The Semerwater Myth – An Underwater Town in North Yorkshire

Everyone has heard of the great underwater metropolis of Atlantis in Greek mythology, but to the people of North Yorkshire, there may be a mystical underwater city closer to home. The Semerwater myth tells the story of a prosperous city found at the bottom of the large lake. 

But how did the story begin? What is found at the bottom of Semerwater? Read on to find out more. 


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What is the Semerwater myth?

Semerwater may be home to the Atlantis of Yorkshire
Semerwater may be home to the Atlantis of Yorkshire

The Semerwater myth chronicles the tale of a beggar who was once travelling in the area. He visited a thriving metropolis in the area where Semerwater lake now sits, and pleaded for food and shelter for the night. The beggar was refused entry to the city, and instead found refuge in a nearby hut where the owner provided hospitality for the night. 

The beggar was heartened by the compassion of the owner of the hut, but was concurrently downcast at the lack of humanity shown by those in the wealthy city. The following evening, the beggar laid down a curse on the city, and spoke the following words:

“Semerwater rise, Semerwater sink, and bury the town all save the house where they gave me meat and drink”

It is said that the curse proved successful, and what was once a thriving and wealthy city now lies beneath the Semerwater lake in North Yorkshire. 

The Semerwater myth is not so widely known across the United Kingdom, but it was brought to the attention of the British public when it was mentioned in the TV series All Creatures Great and Small, a British television show that aired between 1978 and 1990. 

Where is Semerwater? 

North Yorkshire is renowned for its natural beauty (Ingleton pictured)
North Yorkshire is renowned for its natural beauty (Ingleton pictured)

Semerwater is located in North Yorkshire, England, and is the second largest lake found in the region. It is also the largest Natural Glacial Lake in the area. The lake covers an area of around 100 acres (400,000 m²) and is half a mile in length. 

The Semerwater is home to various leisure activities and attracts walkers, sailors, and windsurfers. It is also one of the best spots in the region for coarse and brown trout fishing.  

Other Underwater Towns in Mythology

Some say there is a city submerged in the Semerwater
Some say there is a city submerged in the Semerwater

The Semerwater myth joins a large body of legends that tell of underwater towns. Among the most famous aquatic metropolises are:

  • Atlantis
    Everyone has heard of Atlantis. It is easily the most well-known tale of an underwater city in world mythology. Atlantis was first mentioned in works by the Greek philosopher Plato, and tells of how Atlantis submerged to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean as a punishment from the gods for attacking Athens.
  • Vineta
    Sometimes referred to as the “Atlantis of the North”, Vineta is a mythical underwater city said to be located in the Baltic Sea. The myth dates back as far back as the 11th century, and many of the nearby residents on the island of Usedom still contest that Vineta is very much a real place. The legend goes that Vineta was once one of the most wealthy cities in Europe and an important hub for world trade. The wealth of the inhabitants led to godlessness, and the city was thus punished for its impudence and Vineta was submerged underwater by the deities. 
  • Llys Helig
    The legend of Llys Helig is found in North Wales, near Llandudno Bay. Here, there is a strange rock formation, known as the Great Orme, where legend states the land of Llys Helig was once located. This land belonged to Helig ap Glanawg, a legendary figure who was a prince in North Wales during the 6th century. 

Get in Touch

Have you ever visited Semerwater? Perhaps you know more information about the underwater town in one of Yorkshire’s largest lakes? If so, let us know in the comment section below. 

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If you’re interested in English folktales such as the Semerwater myth, check out the great YouTube video below by TopTenz that tells of some of mythical beasts found in English folk legends. 

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