Caledonian Forest

Caledonian Wood, Wood of Celyddon
Welsh: Coed Caledon
Latin: Silva Caledoniae
Aledon, Caledon, Caledonia, Caledoniae, Calidoine, Calydon, Celidon, Celyddon, Cylyddon

An ancient and once-vast woodland that spanned large parts of the Scottish Highlands. It was one of the most significant forested areas in Britain. Over the centuries it gradually reduced in size due to human activities. The forest covered northern England and southern Scotland, around the area of DumfriesCarlisle, and the River Tweed. By the medieval period, the forest had become fragmented, with smaller remnants scattered across the landscape.

The Caledonian Forest held cultural and mythological importance in ancient Scottish folklore and traditions. It was often associated with mythical creatures and served as a backdrop for tales of ancient heroes and legends.

In the Welsh poem Y Gododdin, the term Cat Coit Celidon, meaning The Battle of the Wood of Celyddon, is mentioned. This refers to a legendary battle site within the Caledonian Forest where the warriors of the kingdom of Gododdin fought courageously. The battle site and its heroic significance became part of Welsh lore and poetry.

In the Welsh tale Culhwch and Olwen, which is one of the oldest Arthurian stories, Arthur’s huntsman Mabon possesses the hunting dog Drudwyn, whose leash is fastened to a marble stone in the Wood of Celyddon. Welsh legend has the region ruled by CilyddMerlin (and Lailoken) was said to have roamed through Caledon like a wild man after he had gone mad at the battle of Arfderydd.

In Nennius, it is the site of Arthur’s seventh victorious battle against the Saxons, won by King Arthur and his ally Hoel. This seems rather far north for a fight against the Saxons, and some scholars have conjectured that, if the battle really took place, Arthur was fighting Picts allied to the Saxons rather than the Saxons themselves. Geoffrey retains the battle but changes the Saxon leader to Colgrim.

In the Vulgate Estoire del Saint Graal, we learn that it was the haunt of the fearsome Papagustes serpent. Inglewood, which plays a large role in several Middle English poems, was one of the forests in the Caledonian region.

Historia Brittonum | Probably Nennius, early 9th century
Culhwch and Olwen | Late 11th century
Historia Regum Britanniae | Geoffrey of Monmouth, c. 1138
Idylls of the King | Lord Alfred Tennyson, 1859-1886