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Wales

Wales

Great Destination:

5

Value for Money:

3

Total Stars:

8.0

Personality Types that Like it Best

Ratings similar to England, i.e., liked by all personality types

Did you know … ?

  • About a quarter of the people in Wales speak the Welsh language.
  • Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.com is the world’s longest Internet domain name.
  • All early references to King Arthur were written in Welsh, or in Latin by Welshmen.
  • T.E. Lawrence, aka Lawrence of Arabia, was born in Porthmadog, Wales.
  • Britain’s Tudor dynasty (think Henry VIII, for one) originated in Wales.

Land of King Arthur

Ancient Celtic traditions live on in Wales. They survive and thrive in the country’s art, poetry, song, storytelling and its lilting language. Welsh traditions are also bound up in magic, myth and legend. Wales lays a strong claim to the King Arthur story and to the legends that surround the tribal leader.

The land is mountainous, a key factor in saving the Celtic culture from too much interference — and a key reason Wales is Great Britain’s center for adventure tourism.

It’s been more than 700 years — since 1284 — that Wales has been part of Great Britain, but it remains quite distinct from neighboring England. As of 1999, Wales has its own National Assembly. In rural areas of the north and west, Welsh remains the everyday language. Nevertheless, English is spoken everywhere while Celtic culture informs the visitor’s experience in all sorts of delightful ways.

The country is noted for its men’s choirs. Visitors can drop in on rehearsals as well as attend shows. Hay-on-Wye celebrates books and new authors each year, and Swansea honors a native son with the annual Dylan Thomas Festival. Traditional designs appear on souvenirs, whether a brooch, a lovespoon or the iconic Celtic cross.

Annual festivals, called the eisteddfodau, encapsulate aspects of Wales past and Wales present. These folk events celebrate Welsh art, heritage and language.

Welsh myths and legends provide a rich source of themes for storytellers — and for tourists. Visitors can plot itineraries to sites associated with the fabled King Arthur; the Romans, or the Normans who dotted the landscape with their castles.  Caerleon’s Roman amphitheater is said to have served as Arthur’s Round Table.

Deep valleys, rivers, dramatic seashores and Britain’s tallest mountains make for beautiful landscapes (no longer scarred by coal mines). Active tourists head to the mountains for climbing, biking and the like, or head to the coast for windsurfing, scuba diving and other water-based fun. Or try a Welsh original: a daring adventure sport called coasteering.

Yes, it rains, which makes the landscape green, but Wales boasts some of Britain’s sunniest spots, too. And, a final note — tourists find open and welcoming hosts.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Take courses in rock climbing, mountain walking and other mountain skills in the Snowdonia National Park in northern Wales. Or, abseil your way down any of many Welsh cliffsides.
  • Go scuba diving at the Isle of Anglesey, Gower Peninsula, Lleyn Peninsula or the Pembrokeshire coast. Take instructions if necessary.
  • Cover the country by bicycle.
  • Sample some uniquely Welsh foods: bara brith (a traditional cake), cawl (a hearty broth), laverbread (a seaweed dish) and pice ar y maen (Welsh cakes).
  • Walk one of Wales’ long walking routes: Glyndwr Way (120 miles of “wild Wales”); Offa’s Dyke Path (177 miles) roughly following the border with England, or the Pembrokeshire Coast Path (186 miles), around the tip of far southwest Wales.
  • Tempt fate by spending a night at the summit of Cader Idris, considered the domain of a mythical giant and warrior named Idris. Legend says that anyone who spends the night on the mountain summit will end up a corpse, madman or poet.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Attend the Dylan Thomas Festival, Festival, held each autumn in Swansea. Also, visit the Dylan Thomas Centre there.
  • Sign on for a ghost-hunting event at Ty Newydd Country Hotel, a former country house on the outskirts of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Or look for ghosts at the Maesmawr Hall Hotel, a 1600 half-timbered house in Severn Valley near Newtown. Both are said to be haunted.
  • Go 300 feet below ground into a defunct coal mine at the Big Pit Mining Museum in Blaenavon. Your guide will be a former miner. Visitors leave all battery-powered items above ground because Big Pit is as vulnerable as ever to anything that is flammable or might cause a spark.
  • Ride the Snowdon Mountain Railway up to about 2,500 feet on Snowdon, Wales’ tallest mountain (it is 3,560 feet at its highest point). Or ride one of the country’s narrow-gauge steam railways, which market themselves as the Great Little Trains of Wales.
  • Visit an eisteddfod, a gathering or competition in Welsh arts of poetry, song and storytelling. The events are held across the country in the summer; the most important is the National Eisteddfod held in August. Another choice is the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in July.
  • For anglers, the choices are so numerous as to be dizzying. Fish the rivers and lakes for trout, or head to the sandy estuaries of Dyfi, Loughor and Tywi for salmon. Go for the bass and mullet at storm beaches like Freshwater West, Llangennith or Porth Neigwl (Hell’s Mouth). Or, charter a boat to fish in Cardigan Bay.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Go to the spring book festival in Hay-on-Wye, the town that claims to be the secondhand book capital of the world.
  • Find historical, religious and architectural significance at the romantic ruins of Tintern Abbey, in Wales near the English border. This 12th century church and home of monks inspired Wordsworth, who wrote “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey,” and Turner, who painted it.
  • See a few of Wales’ 400-plus castles. One example is Caernarfon, a medieval fortress that was the 1969 location for the investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales. Also, overnight in a castle hotel.
  • Hear a Welsh male choir. Attend a rehearsal (most choirs welcome visitors at rehearsals) for the behind-the-scenes vantage point as well as for the music.
  • Shop for Celtic jewelry, handmade craft items and woolen sweaters. And look for that traditional Welsh gift, the lovespoon.
  • Have your photo taken next to the name sign at the railroad station in Gwynedd county. The sign is longer than the wooden shelter it identifies. It belongs to the Fairbourne & Barmouth Steam Railway, which has one track extending only two miles.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult Visit Wales at www.visitwales.com and VisitBritain at www.visitbritain.com  and, to find a travel agent who is a Wales Specialist, go to www.americas.visitwales.com/planning-your-trip/travel-agents/index.html