For lovers of nature or the great outdoors this is a paradise on earth.
But if culture and history are your passion then you are equally well catered for.
So says the Welsh Tourist Board
Wales is a mountainous country on the western shores of Britain covering an area of 8,015 sq miles, 160 miles 'long' from north to south, and either 60 miles or 125 miles wide from east to west, depending on whether you measure from the narrowest or widest point. It is regarded as mountainous on the basis that approximately one quarter of the land is above an elevation of a 1,000ft, which might be nothing compared to the Alps but sufficient to frighten the English.
Half the population of almost three million is crammed into the industrialised south east, or to be precise the post-industrial south-east, since the old coal and steel industries have now almost disappeared, which leaves the remainder of the country as relatively unspoilt apart from the odd bit of quarrying and mining here and there.
What there is to see in Wales
Wales has it share of 'traditional' seaside resorts, places such as Porthcawl and Tenby in the south and Llandudno, Rhyl and Colwyn Bay on the north coast. There are also plenty of uncommercialised beaches around particularly on the Gower Pensinsula and the quieter parts of the coastlines of Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion.
In the major cities Cardiff (pop. 305,340), Swansea (pop. 223,293) and Newport (pop. 137,017) there are the sort of things that all such connurbations boast such as bars, nightclubs and restaurants. In terms of modern attractions Cardiff boasts a hands-on science centre in Techniquest and if your tastes run to rollercoasters and the like there is the Oakwood Leisure Park near Narberth in Pembrokeshire and Barry Island Pleasure Park near Barry.
In terms of annual events there is of course the National Eisteddfod, the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, the Royal Welsh Show run by the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society and held at Builth Wells, the Brecon Jazz Festival and the Hay Festival of Literature which is
held at Hay-on-Wye, a small town notable for the fact that it has a population of 1,300 people and 39 bookshops and is probably the second-hand bookshop capital of the world.
Generally what Wales is known for is its natural and unspoilt scenery and specifically the variety of landscapes ranging from mountains and valleys to lakes and forests and incorporating rugged shores and sandy beaches. Although this isn't necessarily evident if you're driving on the M4 past the Port Talbot steel-making complex, it does serve to attract those interested in such outdoor activities such as climbing, walking, bird-watching, riding, fishing, sailing or absailing down Devil's Bridge.
Wales has three national parks;
and five areas of outstanding natural beauty;
which altogether cover about a quarter of the land mass of Wales.
(See the informative map at
for their location.)
There is also an ongoing Historic Landscape Characterisation program in Wales, by which means probably another quarter of the country will eventually be designated in some way or another.
Within Wales there are three National Trails; the Offa's Dyke Path, which roughly follows the line of the Dyke itself; the Pembrokeshire Coast Path which wends in way around the coastline form Amroth to St Dogmaels, and the newest, Glyndwr's Way which links Machynlleth with the Offa's Dyke Path.
Amongst the 'natural wonders' of Wales, there is of course Mount Snowdon itself, as well as other mountains such as Tryfan and Cader Idris and the spectacular Llanberis Pass, but you also might consider;
Wales probably has more castles per square foot than anywhere else in the world, and proper castles at that. The most popular from a tourist point of view would include;
Other historical monuments of note include;
If you taste runs to pre-history there are neolithic burial chambers at;
and ring cairns at,
Museums and Galleries
Firstly there are the bodies that form part of the National Museums and Galleries of Wales;
There are approximately another 100 or so museums scattered across Wales, one of quirkiest being the Andrew Logan Museum of Sculpture, near Welshpool(that is Andrew Logan as in the alternative Miss World), but others include;
Whilst they are not exactly museums, mention should be made of,
which are probably more fun than the average museum.
The Great Little Trains of Wales
For reasons of history and geography Wales has a number of narrow gauge railways which once served a genuine commercial purpose, moving coal or slate down a valley to the nearest port but now carry a more valuable traffic in the form of English railway enthusuiasts;
There is also the Aberystwyth Electric Cliff Railway, Britain's longest funicular railway, which runs up the cliff at Aberystwyth to the camera obscura at the top.
Since Wales was the world's first industrialised nation, it is only natural therefore that it also might be considered the world's first post-industrial nation as the country is now littered with former mines and factories. Something needs to be done with them, and turning them into tourist attractions is as good an idea as any.
Apart from the Big Pit referred to above there is also;
In terms of stuff that is still working there is,
Gardens and Historic Houses
One of the most popular attractions in Wales is Portmeirion, Clough Williams-Ellis' Italianate fantasy village and gardens and the location of the cult 60's television series The Prisoner. Other historic houses and gardens include;
Which means of course that I have forgotten to mention the The Alice In Wonderland Centre and The Dr Who Experience and Model Railway World both near Llandudno, King Arthur's Labyrinth and Celtica at Machynlleth, the Welsh Mountain Zoo, Great Orme Tramway, Lake Vyrnwy, Cardiff Bay Visitors Center, Margam Country Park, the SeaQuarium at Rhyl, Caldey Island, Holy Island, Puffin Island, Glyncorrwg Ponds, Afan Forest Park, all those Farm Parks, Penscynor Wildlife Park, Anglesey Sea Zoo, the Dinosaur Experience at Cardiff, Plantasia at Swansea, the Conwy Butterfly Jungle, the National Coracle Centre, Dylan Thomas' Boat House, Beddgelert and of course that place with the implausibly long name.
To check the weather in Wales go to
but it will probably be raining anyway.
Population statistics for 2001 from
Geographical information from
Further Tourist type info from
- Wales Tourist Board at
www.tourism.wales.gov.uk/ or www.visitwales.co.uk/ or www.wtbonline.gov.uk/
- Directory of local tourist boards at http://www.tourist-boards.com/wales.htm
- National Museums and Galleries of Wales http://www.nmgw.ac.uk/
- Welsh Historic Monuments Information http://www.cadw.wales.gov.uk/
- Welsh trains at
- Welsh gardens at
- Council of Museums in Wales
- Holes in the ground at