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  Vortigern Studies > Vortigern > The Cities of Vortigern > Tre'r Ceiri

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The 'Cities' of Vortigern
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Castel Guorthegirn
Robert Vermaat

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Tre'r Ceiri

Tre'r Ceiri
Lleyn, Gwynedd
No access for the disabledFree access to the monument
Nearest town: Nefyn
Nearest village: Llanaelhaearn
Map reference: SH 373446
Location of Tre'r Ceiri by UK Streetmap

A map of Tre'r CeiriIn the isolated Lleyn peninsula we can find a real ancient Iron Age hillfort connected to the Vortigern legends. Below the superb viewpoints from Yr Eifl (anglicised to ‘the Rivals’, but in Welsh ‘the Fork’) lies one of the most spectacular hillforts, Tre’r Ceiri. On a rocky heather-covered plateau below the eastern peak some 150 huts, that might have supported up tp 500 people, can still be seen clearly.

Locally known as the ‘Town of the Giants’, the walls are still more than 4 metres high in places - no wonder how it received its name.The hight of the walls might very well be caused by its isolation and position 457 metres above sea level, which has prevented all too much stones being looted, as was the case for so very many similar hillforts.

Tre'r Ceiri, seen from the summit of Yr Eifl, Lleyn; once the 'City of Vortigern' ?
Tre'r Ceiri as seen from Yr Eifl.
(Image by Stuart Stevenson. Click to enlarge).

The City of Vortigern?

Local tradition places Vortigern in Nant Gwrtheyrn (the ‘Valley of Vortigern’), a rocky valley leading down from Yr Eifl to the west coast of the Lleyn peninsula. Vortigern was supposed to have once had his headquarters there. His grave, Bedd Gwrtheyrn, is also to be found somewhere around here, as ther are several locations bearing names familiar to us, such as Carn Fadrun, or the 'fort of Modrun' (she was a granddaughter of Vortigern) further south.

Here we also find his ‘city’: Castel Gwrtheyrn, once so marked on Ordnance Survey maps, but now unlocated. The best candidate for this fortress surely is Tre'r Ceiri, which lies just on the other slope of Yr Eifl, very close to the valley.

The view from Yr Eifl makes a choice for this castle very understandeble: there are fantastic views towards Snowdonia and across Caernarfon Bay to the island of Anglesey and Holyhead Mountain. Across Cardigan Bay to the south you can see the outline of Mynydd Preseli, where the bluestones of Stonehenge once came from. To the west lies Ireland, where you can see the Wicklow Hills across the Irish Sea. Occupation has been attested from AD 150 right into the fifth century, so this site is a very good candidate for a 'City of Vortigern'! A complete street plan of the Roman town has been revealed under the heather, complete with terraced enclosures, probably used for cultivation. A very suitable place for a headquarters, indeed.

Postcard from Wales: the views from Tre'r Ceiri are spectacular
Postcard from Wales: the views from Tre'r Ceiri are spectacular.
(Image by Stuart Stevenson. Click to enlarge).

The Llyn Peninsula taken from the Eifl.
The Llyn Peninsula taken from the Eifl.
(Image by Peter Hall. Click to for the larger picture at the
Rhiw.com website).

Tre'r Ceiri, one of the most impressive hillforts in BritainA visit to Tre'r Ceiri

More paths lead to the triple-topped Yr Eifl and down into Nant Gwrtheyrn beyond. The easiest approach to the hillfort is by a path starting halfway the minor Llithfaen - Llanaelhaearn road (B4417), 1 mile southwest of Llanaelhaearn. Starting from the signpost to the right of the road, pass St Aelbaiarn's Well and Uwchlaw'rffynnon farmstead (don't break your tongue) until after three-quarters of a mile you'll see a signposted kissing-gate. After crossing a level plateau, the track winds steeply up between two low tumbled walls (keep right at the fork) right up to the walls. It is a rather exhausting climb (yes, I'm in my late 30s) of 900 feet or so from the road level. The path enters the enclosure at the SW entrance, with traces of bastions at either side. It is still possible, despite the mindless stone-throwing activities of some of the visitors, to walk upon the steps and ramps leading up to the original rampart walk of the sentries.

Five gates guard tracks that lead down to springs on the hillside. There is an additional wall on the northern slope, which is the most accessible one. The main walls, however, are 13 feet high and betray considerable Roman influence. However, they are not as strong as common Roman walls; they would stand against brigands or maybe attacks by local tribes, but not against the Roman army.

The color pictures used with kind permission from Stuart Stevenson and Peter Hall.


  • Davies, John: The Making of Wales, (CADW, Cardiff 1996).*
  • Dyer, James: The Penguin Guide to Prehistoric England and Wales, (Penguin 1981).*
  • Smith, Roland and John Cleare (photo.): Walking the Great Views, (London 1991).*
  • Wilson, Roger J.A. (1975): A Guide to the Roman Remains in Britain, (London repr. 1996).*

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