After asking what to do in Wales, I went on to do a bit of research. It was not long before I discovered that there were many things of interest in which to get involved in this most fascinating country.
Located in the Southwest part of Great Britain, it has many distinctive features including its Celtic culture, Welsh language, mountains, and its jagged coastline. It is the smallest of the three (3) countries (England, Scotland, Wales) which comprise Great Britain, and if you like the outdoors you have many national parks to explore and plenty of outdoor activities. The capital is Cardiff which has much to offer as well.
A Bit of History
The country is bordered by the Bristol Channel to the South, England to the East, and the Irish Sea to the West and North. It has many historic castles that were won and lost over the years through the battles of the various British monarchs.
Wales gained its national identity way back in the fifth (5th) century when the Romans withdrew from Britain. It is considered one of the modern Celtic nations.
After a brief independence in the early fifteenth (15th) century, the country was annexed by England and brought into the English legal system under the Laws in Wales Acts of 1535 and 1542. In the nineteenth (19th) century Wales developed its own unique type of politics with Welsh predominating. In the early Twentieth century Welsh liberalism was replaced by socialism with the growth of the Labor party.
National pride grew throughout the twentieth (20th) century with the Welsh parliament gaining more control over policy matters. The country has retained a distinct cultural identity.
Some Interesting Facts
- Welsh and English are official languages. The Welsh language is Indo-European originating as part of the Celtic family of languages.
- Wales is known as the “land of song” due to its Eisteddfod tradition (festival of poetry, music, and literature dating back to the 12th century)
- There are several national parks including Snowdonia National Park, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, and Brecon Beascons National Park. You get to explore much beautiful scenery, small villages, numerous beaches, hiking trials. and verdant pastures. Rock climbing, spelunking, and kayaking are popular activities.
- The capital of Cardiff offer nightlife, museums, and international sports
- Conway Castle and many other historic castles are popular spots to visit
- There are several mining towns in the Rhondda Valley
- Swansea is the home of the poet Dylan Thomas
- The population of Wales is approximately three million one hundred thousand (3,100,00) folks give or take, which is approximately five (5%) of the population in the United Kingdom
- The currency is the Pound Sterling (1 Pound Sterling= $1.23 USD)
- Rugby, or also known as Rugby Union, is the national identity and consciousness of Wales
- Wales is represented in the House of Commons in the UK Parliament. In the UK government, the Wales Office is the department responsible for Wales. A referendum in 1997 established a form of self-government. The Welsh Assembly in 2020 was renamed Senedd Cymru.
- Since December 2019, Simon Hart has been the Secretary of State
- The majority of Wales is very mountainous
- The country is in the north temperate zone that is reflected in a very changeable maritime climate. In fact, it is one of the wettest countries in all of Europe. There is almost seventeen (17) hours of daylight in the summer while only about seven and a half (7 1/2) in the winter. Although it does get cold, temperatures are higher than expected because of the North Atlantic Drift, that is part of the Gulf Stream. The summers are sunny and warm with temperatures between sixty-six (66 F) and seventy-two (72 F) [19 to 22 C] in lower elevations, and in winter the temperatures usually stay above freezing.
- Although the wildlife is similar to England, because of its extensive coastline there are many varieties of seabirds. Wildcats, wolves, and brown bears disappeared during the Norman Period
- The country has a post-industrial economy with the service industry being predominant.
- Extending from West London to South Wales is the M4 motorway
- The international airport is Cardiff Airport, and the local airlines is Eastern Airways
- There is a British railway network managed by the Welsh government within the country
- There are four (4) commercial ferry ports
- The University College of Wales opened in 1872, and the University of Wales was later formed. Formal education prior to the eighteenth (18th) century was only for the elite.
- There are three (3) UNESCO World Heritage Sites including the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape, the Castles and Town Walls of King Edward I in Gwynedd, and the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct
- The country is rich in Celtic mythology and Welsh folklore and has one of the oldest unbroken literary traditions in Europe extending back to the sixth (6th) century
- The National Museum of Wales has seven (7) sites throughout the country and there are many treasures in the National Library of Wales
- Celtic Art is prevalent in the country
- This was the United Kingdom’s first digital television nation
- It has its own traditional cuisine that is similar to England in some ways, but it is also greatly influenced by China, India, and the United States
- Traditional and folk music has had a resurgence
- A few Welsh actors include Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, John Rhys-Davies, and Richard Burton
- Clog and folk dancing are the traditional forms in the country
Now for a Few Things to Do
Before we get into a few of the specifics, check out this short video that will give you an excellent glimpse of some of the things about which we will be talking.
For such a small country there are just so many interesting places to see, great food to experience, gorgeous scenery, and down to earth locals. There is much to take in and appreciate here.
* The Gower Coastline — near the city of Swansea is the Gower peninsula with a striking coast with plenty of sandy beaches to walk along. Two areas worth exploring are Worms Head and Three Cliffs Bay.
* Explore Tenby — this is a fishing village that has a lot of history and character. It is a charming area with many colorful homes and cottages you can see as you walk the streets along the beach.
* Conwy Castle — close to one thousand (1000) years old it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and offers plenty to see and do. Make sure to check out the Bakehouse Tower.
* Aberystwyth — one of the largest towns on the coast in West Wales, it’s an interesting place to see. There’s a castle as well as a promenade that takes you to the National Library of Wales.
* Pembrokeshire National Park — located along the rugged coast a midst the beautiful countryside you can take an enjoyable hike around the area, or even do a bit of kayaking and check out the dolphins, puffins, and seals. Also, hang out at Freshwater West Beach for an enjoyable day just relaxing. Guides and tours are suggested when entering the water because of the drastic tidal changes that can be quite dangerous at times.
* Beaumaris Castle — this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located on the island of Anglesey. There is a lot of history here as you roam around the towers, moat, and north gatehouse.
* What about Cardiff — being the capital of the country you will not lack for things to do. St. Fagans is a historic museum on the edge of town, Millennium Center in Cardiff Bay, the Cardiff Castle, and Castell Couch are just a few places to check out. The National Museum has a lot to take in, rugby matches at Principality Stadium, Chip Shop Alley (plenty of fish and chips and Saturday night fun), the Sports Village within the bay where you can do some whitewater rafting, and take the Centenary Walk (2.3 miles or 3.6 kilometers) that takes you by historic landmarks like Animal Wall and Dock Feeder. For some great risotto and fresh fish try Nant Restaurant, and A Space in the City is a great place if you want to stay in an apartment. The Senedd is the seat of the Welsh Assembly overlooking Cardiff Bay.
* Portmeirion — this is an Italian Welsh village located on the northwest coast. It looks dramatically different from other villages in Wales due to the fact it was specifically constructed to replicate the elegance of Italy within the landscape of Wales. The town is well-known for its pottery, and a good place to spend the night is the Portmeirion Hotel.
* The Hay Festival — in Hay-0n-Wye near the border of England this is one of the most well-known literary festivals in the entire world. It takes place in the summer each year.
* Snowdonia National Park — one of the oldest national parks in the country with close to one thousand (1000) square miles of pristine nature to explore, it is time well spent roaming through this area that also has the tallest mountain in all of England and Wales
* Urdd National Eisteddfod — this Welsh festival takes place each year celebrating the Welsh culture, history, art, literature, and music. The majority of the activities are in the Welsh language, but still enjoyable even if you don’t understand entirely what’s going on. The festive atmosphere itself is worth it.
* Devil’s Bridge — in the hills of West Wales this is a small village marked by the beauty of the nearby waterfalls. This area is a natural wonderland well worth exploring.
* The Cuisine — the local food is great with a variety of choices influenced by England, China, United States, and India. You don’t want to miss the Welsh Cakes which are very similar to sweet, flat scones. Some other local favorites are Welsh Rarebit (cheese on toast), Cawl (lamb stew), and Bara Brith (fruit loaf).
* Cardigan Coastline — get off the main roads and explore the gorgeous countryside. There are plenty of small villages to check out. The village of Tresaith has a legend about seven (7) Irish sisters who sailed to Wales across the Irish Sea to escape from the clutches of their not so nice father. True or not? Who knows? Ynyslas Beach which is near Borth, is a natural delight. In fact, after a storm you can see a prehistoric forest exposed under the sea. There is also a church in the area that dates way back to Pagan times set-up with circular grounds to discourage evil spirits.
There are many reasons to visit in this most intriguing and interesting country including its tremendous variety of historic sites, wildlife, and beautiful scenery. Add to that its fascinating traditions and unique culture, and you have an ideal destination spot.
Its tradition is most evident in its language and song. A town in north Wales, which has the second longest place name the world, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, reflects the language’s sing-song sound, and the country’s strong tradition of singing
The food is great; there is plenty of ales and craft beers, as well as an evolving wine industry. There are many pubs where you can enjoy great food, ales, and the welcoming nature of the local folk with their hospitality and humor. The land of legends and myth will not disappoint.
There are also plenty of outside activities such as hiking and sailing in order to take in the majestic beauty of the area. For the more adventurous, there are activities such as surfing, exploring caves, mountain biking, abseiling, zip lining, coastering, kite surfing, scuba diving, white water rafting, and kayaking.
This is also an area of the world that is just perfect for stargazing as several locations in the country have been designated and given International Dark Sky Reserve status. There is much more to this country than initially meets the eye. I highly encourage you to put it on your list of future detiantions.
Enjoy your many travels,
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