The Heritage Hiker’s Guide to Cefnllys

Where is Cefnllys?

Cefnllys is an abandoned Medieval village located near Llandrindod Wells in Powys, Wales. Cefnllys is recorded in 1246 as Keventhles. The name combines the welsh words cefn meaning ‘ridge’ and llys translated as ‘court’.

The settlement was founded during the 13th century by the Mortimer family to strengthen their hold around Cefnllys Castle. The town was set to become the primary settlement of the local lordship but this never happened. This was due to the 14th century outbreak of bubonic plague, economic isolation and military insecurity. It was one of the five boroughs in Radnorshire that jointly returned a Member of Parliament under the Act of Union in 1536 only really altering after the Redistribution of Seats Act in 1885. After the castle was abandoned, the court leet continued to( a type of manorial court) be held at Neuadd, a few hundred meters to the north of the castle site.

Cefnllys Hillfort

It has been discussed that the large bailey of Cefnllys Castle was built on the bank of an earlier Iron Age hillfort. The site is in a defensive position set within a loop of the River Ithon. It was set on top of steep slopes rising up to the crest of the ridge. The least strenuous approach is from the north-east where it is likely the entrance was placed. The hillfort extends over some four acres and is defended by a stony bank without an accompanying ditch which follows the contour of the hill.

The History of Cefnllys Castle

View from the Ridge at Cefnllys Castle ©heritagehiker

The castle site has two main phases of building and is described as Cefnllys Castle I & II.

Cefnllys Castle I occupies the northern edge of the castle complex on top of the ridge. It was built by the young Roger Mortimer on behalf of his father Ralph between 1240 and 1245.

The castle exchanged hands a number of times during which it was razed to the ground and then restored. It was in decay by 1500. Further damage to the site was caused by quarrying.

Cefnllys Castle II occupies the south side of the ridge. It was built around 1270 as an addition to Cefnllys Castle I to defend the hilltop against attack. It has a rock cut ditch separating it from the rest of the hilltop. Scarce remains of a stone keep, walls, and a bailey can be seen, the site having been heavily destroyed by war, time and quarrying.

It was reported that Cefnllys Castle was burned down by Owain Glyndwr in 1406. It is said that repairs took place following this although the castle was described as ruinous by Leland by around 1540.

The History of the Church of St Michael

St Michael’s Church was built in the 13th century although there might have been an earlier building on the site. The first written record of the church dates to 1291. This was at a time when a settlement was being developed near the nearby Cefnllys Castle. In the 15th century the castle fell into disrepair, and the village decreased to a small hamlet. The church porch was added in the 16th century and major renovation was carried out at the end of the 19th century.

St Michael’s Church, Cefnllys ©heritagehiker

The church roof was removed in the late 19th century by a local priest. It was an attempt to force the local congregation to attend church in nearby Llandrindod. The protests against the move were so strong that eventually the roof was replaced and church restored.

Interesting features inside the church include a 13th century piscine, a 14th century font and a restored 15th-century rood screen.


It’s a short walk from the carpark over Shaky Bridge. A wooden bridge spanning the same spot as an earlier Medieval toll bridge over the River Ithon. From the church you can continue up on to the ridge for some great views and a walk around the earthworks of the Medieval castle.

Shaky Bridge ©heritagehiker

Cefnllys is on the Heart of Wales Line Trail, a 225km/140 mile walking route. The route shadows the Heart of Wales Train Line through miles of beautiful Welsh countryside.

If you have enjoyed reading this article you may like The Heritage Hiker’s Guide to Ogmore-by-Sea or The Heritage Hiker’s Guide to Nevern

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