The Heritage Hiker’s Guide to Myddfai

Where is Myddfai?

Myddfai is a small village located near Llandovery in Carmarthenshire. The area is steeped in prehistory, with burial cairns and barrows showing signs of Bronze Age activity in the surrounding landscape. To the south west of Myddfai a hoard of eight late Bronze Age socketed axes has been recorded. Myddfai is recorded as a manor in the 14th century. The modern origins of the village stem from the Medieval period.

The Physicians of Myddfai

According to legend Myddfai is the home of the famous Physicians of Myddfai/Meddygon Myddfai. The physicians make their first appearance in folklore in the 13th century, when Rhiwallon the Physician and his three sons were doctors to Rhys Gryg (Prince of Deheubarth). It was said that they treated Rhys when he was wounded in battle near Carmarthen in 1234. However the prince died of his wounds shortly afterwards.

Study of their recipes show that Welsh medicine was more advanced than most of Europe at that time. Instructions for preparing herbal medicine attributed to the physcians survived in the Red Book of Hergest, which dates from the late 14th century. The family are said to have continued to follow the profession in the direct male line until 1739 when the last of the line of physicians died.

Over the years, the story of the Physicians of Myddfai has become bound up with the legend of Llyn y Fan Fach. Here the Lady of the Lake has been suggested as the mother of the Physicians of Myddfai.

Llyn y Fan Fach
Llyn y Fan Fach ©heritagehiker

The Lady of the Lake from Llyn y Fan Fach, Carmarthenshire

There once was a young farmer who brought his cattle to graze on the Black Mountain. One day he saw a lady sitting on the water combing her hair. Admiring her beauty, he offered her bread and cheese but she refused.

He saw her again on his next visit and again she refuses his offer of bread and cheese.

On his third visit to the lake she accepted his gift and also agreed to marry him. Her dowry was all of the farmers sheep, cattle, goats and horses, which he willingly gave. Her marriage acceptance came with a warning ‘Strike me without cause three times and you shall lose me’.

They lived together happily with their children for many years but alas he seemingly did strike her three times (it is said his actions were without malice). After the third strike she returned to the lake and took all her animals with her leaving the farmer without stock.

She would later appear to her sons and show them herbs with medicinal uses. It is said they went on to become the famous Physicians of Myddfai.

Who lived in Castell Waunberllan?

Close to the modern community centre in Myddfai are the well-preserved traces of a medieval moated homestead. It is located in permanent pasture on the flood plain of the Afon Bran on private land.

Castell Waunberllan Myddfai
Castell Waunberllan ©heritagehiker

In the 13th century Rhiwallion and his sons were physicians to Rhys Gryg, Lord Dinefwr. Lord Rhys granted them land here and they became the first of the famous ‘Physicians of Myddfai’. Castell Waunberllan dates from around the same time physicians of Myddfai and was probably well known to them. Some people have suggested it was even home to the physicians.

The monument is of national importance for its potential to enhance our knowledge of medieval settlement. The monument is well preserved and is an important relic of the medieval landscape. It retains significant archaeological potential, with a strong probability of the presence of intact archaeological deposits and structural evidence.

The History of St Michael’s Church

St Michael’s is the parish church for Myddfai. The present building dates from the 14th and 15th centuries although it is likely the site is much older. Restoration work was undertaken in 1874, when a bellcote was added, and again in 1926.

St Michael's Church Myddfai
St Michael’s Church©heritagehiker

The church was designated as a Grade I listed building in 1966. The church is described as a fine example of “a largely complete medieval church of a scale and detail in a rural a location. Unusually intact interior including arcades, complete surviving late medieval roofs and the extensive survival of late medieval window tracery. The double nave form is relatively rare in the county, being more common in Powys.”

Interesting features include the double nave and twin parallel roofs, water stoup, font and Georgian wall paintings.


There is a walk around the village called the Physicians Walk, linking plants and places with the Physicians of Myddfai. A copy of the walk can be obtained in the Visitor Center.

Visitor Center ©heritagehiker

Myddfai Community Hall & Visitor Centre operates as a cafe and shop. Check ahead for opening hours. Parking next to the center.

If you enjoyed reading about Myddfai you might also like The Heritage Hiker’s Guide to Cefnllys or The Heritage Hiker’s Guide to Nevern.

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