Britonia. The Forgotten Colony

Simon Young recounts the history of the long-forgotten British Celt colony off the Galician coast

There are more than a thousand miles of the most dangerous Atlantic Ocean between the southern coast of Britain and Galicia in north-west Spain. The high seas regularly give large car ferries rough crossings while the Galician coast – a portion of which is known as the Coast of Death – is notorious for its shipwrecks. Despite these perils, boats and coracles have risked the crossing since Neolithic times. The Book of Invasions, a medieval Irish history, claims that the Irish lived in Galicia before arriving in Ireland, while in the centuries before Christ, Carthaginians used Galicia as their last stop before sailing over to the tin mines of south-west Britain.

However, the most significant and well-documented link between the two regions – although even medievalists have rarely heard of it – dates to the sixth century AD. Sometime in that century a number of people from Britain – perhaps hundreds, perhaps thousands, perhaps tens of thousands – made the journey and founded a colony in Galicia: Britonia.

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