About Wales

About Wales

Yn Am Gymru/Hwyl

What are some common symbols used to represent Wales, and why are they used?

The national emblem of Wales is the vegetable called the leek (Allium ampeloprasum, called cenhinen in Welsh). Various legends relate that St David, Wales' patron saint, or King Cadwaladr, instructed Welsh soldiers to use leeks on their helmets to distinguish themselves from their Saxon foes. The royal house of Tudor seems to have popularised the use of leeks to celebrate St David's Day (1 March), and people still frequently wear leeks to commemorate the day each year. Of course the leek's green and white colours are reminiscent of those on the Welsh flag.

Wales's national flower is the daffodil (plants of the Narcissus genus, called cenhinen Bedr in Welsh). These flowers naturally bloom around the beginning of March, and the Prime Minister David Lloyd George (who was Welsh), is reputed to have favoured the daffodil as a symbol for Wales. Once again, this emblem is commonly worn on St David's Day. The Welsh name actually means 'Peter's leek'!

The Sessile Oak or Welsh oak (Quercus petraea, which is called derwen ddigoes, crach dderw, or derwen fawr ganghennog in Welsh) is Wales's national tree. Its timber has been extensively used for firewood, charcoal, ship-building, for support poles in coal mines, and in the hide-tanning industry. The red kite (Milvus milvus, or barcut coch in Welsh) is sometimes used to represent Welsh wildlife. This is a medium-sided, russet-coloured predatory bird, with a pale head, long, narrow wings with a patch of white on the underside, and a forked tail, which is able to fly high.

'Dame Wales' (or Mam Cymru in Welsh), was used to represent Wales in cartoons by Joseph Morewood Staniforth, in the same way that Britannia symbolised Britain or the British Empire, and John Bull, England. These cartoons were current in the late 19th and early 20th century. She was shown as a middle-aged woman wearing Welsh national costume, including the tall Welsh hat. Her working-class voice of reason frequently warned authority figures against acting against Welsh interests.

What is the Welsh national anthem?

The national anthem of Wales is Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau. It is pronounced 'HEYN oo-LARD vun HAD-eye', and means 'the old land of my fathers', this being the first line of the song. In English it is generally referred to as 'Land of My Fathers'. A father and son from Pontypridd, Glamorgan, devised the anthem in 1856, Evan James (the father) writing the words, and James James (his son), writing the tune. The song has never been given legal status as national anthem. However, it has long been recognised locally and nationally throughout Wales, and has been used regularly since the 1970s in official governmental ceremonies, at receptions for the United Kingdom monarchy, and at the opening of the Welsh Assembly. Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau is usually the only anthem sung to represent Wales on these occasions, although sometimes 'God Save the Queen', the UK national anthem, is also used as well, if there is a royal connection to the event. Usually only the first verse and chorus are sung, both in Welsh.. The Welsh words, and a literal English translation are given below.

Mae hen wlad fy nhadau yn annwyl i mi,
Gwlad beirdd a chantorion, enwogion o fri;
Ei gwrol ryfelwyr, gwladgarwyr tra mad,
Dros ryddid gollasant eu gwaed.
The old land of my fathers is dear to me,
Land of poets and singers, famous men of renown;
Her brave warriors, very virtuous patriots,
For freedom lost their blood.
Gwlad, gwlad, pleidiol wyf i'm gwlad.
Tra môr yn fur i'r bur hoff bau,
O bydded i'r hen iaith barhau.
Land, land, faithful am I to my land.
While the sea is a wall to the pure, favourite land,
Oh may the old language endure.
Hen Gymru fynyddig, paradwys y bardd,
Pob dyffryn, pob clogwyn, i'm golwg sydd hardd;
Trwy deimlad gwladgarol, mor swynol yw si
Ei nentydd, afonydd, i fi.
Old mountainous Wales, the bard's paradise,
Each valley, each cliff, to my sight is fair;
Through patriotic feeling, so charming is the murmur
Of her streams, rivers, to me.
Os treisiodd y gelyn fy ngwlad tan ei droed,
Mae hen iaith y Cymry mor fyw ag erioed,
Ni luddiwyd yr awen gan erchyll law brad,
Na thelyn berseiniol fy ngwlad.
If the enemy oppressed my land under his foot,
The old language of the Welsh is as alive as ever,
The muse was not hindered by betrayal's dread hand,
Nor the melodious harp of my land.

What is the geography and climate of Wales like?

Wales is a country in the southwestern part of the island of Great Britain. Cardiff, the capital and largest city, is located at 51°29′N 3°11′W, in the south-east of Wales. Wales is bordered to the east by England, to the north and west the Irish Sea, and to the south by the Bristol Channel. Its total area is 20,779 km2 (8,023 sq mi), and there are over 2,700 km (1,680 mi) of coastline. Climatically, Wales lies within the north temperate zone and has a changeable, maritime climate. The terrain is characterized by rugged coastline and mountainous national parks, with the highest peaks in central and northern regions. The highest summit, Snowdon (In Welsh, Yr Wyddfa), is in Snowdonia (Eryri) in northwestern Wales, which is a national park 2,130 km2 (823 sq mi) in area.

What are the demographics of Wales?

In 2017 the population was 3.125 million people, so the average population density is 150 people per km2, although there is a wide variation in population density. Cardiff, the capital and largest city has 2,465 people per km2. On the other hand, the unitary authority of Powys has only 27 people per km2.

According to the 2011 Census 2.2 million (73%) of the usual residents were born in Wales, and 93.2% were 'white British' in terms of ethnicity. The Census showed that 57.6% of people stated they were Christian, whilst 32.1% said they had no religion. A 2011 survey by Manchester University showed that 58% of respondents identified as 'Welsh only', 16% as 'British only', 12% as 'English only', and 7% as 'Welsh' and 'British'.

 

What is the Welsh national costume?

In the 1830s, Lady Llanover, the wife of a Gwent ironmaster, began to promote the wearing of what is considered 'Welsh national dress' for women today. The costume is based on what countrywomen wore at this time. Note that there are many variations on the names for these items of clothing, and common representative words have been given here, in the singular form only. This included a striped flannel petticoat (pais), worn under a flannel open-fronted bedgown (betgwn), with an apron (ffedog or brat), and kerchief or cap (cap), as well as a red cloak (clogyn). Later, very distinctive, tall 'chimney hats' (het uchel) similar to men's top-hats appeared. Paisley shawls (siôl Persli) originating from Kashmir in India became very fashionable accessories.

Lady Llanover was primarily concerned with what women wore, rather than men, so today there is no standard 'national costume' for Welsh men. Various clothing firms have developed 'Welsh tartans' and now sell 'Welsh kilts' (cilt) based on those used and worn in Scotland (there may be about 40 Welsh tartans, compared with 20,000 Scottish ones!). A 'Welsh National Tartan' was designed in 1967, and contains the colours green, red, and white.

Welsh dress- Miss Ada Davies c1985

What is the capital of Wales?

Cardiff (Caerdydd in Welsh, possibly meaning 'the fort on the River Taff') is the Welsh capital, the largest city in Wales, and the eleventh largest city in the United Kingdom. It is located at 51°29′N 3°11′W, in south-east Wales. Cardiff is in the Historic County of Glamorgan, and the Ceremonial County of South Glamorgan. It became a city in 1095, and has been capital since 1955. The 2011 Census reported about 347,000 residents in the unitary authority region, with about 480,000 people living in the wider urban area around the city.

Cardiff is the main commercial centre in Wales, and houses many national media and cultural institutions, as well as the Welsh National Assembly (in the Senedd Building). There is also the Wales Millennium Centre arts complex, and ongoing development projects include  a BBC drama village, the Cardiff International Sports Village, and a new city-centre business district. The city is very popular with tourists from all parts of the world.

The Principality Stadium in Cardiff is the home of the Wales national rugby union team and also Wales's national stadium. Glamorgan County Cricket Club is based at Sophia Gardens. Cardiff City Stadium is home to Cardiff City football team and the Wales football team. Cardiff Arms Park houses the Cardiff Blues and Cardiff RFC rugby union teams.

Cardiff from the air
Cardiff from the air

Is Wales a real 'country' or just a 'principality'?

Wales really is a country in its own right, and not merely a principality. It is certainly not 'part of England'. Wales is geographically part of Great Britain (the island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of continental Europe, containing England, Scotland, and Wales). From the 13th to the 16th Centuries a region covering parts of north and west Wales was known as the Principality of Wales. The Laws in Wales Act (1536) legally incorporated Wales within England, but Wales was not named as a principality in a legal sense at this time. Today, after further political changes, Wales, together with Scotland, England, and Northern Ireland compromise the United Kingdom. Official government documents from both Wales and the United Kingdom almost always refer to Wales as a country, and in 2008 the Welsh Government stated clearly: "Wales is not a principality. Although we are joined with England by land, and we are part of Great Britain, Wales is a country in its own right."

Why is Wales called 'Castle Capital of the World'?

Wales is 'Castle Capital of the World' since it contains the sites of about 600 castles in a comparatively small area, many curated by Cadw, the Welsh government body that cares for the historic environment. Of these castles, about 100 have been restored or exist as ruins. The remainder have been overtaken by nature, but can still be discerned as ditches, earthworks, and mounds, frequently in strategic locations.. The Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd World Heritage Site consisting of Beaumaris, Caernarfon, Conwy, and Harlech castles, dating from the late 13th and early 14th century, is considered a superb example of military architecture.

Parallel.cymru: Top 10 Castles of Wales

How is Wales represented in the United Kingdom Government?

The United Kingdom is constitutionally a 'de jure unitary state', with its parliament and government in Westminster, London. The country of Wales is a constituent part of the United Kingdom. In the House of Commons, Wales is currently represented by 40 MPs (out of 650), elected in Welsh constituencies. Within the United Kingdom government, the Wales Office is the department responsible for Wales, whose minister, the Secretary of State for Wales, is a member of the United Kingdom cabinet.

What is devolution in relation to Wales?

In 1997 a referendum on devolution of power from central United Kingdom government in London by the creation of a Welsh assembly secured a narrow majority in favour of the proposal. The Government of Wales Act (1998) created the National Assembly for Wales (Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru), commonly called the Welsh Assembly, which began operation in 1999. It is housed in the Senedd ('Senate' in English) building in Cardiff Bay. This body has the power to legislate, vary taxes, and scrutinise the Welsh Government, and determines how the budget allocated to Wales by the central United Kingdom government is administered and spent. However, the United Kingdom parliament reserves the right to limit the Welsh Assembly's powers if deemed necessary. The Assembly consists of 60 Assembly Members or AMs (in Welsh, Aelodau'r Cynulliad or ACau). Every person in Wales is represented by five Assembly Members: one from the constituency, and four from the wider region. Usually, the majority party in the Assembly forms the Welsh Government. The Presiding Officer (Y Llywydd) is the most important official in the Welsh Assembly, who chairs Plenary meetings, whilst always remaining politically impartial.

What is the link between the 'Prince of Wales' and Wales?

In the 12th and 13th Centuries, rulers in Wales, starting with Owain Gwynedd in 1165, used the title 'Prince of Wales', to indicate dominion over the whole country which was recognised by the English Crown. Llywelyn ap Gruffudd (known in Wales as 'Llywelyn Ein Llyw Olaf' or 'Llywelyn Our Last Leader') was the final ruler to use the title in the way. He was killed during King Edward I of England's conquest of Wales in 1282. Owain Glyndŵr, a Welsh native, did later claim the title, although he was not recognized as 'Prince of Wales' in England. The current use of the title 'Prince of Wales' arose in 1301, when the eldest son of King Edward I, who would later become Edward II, was invested as Prince of Wales. King Edward II of England passed the title 'Prince of Wales' to his grandson Edward of Woodstock (the Black Prince). However, since this time, the title of 'Prince of Wales' has usually been held by the eldest surviving son of every monarch of England (and later of the Kingdom of Great Britain, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, or the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland). Succession to the title is not automatic, but when an existing holder of the title accedes to the throne, the eldest son, as 'heir apparent', usually becomes Prince of Wales in his place. It is possible that in the reign of a particular monarch there is no Prince of Wales. For example, since King George VI had no sons, there was no holder of the title during his reign. His daughter, Elizabeth (who later become Queen Elizabeth II), was not known as 'Princess of Wales'. In Wales today the holder of the title has no constitutional role. The current Prince of Wales is Charles Windsor, the 21st person to hold the title in its modern form, which he has done since 1958, although hewas not actually invested till 1969. The Welsh Government states: "Our Prince of Wales at the moment is Prince Charles, who is the present heir to the throne. But he does not have a role in the governance of Wales, even though his title might suggest that he does."

Who is the Head of State in Wales?

Wales is a constituent country of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The Head of State in Wales is the same as the Head of State in the other constituent countries of the UK, namely the monarch of the UK (commonly called the British monarch). This is currently Queen Elizabeth II. The head of the devolved Welsh Government is the First Minister, and the chairperson of the Welsh Assembly in the Senedd is Y Llywydd (The Presiding Officer). In the United Kingdom government in Westminster, the Wales Office is the department responsible for Wales, whose minister, the Secretary of State for Wales is a member of the UK cabinet.

What is the link between Dr Who and Wales?

In September 2003 BBC Television announced the relaunch of the flagship science fiction programme Dr Who. BBC Cymru Wales in Cardiff was to be responsible for producing the show, with the executive producers being writer Russell T Davies, and Julie Gardner, the BBC Cymru Wales Head of Drama. Since this time the show has mostly used locations in Wales, and until the BBC National Orchestra of Wales has provided incidental music. Russell T Davies produced a spin-off sci-fi/crime drama called Torchwood (an anagram of Dr Who), set in Cardiff, which ran from 2006-2011.

How does the economy of Wales perform?

The Bank of England is the United Kingdom's central bank, and is responsible for monetary policy and for issuing currency throughout the UK, including in Wales. The pound is the currency used in Wales, as in the rest of the UK. The Welsh economy is intimately tied to that of the UK and of Europe. It is dominated by service industries, which contributed 66% to gross value added (GVA) in 2000, whilst manufacturing contributed 32%. Actual Welsh per capita economic output has long been lower than that in the rest of the UK and parts of Western Europe. In 2002 it was 80% of the UK average, and 90% of the EU25 average. In 2012 the Welsh economy was only the tenth largest out of the UK's twelve regions. However, the cost of living in Wales is only about 93–-94% of the UK average, so the difference in standard of living between Wales and richer regions of the UK is mitigated somewhat. Cardiff, the capital city of Wales, is a very important centre for service provision and economic growth, especially in the areas of white-collar work, retail, finance, media and tourism.

What are the counties of Wales?

Several definitions are used for counties in Wales: the Historic Counties of Wales, the Preserved counties, and the Principal Areas.

The Historic Counties are ancient subdivisions of Wales which were used for various administrative functions from 1536 to 1974, and have principally historic interest today. They are:

  • Anglesey (Sir Fôn)
  • Brecknockshire/Brecon (Sir Frycheiniog)
  • Cardiganshire (Sir Aberteifi or Ceredigion)
  • Caernarfonshire (Sir Gaernarfon)
  • Carmarthenshire (Sir Gaerfyrddin or Sir Gâr)
  • Denbighshire (Sir Ddinbych)
  • Flintshire (Sir y Fflint)
  • Glamorganshire (Sir Forgannwg or Morgannwg)
  • Merionethshire (Sir Feirionnydd or Meirionnydd)
  • Monmouthshire (Sir Fynwy)
  • Montgomeryshire (Sir Drefaldwyn)
  • Pembrokeshire (Sir Benfro)
  • Radnorshire (Sir Faesyfed)

The Preserved Counties of Wales are regional designations used today for the ceremonial purposes of lieutenancy and shrievalty. They are:

  • Clwyd: Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Wrexham
  • Dyfed: Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire
  • Gwent: Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Monmouthshire, Newport, Torfaen
  • Gwynedd: Gwynedd, Isle of Anglesey
  • Mid Glamorgan: Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil, Rhondda Cynon Taf
  • South Glamorgan: Cardiff, Vale of Glamorgan
  • West Glamorgan: Neath Port Talbot, Swansea
  • Powys: Powys

The Principal Areas of Wales were created in 1996 for the purpose of local government. You will often see the words Cyngor (Council) and Sir (Shire) associated with the names, as in Cyngor Sir Penfro (Pembrokeshire Council). The Principal Areas of Wales are:

  • Blaenau Gwent (Blaenau Gwent)
  • Bridgend (Pen-y-bont ar Ogwr)
  • Caerphilly (Caerffili)
  • Cardiff (Caerdydd)
  • Carmarthenshire (Sir Gâr)
  • Ceredigion (Ceredigion)
  • City of Newport (Dinas Casnewydd)
  • Conwy (Conwy)
  • Denbighshire (Sir Ddinbych)
  • Flintshire (Sir y Fflint)
  • Gwynedd (Gwynedd)
  • Isle of Anglesey (Ynys Môn)
  • Merthyr Tydfil (Merthyr Tudful)
  • Monmouthshire (Sir Fynwy)
  • Neath Port Talbot (Castell-nedd Port Talbot)
  • Pembrokeshire (Sir Penfro)
  • Powys (Powys)
  • Rhondda Cynon Taff (Rhondda Cynon Tâf)
  • Swansea (Abertawe)
  • Torfaen (Tor-faen)
  • Vale of Glamorgan (Bro Morgannwg)
  • Wrexham (Wrecsam)

What are the cities in Wales?

As of 2015, there are 69 cities in the United Kingdom which have been created by letters patent or royal charter. There are 51 in England, 7 in Scotland, 6 in Wales, and 5 in Northern Ireland. The Welsh cities together with estimates of their {population (as of 2017)}, and their [area in km2], are given below, together with the figures for Wales and the UK as a whole for comparison. Note that the values given for areas can vary considerably for the smallest locations, depending on the criteria used to define the extent of the city (for example, city council area, or urban area); urban area is used here.

  • Bangor (Bangor) [4.3 km2] {population: 18,476}
  • Cardiff (Caerdydd): [139] {362,756}
  • Newport (Casnewydd) [190]  {151,485}
  • St David's (Tyddewi) [0.6] {1,841}
  • Swansea (Abertawe) [378] {245,48}
  • St Asaph (Llanelwy) [1.3] {3,355}

 

  • Wales (Cymru): [20,735] (3,125,165)
  • UK (Y Deyrnas Unedig) [242,500] {66,040,229}

Why are Welsh people called 'Taffy' or 'Taff'?

It is conjectured that the word Taffy comes from a mixture of the Welsh forename Dafydd and the name of the river Taff, that runs through Cardiff. Some historians think that Taffy may have been used for a Welshman in England as far back as Tudor times. During this period many Welsh people went to London to seek their fortune, spurred on by the idea that they could cash in on Henry VII's Welsh heritage. However, the nickname definitely was in circulation by the middle of the 18th century, although rhymes of the time referring to it are less than complimentary, such as: "Taffy was a Welshman, Taffy was a thief; / Taffy came to my house and stole a leg of beef." By the mid 20th century, the negative stereotype had died down, but the nickname survived. This may have been helped by the increased integration of Wales with the rest of the United Kingdom during World War II. National Service meant that Welshmen served alongside comrades from all over the UK, and were considered natural soldiers, and good fun, so that Taffy became a term of endearment. The singer Tom Jones is supposed to have been happy to be called Taffy by Frank Sinatra, and today there is always demand for Taffy vehicle registration plates in the UK and throughout the world.

What is the meaning of the Word 'welch'?

The English world 'welch' (which is sometimes also spelled 'welsh') is glossed as 'racing slang' originating in the mid 19th century, which means 'to refuse or avoid payment of money laid as a bet'. It has now come to mean 'to break one's promise' more generally. Its etymology is uncertain but it probably derives from the use of the national name 'Welsh' as an insult, and is therefore widely considered derogatory towards Welsh people.

Who is the patron saint of Wales?

The patron saint of Wales is Saint David, known in Welsh as Dewi Sant, and in Latin as Davidus, who lived in the 6th century CE, although the exact dates are uncertain. He was a native of Wales, traditionally known as the grandson of Ceredig ap Cunedda, King of Ceredigion, and son of Saint Non. He became bishop of Mynyw (which is today St Davids, or Tyddewi, a small city on Riven Alun in Pembrokeshire, West Wales). He is said to have helped in spreading Christianity in Europe. One much-told story relates that when David was preaching to a large group of people at the Synod of Brefi the earth miraculously rose up to elevate him on a hillock, whilst a white dove alighted on his shoulder. David is supposed to have died on 1 March, and is buried at St David's Cathedral in St Davids. This day is commemorated today as Saint David's Day in Wales.

Dewi Sant

What is King Arthur's link to Wales?

The Welsh-language poem Y Gododdin, of uncertain date, attributed to the author named Aneirin, probably contains, in passing, the first mention of King Arthur: "He [Gwawrddur] fed black ravens on the rampart of a fortress / Though he was no Arthur". The 'Annales Cambriae' (Welsh Annals) record the death of Arthur at Camlann between CE 537 and 539. Anonymous Welsh poetry from the 13th and 14th centuries mentions Arthur. Llyfr Du Caerfyrddin (The Black Book of Carmarthen) contains Englynion y Beddau ('The Englyns [Stanzas] of the Graves'), which explain that Arthur's grave is a "mystery of the world" (anoeth byd) as no-one knows where it is. The long tale Culhwch ac Olwen (Culhwch and Olwen), about Arthur and his warriors, survives in Llyfr Coch Hergest (The Red Book of Hergest) and partially in Llyfr Gwyn Rhydderch (The White Book of Rhydderch).

King Arthur is connected with many places in Wales. Geoffrey of Monmouth says in 'Historia Regum Britannia' (History of the Kings of Britain), that Arthur's court was at Caerleon (Caerllion in Welsh), outside modern Newport in south-east Wales, "[...] a delightful spot in Glamorgan, on the River Usk, not far from the Severn Sea." There again, he linked Merlin (Myrddin in Welsh), with Dinas Emrys, a hill-fort in north Wales. Moel Arthur is the name of an Iron Age hill-fort on the Clwydian Range near Denbigh (Dinbych) in north-east Wales. Another legend holds that Arthur and his knights slumber in a cave beneath Craig y Ddinas, Pontneddfechan, south Wales. There are also several Stone Age megaliths called 'Arthur's Stone' throughout Wales.

How many sheep are there in Wales?

The Welsh wool industry has long been a very important part of the British economy, with wool forming two-thirds of the nation's total exports in the mid-17th century. Sheep farming is still important in the Welsh economy, and a major part of agricultural activity. There were more than 10 million sheep and lambs in Wales in 2017, and this represents about 33% of the British total. This figure is about three times the number of people living in Wales. Sheep farms are found both along the south and west coasts of Wales, and in the moorlands and mountains, and sheepdogs are used to help herd flocks. Not surprisingly, this superabundance of ovine residents is often alluded to in lewd humour.

How far away is Wales?

Well, that would depend on where you are travelling from! If you take the capital city, Cardiff, as your destination then some of the distances from around the world are:

  • Bristol: 21 km
  • Swansea: 55km
  • Aberystwyth: 121 km
  • Oxford: 137 km
  • Southampton: 140 km
  • Birmingham: 142 km
  • Coventry: 154 km
  • Portsmouth: 166 km
  • Leicester: 190 km
  • Watford: 194 km
  • Derby: 198 km
  • Bangor: 205 km
  • London: 212 km
  • Liverpool: 214 km
  • Penzance: 225 km
  • Brighton: 225 km
  • Manchester: 231 km
  • Cambridge: 242 km
  • Sheffield: 242 km
  • Lincoln: 265 km
  • Leeds: 280 km
  • Dublin: 295 km
  • Belfast: 392 km
  • Paris 491 km
  • Edinburgh: 497 km
  • Berlin: 1141 km
  • Madrid: 1231 km
  • Rome: 1598 km
  • Athens: 2583 km
  • Moscow: 2701 km
  • Cairo: 3699 km
  • Jerusalem: 3810 km
  • North Pole: 4296 km
  • Ottawa: 5183 km
  • New York: 5384 km
  • Equator: 5706 km
  • Washington DC: 5712 km
  • New Delhi: 6933 km
  • Los Angeles: 8619 km
  • Rio de Janeiro: 9126 km
  • Johannesburg: 9133 km
  • São Paulo: 9332 km
  • Shanghai: 9373 km
  • Tokyo: 9692 km
  • Hong Kong: 9819 km
  • Buenos Aires: 10,952 km
  • Jakarta: 11,920 km
  • South Pole: 15,708 km

What is the story of Wales within Britain and the United Kingdom?

Neanderthals were living in the area now called Wales about 230,000 years ago, with Homo sapiens arriving about 33,000 years ago. Modern human beings have lived in Wales continuously from about 9,000 BCE (at the end of the last Ice Age). Many remains from the Mesolithic, Neolithic, and Bronze Age have been found in Wales. Celts (speaking Brittonic or British Celtic languages), were the majority inhabitants of all of Britain south of the Firth of Forth, including Wales, in the Iron Age.

The Romans arrived in Britain in CE 43, and had conquered all of Wales by CE 79. After the Romans left in the 5th century, the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes began to invade. At this time distinct languages and cultures began to emerge amongst the Celts living in different parts of Britain. The biggest group was the Welsh people (y Cymry in Welsh) and the history of the Welsh (as separate from the other Celtic peoples) is generally considered to be attested from around the 11th century. Localised kingdoms continued to rise and fall in Wales after the Romans departed, but no one leader succeeded in uniting all of Wales politically.

After the Norman Conquest in 1066, the Normans gradually took control over all of England, and began to make incursions westwards into Wales. By the 13th century, rule in Wales was split on geographical lines between native Welsh princes (in an area referred to as the 'Principality'), and Anglo-Norman Marcher barons (in a region called the 'Marches'). Gwynedd, under the leader styled as Prince of Wales, was the dominant part of the Principality. Between 1277 and 1283, King Edward I of England attacked Wales, finally killing Prince of Wales Llywelyn ap Gruffudd in 1282, annexing the Principality, and effectively ending Welsh independence.

The Statute of Rhuddlan (1284) created the counties of Anglesey, Caernarfon, Cardigan, Carmarthen, and Merioneth, where Welsh law was used in civil cases, and English law in criminal cases. Elsewhere in Wales (except Flint, the Royal Lordships of Glamorgan, and the Royal Lordship of Pembroke), that is, in the Marches, local laws and courts held sway. In the early 15th century Owain Glyndŵr led the last major revolt against English rule in Wales.

The Laws in Wales Acts (1535 and 1542) enacted by the English Parliament in the reign of King Henry VIII (who was the great-grandson of the Welsh Owen Tudor) made Wales a full and equal part of the Kingdom of England. The English legal system and English forms of governmental administration were introduced in Wales, in an attempt to create a unified legal jurisdiction for England and Wales. From this time on, Wales was represented in the English Parliament in Westminster, London.

The new laws brought order and peace to Wales, and the Welsh landed gentry generally welcomed legal equality with their new English compatriots. However, the laws had more damaging effects on the majority of ordinary people. Particularly through the enforcement of the English language in legal and administrative settings, they were disenfranchised from the systems governing them, and as their culture and identity was eroded, their economic power also declined. Yet despite English dominance, Welsh language and culture did survive, and the publication of Bishop William Morgan's Welsh translation of the Bible in 1588 gave a great boost to the Welsh language. The Laws in Wales Acts were repealed 1993 and 1995, with new provisions for Welsh language being enacted through the Welsh Language Act (1993).

In union with England, Wales became part of the Kingdom of Great Britain (1707), and of the United Kingdom (1801). Today, the countries of England, Scotland and Wales (Great Britain), together with Northern Ireland (which is variously called a country, province or region), make up the unitary sovereign state called the United Kingdom. England is the largest constituent country in the UK in terms of area and population, and hosts the UK Parliament in Westminster, and UK Government in Whitehall, both in London.

Devolution has created partial autonomy from the UK in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, through the institution of the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales. However, jurisdiction over various 'reserved' matters within these countries is retained by the UK Parliament and the UK Government. Today Wales is effectively defined as the union of the 22 Principal Areas created in 1996 to provide all local government services, including education, social work, environment, and roads services in Wales.

At the start of the 21st century, different polls have indicated that from 10% - 25% of Welsh people are in favour of Wales' seceding from the United Kingdom to become an independent sovereign state. Another survey performed mainly in north and west Wales reported roughly 50% in favour of independence. This outcome is supported by Plaid Cymru (The Party of Wales). In the 2016 UK referendum on European Union membership, Wales overall voted 'leave' (with 'remain' majorities in Cardiff, Monmouthshire, Vale of Glamorgan, Gwynedd, Carmarthenshire, and Ceredigion). This can be compared with the overall 'remain' votes in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Thus, whilst support for the Welsh Assembly's current activities, and for an increase in the powers of the Welsh Government, appears to grow, and the possibility of Scotland becoming independent of the UK remains present, Plaid Cymru is calling for renewed 'national debate' on Welsh independence from the UK.

What is Wales is famous for?

A Welsh Assembly funded body named CultureNet survey received over 80,000 nominations in 2003-4 asking who are the most notable Welsh people. The top two were:

  1. Aneurin Bevan, politician who founded the NHS (2,426 votes)
  2. Owain Glyndŵr, Prince of Wales (2,309 votes)
  3. Tom Jones, singer (2,072 votes)
  4. Gwynfor Evans, politician (1,928 votes)
  5. Richard Burton, actor (1,755 votes)
  6. Gareth Edwards, rugby player (1,685 votes)
  7. Dylan Thomas, poet (1,630 votes)
  8. David Lloyd George, Prime Minister (1,627 votes)
  9. Robert Owen, philanthropist and founder of socialism (1,621 votes)
  10. Saunders Lewis, writer and campaigner (1,601 votes)

The women in the list are as follows:

  1. Catherine Zeta-Jones, actress (1,136 votes)
  2. Tanni Grey-Thompson, athlete (432 votes)
  3. Margaret Haig Thomas, businesswoman and suffragette (108 votes)
  4. Cerys Matthews, singer (88 votes)
  5. Laura Ashley, designer (87 votes)
  6. Gwen John, artist (68 votes)
  7. Megan Lloyd George, politician (56 votes)
  8. Elizabeth Andrews, political campaigner (37 votes)

Where can we go in Wales?

Wales is overflowing with great places to visit. The following are the top ones reported by Google, with public satisfaction scores of 4/5 - 5/5:

  • Beaumaris Castle, Anglesey
  • Big Pit National Coal Museum, the Valleys
  • Black Mountains
  • Brecon Beacons National Park
  • Bute Park, Cardiff
  • Cadair Idris, near Dolgellau
  • Caernarfon Castle
  • Caerphilly Castle
  • Caldey Island, off Tenby
  • Cardiff Castle
  • Carreg Cennen Castle, near Llandeilo
  • Castell Coch, north Cardiff
  • Conwy Castle
  • Crib Goch, Snowdonia
  • Devil's Bridge, Aberystwyth
  • Ffestiniog Railway, Snowdonia
  • Folly Farm Adventure Park and Zoo, near Tenby
  • Great Orme, Llandudno
  • Harlech Castle
  • Llanddwyn Island, Snowdonia
  • Llŷn Peninsula
  • Mynydd Llechi / Slate Mountain
  • National Botanic Garden of Wales, Carmarthenshire
  • National Museum Cardiff
  • National Showcaves Centre for Wales, near Swansea
  • National Slate Museum, Snowdonia
  • National Trust: Bodnant Garden
  • National Trust: Chirk Castle, Wrexham
  • National Trust: Penrhyn Castle, Gwynedd
  • National Trust: Powis Castle and Garden, Welshpool
  • Oakwood Theme Park, Pembrokeshire
  • Offa's Dyke
  • Pembroke Castle
  • Pembrokeshire Coast National Park
  • Pembrokeshire Coast Path
  • Pen y Fan, Brecon Beacons
  • Plas Newydd House and Gardens, Anglesey
  • Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Wrexham
  • Principality Stadium, Cardiff
  • Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire
  • Snowdon
  • Snowdon Mountain Railway
  • St David's Cathedral, Pembrokeshire
  • St Fagans National Museum of History, north Cardiff
  • The Smallest House In Great Britain, Conwy
  • Tintern Abbey, near Monmouth
  • Tryfan, Snowdonia
  • Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay
  • Welsh Highland Railway Snowdonia