Welsh Flag Welsh Flag Welsh Flag Welsh Flag Welsh Flag Welsh Flag Welsh Flag
Wales . . .

A Country Defined by Superlatives

By Suzan Flanagan

From its ancient Celtic roots to its bilingual road signs, Wales is a country with a distinct identity. A country whose sheep population is said to exceed its people population. A country whose firsts, lasts, and onlies reflect its proud heritage.

In the heartland of Welsh-speaking Wales, Mount Snowdon crowns Snowdonia, the second largest national park in England and Wales. Wales' highest road, Bwlch y Groes, leads to Bala, where you'll find the country's largest natural lake.

Llandudno's Great Orme Copper Mine dates back 4000 years, making it Europe's oldest copper mine. Also in North Wales, Gloddfa Ganol, the world's largest slate mine.

Wales once relied on mining for its economic health. Today, technology and tourism grow, while mines lie fallow and the stripped earth heals. The Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth — "Europe's foremost Eco-Centre" — demonstrates the "green" way of living.

Fancy swimming in peat bogs? Britain's smallest town, Llanwrtyd Wells, hosts the annual World Snorkelling Championships. While in Mid Wales, hop aboard the Aberystwyth Cliff Railway, the longest electric cliff railway in Britain.

The village of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwryndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, otherwise known as LlanfairPG, bears the longest place name in Britain. The English translation is even longer: Saint Mary's Church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio of the red cave.

Hay-on-Wye is ranked the second-hand book capital of the world. Its annual Festival of Literature draws famous writers from Paul Theroux to PD James.

At 74 meters/240 feet, Pistyll Rhaeadr is the highest waterfall in Wales. Aberdulais Falls lays claim to Europe's largest hydroelectric water wheel.

Carew Tidal Mill is the only restored tidal mill in Wales. The 23-acre millpond faces Carew Castle, formerly home to Sir John Perrot, who was accused of treason and died in the Tower of London.

With a population of 1500, St. David's is Britain's smallest city and oldest cathedral settlement. The presence of St. David's Cathedral makes it a city. During medieval times, two pilgrimages to St. David's were said to equal one to Rome.

Nearby, in Fishguard, the ill-fated Last Invasion of Britain unfolded in 1797. French soldiers mistook red-shawled, black-hatted local women for British soldiers. A 100-foot embroidered tapestry details the invasion and surrender of the French.

The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is Britain's only coastal national park. The 299-km/186-mile long coastal path can be divided into 14 "day walks." Taking ascent and descent into consideration, you'll cover 10,500 meters!

Off the coast, on Skokholm Island, sits Britain's first bird observatory. Birdwatchers and botanists also flock to Skomer, Ramsey, and Grassholm Islands.

Visit Stackpole Elidor to breathe the purest air in Wales. According to the British Lichen Society, Stackpole's 700-year-old churchyard is home to the most species of lichens. (Healthy lichens indicate pure air.)

With sunshine a limited commodity in Britain, Dale is a safe bet. It's said to be the sunniest spot in Wales. Rain or shine—north, south, east, or west—Wales retains its unique identity.

Back to top


Valid CSS!