Between the estuaries of the rivers Dee and Severn on the west coast of Britain lies the country of Wales. Only a couple of hours drive from London by motorway or fast train, this Celtic nation is often missed by overseas visitors or glimpsed as they hurry through on their way to Ireland.
Basically Wales is divided into two halves, the rolling hills and valleys of industrial South Wales and North Wales with its impregnable castles, coastal resorts and the wild and mountainous region of Snowdonia. The varied coastline has unspoilt bays, sandy beaches fringed by rocky promontories and spectacular cliffs.
The Welsh are a proud and independent people who make a point of keeping their own language alive. Immediately a visitor crosses the border into Wales they notice there is something very unusual about this country – the official signage is in Welsh with the English translation beneath. Many Welshman, particularly in North Wales are bilingual, fluent in both their mother-tongue and speaking English with a most beautiful sing-song lilt.
So: Croeso i Cymru (Welcome to Wales)
The capital city of Wales is Cardiff which grew up as the major port exporting coal and steel from the industrial heart of South Wales. Nowadays the coal mines of the Welsh valleys have closed and visitors come to enjoy the unique culture of Wales, the impressive scenery, the many spectacular narrow gauge steam railways and the awe inspiring medieval castles built by the English to subjugate the troublesome Welsh.
In recent times the little island of Anglesey, just off the coast and joined to the mainland by Thomas Telford’s suspension bridge across the Menai Straits, has become famous as the former home of Prince William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Anglesey is where visitors travelling to Ireland from Holyhead board their ferry to Dublin.
The routes into Wales pass through the lush farmland of the Welsh Marches. The picturesque border towns and villages such as Much Wenlock and Ludlow, are full of typical Shropshire black and white half-timbered houses and fortified medieval manor houses such as Stokesay Castle.
Guarding the border are walled towns with imposing castles. On the way into South Wales is the walled town of Chepstow, its spectacular castle perched on a cliff above the River Wye. Entry into North Wales is via the famous walled city of Chester. In between the mountainous terrain of Snowdonia provides a natural barrier.
Not only is there spectacular scenery, tumbling waterfalls and raging rivers waiting to be enjoyed but also some amazing manmade structures. The Llangollen Canal runs between Chirk and Llangollen crossing Snowdonia’s foothills via the impressive World Heritage Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. The canal leaps across the Dee Valley in a cast-iron trough supported on slender 120 foot (36.58 metre) high masonry pillars. If you have a head for heights you can join a narrow boat cruise or if you are more timid like this writer, you can watch the boats crossing from the valley floor and emerging on the other side, clanging against the sides of the trough.
Wales is a brilliant mixture of beauty, historic buildings, industrial archaeology and culture. Music and poetry is an integral part of Welsh life ranging from the local Non-Conformist Chapel male voice choirs to the massed voices of a Rugby Union football crowd. Think of how many famous singers have come from Wales – Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Charlotte Church, Aled Jones, Bryn Terfel and Sir Geraint Evans, to mention just a few. Wales’s most famous poet, Dylan Thomas lived most of his life in the pretty estuary village of Laugharne in South Wales. His home ‘The Boathouse’ is open to visitors.
Wales has a lot to offer and regardless of what the weather is doing you will be able to find something of interest to do or see.

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