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Mediaeval Wales Map

© Cyngor Bwrdeistref Sirol Wrecsam

The length and breadth of Wales, its natural features and its rugged surface.

Cambria is called Wales nowadays, that having become its usual name, although it is a foreign word and not really correct.

It takes some eight days to travel the whole length of Wales, from the mouth of the River Gwygir in Anglesey to Portskewett in Gwent. In breadth it stretches from Porth-mawr, that is the Great Port near St David's to Rhyd-helyg, the welsh for Willow Ford, called Walford in English, this being a journey that lasts four days.

Wales is divided into three parts

From time immemorial Wales has been divided into three more or less equal parts: Gwynedd, Deheubarth and Powys... Although South Wales was by far the largest region, it was much the least attractive, for it was ruled by a great number of local chieftains, called 'uchelwr' in Welsh, who were in constant rebellion and hard to control.

The noble rivers which divide Wales and mark its boundaries, and the mountain ranges from which they take their source.

The Severn, which is a noble river, rises in the Plinlimmon mountains. For many years this river formed the boundary between Cambria and Loegria... The River Wye rises in these same Plimlimmon mountains. It flows by the castles of Hay and Clifford, through the city of Hereford, by Wilton Castle and Goodrich, through the Forest of Dean, which is full of deer and where iron ore is mined, and so comes to Striguil Castle, below which it enters the sea. It forms the modern boundary between England and Wales.

The Dovey, which is a fine river, has its source in the snow clad mountains of Snowdonia. For a considerable part of its course it divides South Wales from North Wales. The Conway flows down from the northern bastion of Snowdon and joins the sea below Degannwy Castle. The Clwyd has its source on the flanks of the same mountain. It flows by Rhuddlan castle and so comes to the sea.

The Dyfrdwy, called the Dee by the English, springs from Lake Bala, runs through Chester, leaves Coleshill Wood and Basingwerk far away on its right, passes near a rich vein of silver, and where it joins the sea forms a dangerous quicksand. It marks the northern border between Wales and England.

Excerpts from Descriptio Cambriae by Gerald of Wales (Penguin Classics translation).