Castell Nadolig

Castell Nadolig is a large earthwork site adjacent on the main road north of Cardigan. It is assumed to have been occupied during the Iron Age.

Other than the very brief reference to the site by Walter Davies (1813), all these are from published accounts although some were published long after they were written and were therefore not available to most of the tourists. The earliest published mention of the Castell Nadolig site (but without naming it) was in the much read tour by Wyndham, in 1774. Many of the later references are from directories and general works on topography and history, derived from the earlier descriptions.

The antiquarian Sir Richard Colt Hoare appears to have avoided the ‘dreary’ road from Cardigan to Aberystwyth, having travelled between those two places via Newcastle Emlyn, Llanddewi Brefi and Tregaron, (following Giraldus Cambrensis’ footsteps). His friend and antiquarian, Richard Fenton who accompanied Colt Hoare on a number of tours also appears to have avoided Castell Nadolig. It is surprising that the miserable antiquarian John Skinner, who walked right past it on the 6th June, 1800 doesn’t seem to have mentioned it (Skinner, John, (1772-1839), Tour in South Wales, A.D. 1800, Central Library, Cardiff, MS. 1.503, p. 127 [microfilm copy in NLW])

References to Castell Nadolig by travellers and tourists in Wales, in chronological order.

5th June, 1662

[On the way to Cardigan] By the way we saw the place where stood a castle called Christmas Castle, because it was begun to be built in the Christmas holydays. [Castell Nadolig]

Ray, John, (1627-1705) Memorials of John Ray: consisting of his life by Dr Derham. Biographical and critical notices by Sir J.E. Smith and Cuvier and Du Petit-Thouars. By Edwin Lankester, Ray Society, 1846, p. 172-173



There are several old encampments this neighbourhood on the mountain tops and I forgot to notice one, which stands about midway between Cardigan and Aberayron [Castell Nadolig]; it is very large, and has a second circular entrenchment within it.

Wyndham, Henry Penruddocke, (1736-1819), A Gentleman’s Tour through Monmouthshire and Wales, made in the months of June and July, 1774, 1st Edition, (Anon), London, 1775, p. 103



But we recruited ourselves in a more satisfactory manner at the New Inn about ten miles distant. Near this place is an ancient entrenchment [Castel Nadolig], and we were informed there were several others in the neighbourhood.

Shephard, Charles, A Tour Through Wales and the central Parts of England, 1796, Gentleman’s Magazine, LXIX, (1799), p. 757

It has been suggested that Charles Shephard’s tour may be complete fiction. It was published in the Gentleman’s Magazine, which may have published other fictional tours to criticise actual tourists. (Williams, Peter Howell, The causes and effects of tourism in North Wales 1750-1850, Thesis (Ph.D.), (Aberystwyth, 2000), p. 459)


1791?, 1795

This is an agreeable continuation of the road on the coast of Cardigan Bay: extensive military earthworks are on the heights nearly adjoining it and at Castell Madolig [sic: Nadolig] which is in the same line of country there hath evidently been a fortification according with its present name; the foundations of its various parts are extensive and easily traced.

Baker, J., A picturesque guide to the local beauties of Wales and the Marches, Vol. 1, south Wales, (1791); 2nd edition, with considerable alterations and additions, (1795), p. 198



Castell yn Do’ig [Nadolig] about two miles farther on [from New Inn]: it is evidently the remains of a British Encampment of very large size. The exact form can not, at this time, be ascertained, the embankments having been destroyed in several places, and the area crossed and intersected by the turf enclosures of the fields.

The turnpike road passes over the southern side of this fortification, and the changes which are perpetually making in the surface of the ground, will soon wear out every trace of its original lineaments. The spot may, however, continue to be marked, so long as a clump of fir trees shall remain, which have been planted within the outer vallum. There is also another, but smaller encampment, close to the side of the road, from which we again enjoyed a view of the sea.

Lipscomb, George, Journey into South Wales…in the year 1799, (London, 1802), p. 170-171



Castle Yndalig [Castle Nadolig] is a British Encampment, very large and evidently double trenched, though the line of circumvallation is in some places destroyed so that the form of the area is no longer as perfect and distinct as might be wished. About two miles further, at Blaenporth there is another not so large, but in more complete preservation. There are near it many large stones now lying in confusion, but erected anciently, either for a monument of some victory or as a druidical circle.

Malkin, B.H., M.A., F.S.A., (1769-1842), The Scenery, Antiquities, and Biography of South Wales from materials collected during two excursions in the year 1803. Embellished with views drawn on the spot and engraved by Laporte and a map of the county, (London: 1804), Chapter XIX, p. 403


1803 (pre)

We left Cardigan on the road to Aberystwyth, and soon entered upon the same dreary kind of country that we noticed in the north and north-west of Pembrokeshire. At the poor village of Blaenporth, on the left of the road, is a large circular area encompassed by a moat, which is probably the remains of a British fortification. Castel-yndalig [Castell Nadolig], a mile or two further, is a similar work, but much larger and less distinct.

Barber, J.T., (1774-1841), Tour Throughout South Wales and Monmouthshire, Comprehending A General Survey of the Picturesque Scenery, Remains of Antiquity, Historical Events, Peculiar Manners, and Commercial Situations of That Interesting Portion of the British Empire. (1803), Chapter 7, p. 97


1804 (pre)

Passing Blean y Porth [Blaenporth], we found some intrenchments called Castell Yndolig [Castell Nadolig], said to be a fortress erected by Earl Gilbert and his Flemmings, which was taken and raized by Gryffydd ap Rhys, AD 1113, by the name Blaenporth Gwerthern. …

Evans, John, B.A., 1768-1812 (Jesus College, Oxford), Letters written during a tour through South Wales, in the year 1803, and at other times : containing views of the history, antiquities, and customs of that part of the principality; and interspersed with observations on its scenery, agriculture, botany, mineralogy, trade and manufactures. (C. & R. Baldwin, London, 1804), p. 330



An old British Encampment called Castell Nadolig, very large and double trenched, though the line of circumvallation is in some places destroyed, so that the form of the area is no longer as perfect and distinct as might be wished. … From the old intrenchment was, about twenty years ago, a paved road, stretching to the northward for a mile. It was made of very large stones, and was ten feet wide. It passed to the north of a tumulus called Crûg Coy

Meyrick, S.R., The History and Antiquities of the County of Cardigan, (1808), p. 179-180; (2nd edition with index, 1907)



PEN BRYNN, or, LLANFIHANGEL PEN Y BRYNN, in the Cwmwd of Is Coed …

No Parish in the Principality can boast of a greater Number of Fortresses than Pen Brynn, as every Hill and Knoll have been used, as Places of Defence. But two Agrarian Fortresses deserve to be particularly noticed, viz., Castell Nadolig, and Pwntan. Castell Nadolig is a large Camp, with three Moats and Ramparts at some distance from each other: being intersected with Fences, and situate on a level Hill, it is often passed unnoticed, though adjoining the Road, on the right hand side, leading from Aber Ystwith to Cardigan : A Farm, hard by, retains the Name, and close to it is a Barrow Pwntan stands half a mile to the South West, and seems to have been a rival Camp : it is of equal extent, and similarly fortified with Castell Nadolig: there is also a Tumulus adjoining this Fortress.

Carlisle, Nicholas, A topographical dictionary of the dominion of Wales, exhibiting the names of the several cities, towns, parishes, townships, and hamlets … Compiled from actual inquiry, and arranged in alphabetical order. (1811), under ‘Penbryn’


1st June, 1813

passed by … Castell Nadolig – and some tumuli

Davies, Walter, NLW MS 1762Bii, Notebook 19, D – continued from G, f. 326v; Jones, David Ceri, Report of a research project on ‘The rural economy and society of Wales between 1790-1815 with special reference to the manuscripts of Walter Davies (‘Gwallter Mechain’)’, … NLW ex 2251, p. 710



At Penbryn are numerous antiquities; and a little beyond it is Castell Nadolig, an extensive British encampment; half a mile south-west is another called Castell Pwntan. At Blaenporth is an old encampment named Gaer, and several others in the vicinity.

Pinnock, William, The History and Topography of South Wales, with Biographical Sketches… (1822); 1823, p. 22


1832 (clearly derived from Nicholas Carlisle, above)

Two Agrarian fortresses, however, deserved to be particularly noticed, viz. Castell Nadolig and Pwntan. Castell Nadolig is a large camp, with three meats and ramparts at some distance from each other. Being intersected with fences, and situate on a level hill, it is often assed unnoticed, though adjoining the road, on the right-hand side, leading from Aberystwith to Cardigan. A farm hard by retains the name; and close to it is a barrow. Pwntan stands half-a-mile to the south-west, and seems to have been a rival camp; it is of equal extent, and similarly fortified with Castell Nadolig: there is also a tumulus adjoining this fortress.

Caradoc, The history of Wales, written originally in British by Caradoc of Llancarvan; Translated into English by Dr. Powell; augmented by W. Wynne…; revised and corrected and a collection of Topographical notices attached thereto by Richard Llwyd, (1832), pp. 76-77



In the parish of Llanvihangel-Penbryn is a very extensive British camp, called Castell Nadolig, formed by three ditches and embankments, near which is a large tumulus; and at the distance of about half a mile is another, of equal size and strength, called Castell Pwntan.

Lewis, Samuel, Topographical Dictionary of Wales. 1833, under ‘Cardigan’



At the 7th m., [mile stone] occurs Bwlch-y-groes; near which, close to the road, is an old British encampment, called Castell Nadolig, very large, and double-trenched. In 1788, a paved road passed a mile north from the old entrenchment, constructed of very large stones 10 feet wide. [from Meyrick, above]

Nicholson, Emilius, Cambrian Traveller’s Guide, 1840 (3rd edition based on his father’s ‘The Cambrian traveller’s guide and pocket companion…’ 1808 and 1813), p. 184



PENBRYN, … There are two ancient British camps, called Castell-Nadolig and Castell-Pwntan. There are also tumuli; and ancient coins have been found. …

Marius, John, Wilson’s Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales, (1870-1872)



[George Eyre Evans travelled by car and on foot from Aberystwyth to Nevern, starting on 31.8.1809 … to Trewylan, home of the late H Tobit Evans, where he met Mrs Tobit Evans, Miss Evans and Huw Huws, Cardiff, who accompanied him to Castell Nadolig]. The plan would appear to be proximately semi-circular, there is another smaller camp adjoining the larger one, in which it is stated that three urns containing ashes were found under a large stone. A pair of spoon-like bronze objects, of well known late Celtic type were found here and are now in the Ashmolean. The summit of the camp was under corn, not yet cut; the ramparts appear to be well defined in most places. It is supposed to have been called Castell Nadolig, or Christmas Camp, because it was the winter’s camp. – Castior? Hilbrand? – of the soldiers. There is also a camp called Castell Nadolig near Llandysul.

Evans, George Eyre, Carmarthenshire Notes, vol. 5, NLW ms 13479C, p. 158, Plan of the site dated 1.9.1909

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