..also known as Cantref Gwaelod or Cantref y Gwaelod meaning The Lowland Hundred, is a legendary ancient kingdom said to have occupied a tract of fertile land lying between Ramsey Island and Bardsey Island in what is now, Cardigan Bay in West Wales. It has been described as a “Welsh Atlantis” and has featured in folklore, literature and song.
Cantre’r Gwaelod was an area of land which, according to legend, was located in an area west of present-day Wales which is now under the waters of Cardigan Bay. Accounts variously suggest the tract of land extended from Bardsey Island to Cardigan or as far south as Ramsey Island. Legends of the land suggest that it may have extended 20 miles west of the present coast.
There are several versions of the myth. The earliest known form of the legend is usually said to appear in the ‘Black Book of Carmarthen or ’Llyfr Du Caerfyrddin’, in which the land is referred to as Maes Gwyddno. In this version, the land was lost to floods when a well-maiden named Mererid neglected her duties and allowed the well to overflow.
The popular version known today is thought to have been formed from the 17th century onwards. Cantre’r Gwaelod is described as a low-lying land fortified against the sea by a dyke, Sarn Badrig (Saint Patrick’s causeway), with a series of sluice gates which were opened at low tide to drain the land.
Cantre’r Gwaelod’s capital was Caer Wyddno, seat of the ruler Gwyddno Garanhir. Two princes of the realm held charge over the dyke. One of these princes, called Seithenyn, is described in one version as a notorious drunkard and carouser, and it was through his negligence that the sea swept through the open floodgates, ruining the land.
The recent storms have uncovered an ancient forest once said to belong to a lost kingdom. Gale-force winds have battered the coast of west Wales in recent days, stripping away much of the sand from stretch of the beach between Borth and Ynyslas. The disappearing sands have revealed ancient forests, with the remains of oak trees dating back to the Bronze Age. Could they be evidence of Cantre’r Gwelod? The church bells of Cantre’r Gwaelod are said to still be heard across the water.