Wales is a small country with a rich cultural and historical heritage, amazing landscapes and hospitable people. It is considered the most beautiful region of the British Isles. However, Wales is not only famous for its luxurious nature, but also for its quiet and cozy villages, modern cities and a host of fascinating tourist attractions. So, let’s find out what Wales is famous for, who inhabits it, and what interest this country is for travelers.
The country is one of the four administrative and political regions of the United Kingdom. Unlike other parts of Great Britain, Wales has never been an independent state within its current borders.
The area got its name from the Old English word, which denoted all the Celtic tribes. However, long before their arrival, people lived here — approximately from the ice age. Somewhat later, the Britons settled here, in the 4th century, after the occupation of the Romans, Christianity came here.
Since the 17th century the active industrial development of Wales begins, which was facilitated by a good location and a large number of deposits of non-ferrous metals and coal. Economic growth continued until the Second World War, during which most of the country suffered.
Today Wales is one of the most prosperous regions, administratively divided into 22 districts (or counties). Its ruler is Queen Elizabeth II, and the legislative power is in the hands of the British Parliament.
The currency in Wales is the pound sterling, the main sectors of the economy are coal mining, ferrous and non-ferrous metallurgy, oil refining, sheep breeding and tourism. The capital of Wales since 1955 is Cardiff, the youngest city in the United Kingdom.
To determine where Wales is located on the UK map, you should pay attention to a small area located in the north-west of Foggy Albion. Wales is washed on three sides by the Irish Sea, St. George’s Channel and Bristol Bay and occupies a small peninsula. In the north-eastern part of the country is bounded by the mouth of the River Dee, on which the town of Llangollen is built, one of the smallest in Wales (population about 3,000 people).
Wales is small: its area is just over 20 thousand square meters. km, the coastline stretches for 1200 km, and the distance from north to south is 274 km, from west to east — 97 km. There are several islands in the water area, the largest of which is Anglesey. Its administrative capital is Beaumaris, in Wales, one of the cities founded by the Vikings.
The relief of Wales is represented for the most part by mountain ranges, the concentration of which is especially high in the north and in the center. Almost all the peaks were formed during the Ice Age, after the Devonian glaciation. Mount Snowdon in Wales (1085 m above sea level) is considered the highest point in the country.
In the central part are the Cambrian Mountains, in the north — the younger Brecon Beacons, containing huge reserves of coal. It is from here that the mineral is delivered to Newport, the third largest settlement in Wales.
Relatively mild weather conditions compared to other regions of the British Isles are due to the geographical location of Wales. The peninsula is under the influence of the Atlantic, so the humidity is high here, strong winds blow most of the year, bringing rain and fog with them. Meanwhile, the climate of Wales is characterized by meteorologists as temperate, with pronounced marine features.
High humidity, fairly abundant rainfall and a large number of underground sources have made this land a leader in terms of the amount of water resources. The rivers and lakes of Wales are full of water, deep and incredibly picturesque. The largest water artery that flows into the Liverpool Bay of the Irish Sea is the River Dee. In its basin there are three large reservoir lakes — Bala, Llyn-Brenig and Llyn-Kelin. Among the waterfalls in Wales, the most attractive are Swallow, Aber, Nantcola and Fairy Falls.
The nature of the country is typical of the British Isles and is represented by evergreen and deciduous forests, growing mainly in the mountains of Wales. Raccoons, badgers, wild boars, foxes, fallow deer and roe deer, hares, squirrels and wild rabbits live in the wild. In order to preserve natural treasures in Wales, three national parks have been created:
Population and language
The population of Wales exceeds the figure of 3 million 100 thousand people. and is approximately 5% of the total population of the UK. There are not much more women than men, and the vast majority of residents who are called Welsh belong to the age category from 15 to 59 years. The national composition is represented by British and Welsh (96%), Europeans (1.5%), Irish (1%), mulattoes, mestizos, Negroids, Chinese and Pakistanis live here.
The main religion in Wales is Christianity, and specifically Calvinist Methodism, followed by the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches in terms of the number of parishioners.
As for what language is spoken in Wales, there are officially two. The first and main one is English, however, paying tribute to their roots, almost a quarter of the population can speak Welsh (Cymric), which belongs to the group of Celtic dialects. The largest percentage of speakers of this language (over 76%) in Wales is in the city of Bangor, located on the coast of the Irish Sea.
In order to revive the ancient dialect, the staff of the National Library of Wales has been conducting scientific research in the field of the Welsh language for the past several decades.
The state symbols include the flag and coat of arms of Wales, as well as many heraldic signs that have been preserved since the 9th century:
- The most popular Welsh symbol is the Red Dragon: a document with its image and detailed description is kept in the Museum of Wales and dates back to 828.
- The second most important sign — «Feathers of the Prince of Wales» — is present on the sports attributes of the local football team.
- There are four types of flags in total. This is the main official version, as well as banners:
- Kingdoms of Gwynedd;
- St. David (a cathedral was built in his honor in Wales);
- Owen Glyndwr, descendant of Welsh royalty.
Unofficial symbols include the red kite, sessile oak, Welsh harp, daffodil and leek. The country’s national motto is «Wales Forever».
What to watch?
There are many interesting places in Wales related to culture, history and natural resources. This country really has something to show and tell the world about, and anyone who comes here is shocked by the diversity of objects. The most interesting attractions in Wales:
- Bute Park (1873) Located in the capital of Wales.
- Tourist village of Portmerion (early 20th century).
- Snowdonia National Park (North Wales).
- The Pontkisillte aqueduct (beginning of the 20th century) is located in the north-east of the country.
- St. David’s Cathedral, built in 1881 in Wales, in the city of St. Davids.
- The trail along Offa’s Wall, which is the conditional border between the Welsh lands and England.
- Cape Great Orme is located above the resort town of Llandudno, in the northwestern part of Wales.
- Beaches: Brandy Cave, Limslade Bale, Oxwich Bay, located in the county of Swansea, in southern Wales.
- Millennium Stadium (1999), where football matches are played regularly.
- The caves of Dan-ir-Ogof are located in Swansea. Considered one of the Seven Wonders of Wales.
Fortresses and citadels
On the territory of the state there are so many palaces, feudal estates and defensive structures that many call Wales «the country of a thousand castles.» And indeed, in every county there are sure to be a dozen or two stone fortifications, ruined, archaic and well preserved to this day.
According to statistics, the lion’s share of the proceeds to the treasury of Wales from tourism falls on sightseeing visits to castles. In addition, it is the citadels that adorn almost all promo photos of Wales.
The culture of Wales is based on three components: the Welsh language, music and holidays. The descendants of the Celts have always paid attention to poetry and singing, which is mainly represented by a male choir. The oldest musical tradition of the Welsh is instrumental music created by folk composers. Visual arts were originally religious in nature, later many landscape painters appeared here, whose paintings are exhibited in the National Museum of Wales.
Like most Celtic peoples, the Welsh adore the theater, they are strong in oratory, they can spend hours telling their amazing tales and legends, for example, about the Knights of the Round Table or the world-famous King Arthur.
The traditions and customs of Wales have found expression in holidays, among which the most revered are:
- Eisteddfod dedicated to Celtic culture;
- Guy Fawkes Night, which is celebrated after Halloween;
- Day of the Apple;
- Saint David’s Day;
- gift holiday.
Interesting facts about Wales include the annual Liars Festival, which attracts liars from all over the world. The winner is the one who tells the most implausible story in five minutes.
Cuisine and restaurants
Wales is famous for its excellent cheeses, tender beef and lamb. No less popular here are seafood: red algae (lavarbred), cooked over low heat, trout and Penclodd clams. In the north of the country, a delicious delicacy is served — English oysters. One of the most famous dishes that the cuisine of Wales has to offer is “English eggs”, which are an exquisite combination of leeks, potatoes and eggs.
Most of the ethnic restaurants in Wales are located in the city of Cardiff — 18 establishments of various types, offering both traditional Welsh dishes and cuisine from around the world.
What to bring with you from Wales?
Many travelers are sure that they can bring back the same souvenirs from Wales as from England and Scotland. However, the Welsh have shown originality here too and can offer tourists something unique, for example:
- traditional Welsh hat;
- cashmere and pashmina;
- Celtic jewelry;
- Welsh «love spoons» made of wood;
- T-shirts, mugs, caps with the image of the Red Dragon;
- groggy (ceramic figurines);
- bow with arrows;
- notebooks or postcards made from recycled sheep dung.
Wales has a well-developed road network with bus routes connecting major cities. Excellent road surface makes car rental a comfortable way to travel. Rail transport is represented by three separate branches from east to west.
How to get there?
The easiest way to get into the country is by air: Cardiff Airport receives international flights. There are large seaports on the territory of Wales, providing maritime communication.