  • Anon, 1622, 'History of Allchester' in Kennet, W. (new edition edited and enlarged by B. Bandinel), 1818, Parochial Antiquites Vol. 2 p. 436-7 online copy


  • Smith, G., 2003, Prehistoric Funerary and Ritual Monument Survey: West Gwynedd & Anglesey