Visit Wales. Things to know
If you haven’t been born in the United Kingdom, traveled around or studied about the country, chances are you know very little about western part of Great Britain. Personally I am ashamed to admit I knew practically nothing besides general location and its name.
As it turned out Wales has beautiful nature, fascinating history and its own rich cultural identity. This country deserves more attention and world recognition as a tourist destination of its own.
Our family visited Wales for the very first time in April 2019. It was only a 3 day trip but we drove from the South through Brecon and Snowdonia all the way to Conwy in the North.
Having a border with England on the East and Irish Sea on the West it is not too big to explore yet has much to offer.
One of the interesting facts I read somewhere about Wales is that it has more castles per square mile than all the Europe together!
We managed to visit three amazing castles: Harlech Castle, Caernarfon Castle and Conwy Castle.
Wales had about 600 castles, over 100 of these are still standing, either as ruins or as restored buildings. The rest are the remnants and only consist of ditches, mounds, and earthworks.
But there is a reason behind it: in 13th century the Welsh created a united and independent Wales. The English King Edward I wanted to end Welsh sovereignty and fought hard to achieve it.
In 1282 Llewelyn II (Welsh Prince) was killed. For the next 20 years King Edward built and rebuilt an “iron ring” of 17 castles to keep control of troublesome North Wales.
Each of them deserves a separate blog really, because of incredible history and beautiful locations! But here are few interesting details for you, to consider visiting this beautiful sites.
We visited Conwy Castle– masterpiece of medieval engineering! It was built between 1283 and 1289. UNESCO considers Conwy to be one of “the finest examples of late 13th century and early 14th century military architecture in Europe”
Caernarfon Castle (Welsh: Castell Caernarfon) in beautiful region of Snowdonia in Wales. Its magnificent architecture evokes imagination!
It is one of multiple King Edward I’s castles, he built while trying to conquer Wales. The construction of the castle began in 1283 and went on for nearly half a century but the fortress was never completed as planned.
But Caernarfon Castle was most significant among all because Edward’s son was born in this castle.
The castle has long and very fascinating history.
Some facts you might not know:
Although it’s in care of Cadw, Caernarfon Castle is still owned by the Queen.
Also Prince Charles had the investiture in Caernarfon Castle on 1 July 1969. (The investiture of the Prince of Wales is the ceremony marking formal acknowledgement of a newly-created Prince of Wales. During the investiture ceremony, the prince is presented and invested with the insignia of his rank and dignity, similar to a coronation.)
The ceremony at Caernarfon was welcomed by some Welsh people, but some nationalists view it as being associated with the subjugation of Welsh people since the 13th century, when Edward I deposed the last native Prince of Wales, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd.
Prince Charles spent ten weeks leading up to his investiture learning about Welsh culture and language, and during the ceremony he gave his replies in both English and Welsh.
Harlech Castle (Welsh: Castell Harlech), located in Harlech, Gwynedd, Wales, is a medieval fortification. The castle is built on top of a rocky cliff overlooking beautiful dunes and the Irish Sea with a stunning peaks of Snowdonia as a backdrop.
It was built by Edward I during his invasion of Wales between 1282 and 1289 at the relatively modest cost of £8,190.
Over the next few centuries, the castle played an important part in several wars. Even when it was totally cut off by the rebellion of Madog ap Llywelyn between 1294–95, the castle held out thanks to “Way to the sea” where the inhabitants of the castle had excess to supplies delivered by water.
Some other fun facts :
Highest mountain: Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa), Snowdonia National Park, at 1,085m ()3,560ft).
Biggest natural lake: Llyn Tegid, 6km in length.
Wales has a town with the longest name. Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwll-llantysiliogogogoch is the full name, which means The Church of St Mary in the hollow of the white hazel near the rapid whirlpool and the church of St Tysilio near a red cave. The name is often shortened to Llanfairpwll or Llanfair PG. As we found out that not even all residents can pronounce this name! 58 letters (if I counted it correctly) is not for everyone to pronounce that’s for sure!
Wales has three National Parks which cover 20% of the country’s land area and five Areas of Natural Beauty.
◦ Pembrokeshire Coast National Park
◦ Brecon Beacons National Park
Wales is country which is a part of the U.K. but nether less the country with two official languages : Welsh and English. Schools curriculum is taught in both of these languages. All traffic signs are in both languages, so you will notice when your are in Wales!
Welsh language is very different from English, in fact it belongs to Celtic group of languages such as Breton and Cornish (Cornwall is the southwest Area of the U.K.) and more distantly, Irish and Gaelic (Scotland).
Wales has its own flag (Y Ddraig Goch, meaning Red Dragon) it shows red dragon on white and green background.
Everyone knows the flag of the U.K. aka Union Jack and that it represents flag of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland yet flag of Wales isn’t incorporated, why you may ask… well the answer is simply because Wales was integrated and have been part of a Great Britain by the time when the first Union Flag was designed in 1606, Wales was already united with England from 13th century, meaning it wasn’t a Kingdom and could not be included.
Wales celebrates the national holidays of Great Britain. In addition, many institutions have effectively made St. David’s Day on March 1, the feast day of the patron saint of Wales, into a Welsh holiday. All Hallow’s Eve (Nos Galan Gaeaf) has significance for Welsh nationalists as the beginning of the Celtic new year, though it is popularly celebrated as the American-style Halloween.
I always loved Celtic culture and traditions yet I never knew that some of them originated in Wales!
On our trip we explored Isle of Anglesey. It is the largest island in England and Wales. It has fascinating history, going back to prehistoric time with remains of Megalithic burial chambers and standing stones indicate late Neolithic and early Bronze Age habitation.
At the time of the Roman occupation of Wales (first century AD), Anglesey was one of the last strongholds of the Celts and their druidic priests. The Romans decided that it was vital to invade Anglesey and destroy the Druids, who were maintaining native resistance against the Romans.
The Romans eventually won the battle, subdued and killed Druid priests and cut down their groves of sacred oaks.
Wales is beautiful country with ridged coastline and picturesque mountains and my family would definitely go back to explore more of its amazing nature and historic sites. Particularly the region of Snowdonia! https://snowdoniatourism.co.uk/
The region is famous tourist destinations with mountain, lakes, waterfalls where you can climb, hike, fish or explore it by taking a steam train! And that sounds like an amazing family adventure! Since our trip was rather a short one we didn’t have time to go on a train as it takes a good part of the day, but definitely something we are looking forward to experiencing.
The steam train is a seasonal attraction and it’s closed for winter, so check their website for details.
If you plan visiting Wales from outside of the U.K. check if you need a visa. To find out more visit the UK Government Visas and Immigration website
Excellent source for everything Wales is https://www.visitwales.com/