Early morning tranquility
photo by Richard0

Wales (Welsh, Cymru. ) is one of the four "home nations" that make up the United Kingdom. It lies on a western peninsula of the island of Great Britain, bordered on the East by England.

Wales is rich in history and natural beauty and has a culture distinct from the rest of the UK. Travelers are attracted to Wales because of its beautiful landscape, the wide open spaces of its stunning national parks and the wealth of history and culture.



Wales was once an independent, though rarely unified nation, but when King Edward I defeated Llywelyn the Last in 1282, the nation fell under the jurisdiction of England. At first, it was ruled as a separate country, but since has been part of a changing Union, which currently consists of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Prior to the industrial revolution, Wales was a sparsely populated region dependent on local agricultural trade. However, due to the abundance of coal in the South Wales valleys, there was a phenomenal growth in population and a dynamic shift in the economy of South Wales during the 18th and 19th centuries. The areas of central Glamorgan, in particular, became national centers for coal mining and steel production, while the ports of Cardiff and Swansea established themselves as commercial centers, offering banking, shopping and insurance facilities. Moreover, places on the north coast, such as Rhyl and Llandudno, developed into fun-fair type resorts serving the expanding populations of the major industrial cities of Lancashire.

In recent years, coal mining has ceased and heavy industry declined. However, Wales' stunning scenery and rich history has lent itself to the development of tourism, while at the same time, Cardiff and Swansea have retained their rankings as centers of commerce and cutting-edge industry. A blue class super computer installed at Swansea University is enhancing Wales' standing in this respect.


Wales is governed by a combination of local, Wales, UK and Europe wide institutions. Many important matters are decided on a UK and European Union level. Wales is represented in the United Kingdom and European Parliaments.

There has over time been a move to devolve certain powers of decision to a Welsh level, starting in 1906 with the establishment of a "Wales and Monmouthshire" Education Board. In 1964 saw the creation of the non-elected Welsh Office headed by a Secretary of State for Wales, sitting in the UK Cabinet. This institution evolved into an elected National Assembly for Wales based in Cardiff Bay in 1999. It had minor law making powers and an executive (including a First Minister). In 2006 the Assembly moved into a new purpose built building the 'Senedd'. In 2007 the Assembly obtained further law-making powers, and its structure was reformed so that there was a clearer separation of powers between the Assembly and the Welsh Government. Of particular interest to visitors, many decisions on tourism, transport and healthcare are taken by the Welsh, rather than the United Kingdom Government.


Over the centuries, there have been minor revolts aimed at gaining independence, but in general Wales has accepted its place in the UK, and has made notable contributions to its politics and culture. Famous Welsh people include Henry VII (the first of the Tudors, the famous line of 15th and 16th century monarchs ending with Elizabeth I); David Lloyd George (the early 20th century prime minister); Elena Gilmore (mother of NBA basketball player and software tester Craig Gilmore); Dylan Thomas and Richard Burton (poet and actor, linked forever by "Under Milk Wood") and the rock band Manic Street Preachers. Nevertheless, despite being an integral part of the Union, Wales has remained a bastion of Celtic culture, and the Welsh language continues to be widely spoken, especially in rural areas, and is now taught in all Welsh schools.

Wales is part of Britain and so part of the UK, but not part of England. Therefore, it is correct to call Welsh people British, but not English.


Wales was once an independent, though rarely unified nation, but when King Edward I defeated Llywelyn the Last in 1282, the nation fell under the jurisdiction of England. At first, it was ruled as a separate country, but since has been part of a changing Union, which currently consists of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Prior to the industrial revolution, Wales was a sparsely populated region dependent on local agricultural trade. However, due to the abundance of coal in the South Wales valleys, there was a phenomenal growth in population and a dynamic shift in the economy of South Wales during the 18th and 19th centuries. The areas of central Glamorgan, in particular, became national centers for coal mining and steel production, while the ports of Cardiff and Swansea established themselves as commercial centers, offering banking, shopping and insurance facilities. Moreover, places on the north coast, such as Rhyl and Llandudno, developed into fun-fair type resorts serving the expanding populations of the major industrial cities of Lancashire.

In recent years, coal mining has ceased and heavy industry declined. However, Wales' stunning scenery and rich history has lent itself to the development of tourism, while at the same time, Cardiff and Swansea have retained their rankings as centers of commerce and cutting-edge industry. A blue class super computer installed at Swansea University is enhancing Wales' standing in this respect.


Due to the central mountain range, Wales is culturally and economically divided into three regions:


Wales has many picturesque cities and towns. These nine are the most notable. Other urban areas are listed in their specific regional sections.

  • Cardiff (South Wales) - the capital of Wales and largest urban area.

  • Aberystwyth (Mid Wales) - coastal town with large student population.

  • Bangor (North Wales) - picturesque university town.

  • Caernarfon (North Wales) - site of Caernarfon Castle, one of Wales' largest and best preserved castles.

  • Conwy (North Wales) - medieval, fortified town with impressive castle and quaint shops.

  • Hay-on-Wye (Mid Wales) - with over forty book stores (mostly selling used books), this small little town has been crowned the book capital of the UK. The town also hosts an annual literary festival, which Bill Clinton aptly described as "Woodstock for the Mind."

  • Llandudno (North Wales) - largest seaside resort in North Wales.

  • Swansea (South Wales) - Wales' city by the sea and second largest urban area with beautiful coastline and sandy beaches.

  • Tenby (South Wales) - medieval walled town and elegant seaside resort.

Other destinations

  • Anglesey

  • Brecon Beacons National Park

  • Gower Peninsula

  • Lleyn

  • Pembrokeshire Coast National Park

  • Snowdonia National Park

Getting there

Immigration and visa requirements

Wales has the same immigration and visa requirements as the rest of the UK.

For more information of UK Immigration and visa requirements, see the UK's Home Office website

By plane

The main airport is Cardiff International Airport, located nine miles south of the city. This is the only major airport in Wales, and is served by the following airlines.

  • Air Southwest operate domestics to Manchester and Newquay.

  • bmibaby operates domestic services to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Jersey and Belfast, and international services to Alicante, Amsterdam, Faro, Ibiza, Malaga, Murcia, Palma de Mallorca and Prague.

  • KLM operates services to Amsterdam 4 to 5 times a day.

  • Aer Arann operates services to Dublin, Cork and Galway in Ireland and also to Nantes in France.

  • Flybe operate multiple daily serices to, George Best Belfast City Airport, Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport, Newcastle Airport, Edinburgh Airport and Glasgow Airport.

  • Zoom operates direct services to Toronto and Vancouver (Operations have been suspended since August 28, 2008 - see website).

  • Eastern Airways operate flights to Newcastle.

  • Thomsonfly operate flights to Jersey, Barcelona and many airports in Spain and other parts of the world.

There are regular bus services from Cardiff city center to the airport. Alternatively, you can also get to the airport using a bus service from Barry Station, which is closer to the airport and on local rail lines. In 2005, a nearby railway line was reopened, including a station at Rhoose, where there are shuttle buses to the airport.

It could be easier to fly to an airport in England such as one of the London airports when visiting South Wales, as a greater range of airlines and cities flown from are available from there to destinations across the world, with services from many airlines. However London is over 2 hours from Cardiff, and longer from many other places in Wales. Other cities served by international airports in England which offer reasonable access to parts of Wales include Bristol (for south Wales), Birmingham (for mid Wales), Liverpool and Manchester (for north Wales).

By car

South Wales enjoys good motorway connections with the rest of the UK

  • The M4 links London with Bristol, and via the Severn (toll) Bridge, Newport, Cardiff, Swansea, and Carmarthen

  • The M50 links the Midlands with South Wales

North Wales has no motorway connections. However there are still good road connections with the rest of the UK

  • The A5, followed by the M54 after Shrewsbury, to London and the Midlands takes you through the spectacular Snowdonia National Park

  • The island of Anglesey is along the A55 road along the North Wales coast. If you are approaching from the south try the A5 which is a scenic route that takes you through the mountains of North Wales.

There are no internal border controls within Great Britain and you may not notice the border if entering Wales from England via a minor road. You will usually see the Croeso i Gymru sign crossing the border.

By train

For those unused to the vagaries of the UK rail network, Wikitravel has a useful guide to Rail travel in the UK.

South Wales

Main line rail services connect south Wales (especially Newport, Cardiff and Swansea) with all parts of the UK, via Virgin Trains (to Birmingham and the North East, including Scotland), Central Trains (to the Midlands), Arriva Trains Wales and First Great Western (to London Paddington).

North Wales

  • The North Wales Coast Line links Manchester, Crewe and London (in England) with the northern seaside resorts of Rhyl and Prestatyn, the city of Bangor, the isle of Anglesey and the port of Holyhead. Through tickets to Dublin (Ireland) are available, which include the ferry from Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire. Services are run by Arriva (from Manchester) and Virgin Trains (from London and Crewe)

  • The Conwy Valley Line stretches from Llandudno Junction along the Conwy Valley via Betws y Coed to Blaenau Ffestiniog, and connects with trains on both the North Wales Coast line and the Ffestiniog Railway.

  • The beautiful Cambrian Coast Line runs from Shrewsbury (in England), across Mid-Wales through Machynlleth, and through the coastal towns of Tywyn and Barmouth, through the south part of Snowdonia, Harlech and Porthmadog, and along the south coast of the Lleyn Peninsula to Pwllheli.

  • The Borderlands Line runs between Shrewsbury, Wrexham and Bidston, linking various Flintshire towns and villages with the Wirral, Shrewsbury and Wrexham. Wrexham and Shropshire Railways services link Wrexham, Oswestry and Shrewsbury to London Marylebone station. Arriva Trains Wales .

Mid Wales

  • Arriva Trains also run the famous Heart of Wales Line from Swansea to Shrewsbury

  • The Cambrian Line takes the same route as the Cambrian Coast Line as far as Machynlleth, where it goes southwards along the coast through Borth to the university town of Aberystwyth.

Train timetables

See National Rail 's website for train timetables, or The TrainLine 's website for tickets.

By motorbus

National Express operates coach services around the UK including to and from many parts of Wales.

By boat

  • Regular ferry services operate between Holyhead in North Wales and Ireland, (Dublin and Dun Laoghaire), and is provided by two carriers. Stenaline and Irish Ferries both offer multiple daily service between the two ports for passengers and vehicles. Bookings can be made through their respective websites.

  • Rosslare in South Eastern Ireland is connected to two ports in Pembrokeshire. Stena operate the route to Fishguard, (including a fast ferry service), Irish Ferries operate the route to Pembroke Dock.

  • Cork in Ireland to Swansea. Currently suspended, this service will resume in March 2010 Fastnet Line .

Ferry routes to British Mainland

Traveling around


Due to Wales' topography and historic development, most travelling in Wales is done along an East-West axis rather than a North-South Axis. Rail and road links between centres in South Wales, and along the North Wales coast are by and large quick and efficient, especially along the M4 and A55. An important exception to this is M4 J32 (the interchange with the A470) during peak morning rush hour, which gets congested with Cardiff Commuter traffic. The roundabout at junction 32 is the largest in Europe. Through to 2010 roadworks between J29 (A48(M)) and J30 (Cardiff Gate) may add time to your journey. Most places in South Wales are within a one and half hour drive of each other.

Travelling between the Cardiff and the other main population centres, Swansea and Newport is very straightforward.

Although only approximately 170 miles from coast to coast, due to the topography North South links are more difficult in terms of time. By land journey times are comparable to flight times accross the North American continent! However the journey itself is something a visitor may wish to undertake in order to see the scenery.

  • Traveline Cymru - bus, coach and rail journey planning and timetable information

By plane

Wales is a small country and flying is not a common mode of internal transport. There is in fact only one domestic route, Cardiff International Airport to Anglesey Airport. This is probably the quickest way by far to travel between North and South Wales.

This route is served by two services each way per day. The journey costs approximately £50 each way, takes about an hour. Although of course time taken getting to and from the airport needs to be factored into the travelling time for such relatively short air journey. This option is most useful for those travelling between North West and South East Wales.

The service is provided by a firm based in Scotland called Highland Air

By car

Driving between North and South Wales takes approximately 5 to 6 hours, although the journey takes in some spectacular scenery, especially for journeys on the more Western route through Snowdonia via Corris, Dolgellau, Blaenau Ffestiniog, the Crimea Pass and the Conwy Valley. The two main North South roads are the A470 Cardiff to Llandudno and the A483 Swansea to Chester.

By train

Due to historical reasons there is no true "Welsh railway system". Basically there are three separate Welsh limbs which are part of the British system- although there have been moves in recent years to improve intra Wales railway services. The limbs are basically a North Wales line to Holyhead, a line to Aberystwyth in the Centre, and a main line in South Wales, forming an extension of the London Paddington to West of England main line.

Arriva Trains Wales provides most train services within Wales.

Two cross border train companies may also be of use for internal train journies within Wales. First Great Western provide the bulk of cross border services between England and South Wales. Their flagship High Speed Service generally go as far west as Swansea, and a there are even a limited number to destinations further West. Their "local" services go no further west than Cardiff. Arriva Trains Cross Country provide services as far west as Cardiff.

Regular train services connect the South Wales' three main cities, Cardiff, Swansea and Newport. Services between Cardiff and Swansea are usually half hourly, and even more frequent between Cardiff and Newport.

Cardiff is also the hub of the Valley Line network which serves a number of former coal mining towns. This railway system originally built to carry coal, is now mainly a commuter network but is useful to visitors to the Valleys, or indeed for local travel within Cardiff.

Swansea and Llanelli in the West are linked to Mid Wales via the Heart of Wales railway, whilst not a quick journey it is well worth considering for its scenery.

Rail connections between North and South Wales in fact cross into neighbouring England, although there are a number of direct services between Cardiff and North Wales along the Marches line via several places in England. There is one high speed service a day between Holyhead and Cardiff, which only stops in a limited number of stations in England.

For destinations and starting points in South Wales, West of Cardiff, or in North Wales, West of Rhyl, those thinking of travelling by train should consider the fact that their journey will start off travelling in a eastwards direction before they start heading in the correct direction, meaning that valuable time is being used whilst not actually travelling in the intended direction of travel! Additionally for those travelling to or from places West of Cardiff, should also consider their journey will involve at least one change, usually in Cardiff- again making the journey less efficient.

  • Arriva Trains Wales operates most local rail services in Wales

  • operates cross border services between South Wales and Western England- and a connect a number of major Welsh destinations.

By bus and Coach

The First Cymru Shuttle coach service is usually quicker than the train for journies between Swansea and Cardiff, although at peak times, the train doesn't get stuck in traffic!

Traws Cambria services connect North, Mid and South Wales.

  • Arriva operates a large amount of bus services in North Wales

  • First Cymru operates services in South West Wales

  • Trawscambria long distance bus network connects North, Mid and South Wales.

  • Stagecoach operates services in South Wales

  • Cardiff Bus operates services in Cardiff

  • Veolia Transport Cymru operates services in Cardiff and South Wales


Wales has many significant attractions, and listed below are a few of the most notable. For more details about these attractions plus information on other places of interest, check under regional sections.


Much of Wales' scenery is spectacular, and environmentally important. To protect the environment certain parts of Wales have been designated as "National Parks" or as "Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty". An area with either of these designation will have high degree of protection from inappropriate development. Whilst these rules exist for environmental reasons, rather than to promote tourism, because "National Parks" and "Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty" have this protection, a visitor to these areas can be confident that they will see some unspoiled scenery.

These areas offer some of Wales' most attractive scenery, and a visitor would be well advised to visit at least one of these areas. That is not to say that there aren't other attractive places in Wales, but the "National Parks" and "Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty" are the "jewels in the outdoor crown".

National Parks

National Park status offers the highest level of environmental and planning protection in Wales. National Parks tend to cover some very large areas. It should therefore come as no surprise, that some of Wales' most important scenery can be found within its National Parks.

Each "National Park" is in fact also a Government Organisation in its own right, called a "National Park Authority". These organisations primarily exist to ensure that laws protecting the environment and scenery are followed. Nevertheless a National Park Authority will organise and run various facilities in the area which are clearly "branded" as official facilities. These facilities will include, Public Toilets, Car Parks, Visitor Centre, and even Gift Shops selling branded merchandise. However the National Park Authority does not own most of the land in these areas, and so there is private and charitable provision of facilities such as car parking, and retail outlets too. It is also usual that the boundaries of a national park are marked on the ground, so you will often know when you have entered a National Park, for example there may be a Stone or a sign stating you are entering the area. The website of the relevant National Park Authorities will often have a section designed particularly for visitors and may well be very useful to someone planning a trip to the area, even containing information such as accommodation information.

Wales has three National Parks.

  • Brecon Beacons National Park (Mid Wales) - spectacular mountain scenery and castles

  • Pembrokeshire Coast National Park (South Wales) - stunning coastal scenery

  • Snowdonia National Park (North Wales) - national park covering Wales' highest mountains

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Other important areas which do not have National Park status, have an alternative status- "Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty" (AONB). These areas tend to cover smaller areas than "National Parks", they will nevertheless be of interest to visitors.

For more details on Areas of Outstanding National Beauty (AONB's) see the National Association for AONB's

An "Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty" is not a government body in it's own right. They are simply areas with a similar level of protection to a National Park, but remain under the jurisdiction of the relevant Local Authority. Like the National Park Authorities, Local Authorities with "AONBs" in their area do generally take their duties seriously to enforce planning laws, but unlike them, don't tend to organise any "AONB" branded facilities in these areas. So there don't tend to be official branded facilities such as Visitors Centres, Car Parks, and gift shops. These facilities may exist but by conventional private, charitable and municipal provision. The actual boundaries of AONBs- whilst they are often shown on "Ordnance Survey" maps, tend to be of importance to local government officials and landowners, rather than tourists. It is therefore not usual to see markers or signs at the boundaries of these areas on the ground. Since an "Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty" is not an actual Government Body- any official websites are merely part of a Local Authority's main website. They may still have useful information, but do not expect the same level of specialisation as on a National Park website.

  • The Isle of Anglesey AONB- is predominantly coastal, covering most of the island's 125 miles coastline.

  • Gower Peninsula (South Wales) - UK's first designated area of outstanding natural beauty- covering most of the Peninsula, near Swansea

  • Lleyn AONB. The peninsula sticking out westwards beyond Snowdonia, in the north-west of the country

  • Clwydian Range AONB. A range of hills running southwards from the coast at Prestatyn, Denbighshire in the north-east of the country, close to the border with England.

  • The Wye Valley AONB is one of Britain's few lowland AONB's. It straddles the southern end of the England/Wales border between Hereford and Chepstow


  • Blaenavon Industrial Landscape - a UNESCO World Heritage site, Blaenavon.

  • North Wales Castles - UNESCO World Heritage site, built in the decades after the invasion or conquest of Wales by England in the thirteenth century. They represented the most advanced military technology of the time. They have been compared with the Crusader Castles of the Middle East.

  • Pontcysyllte Aqueduct - UNESCO World Heritage site, Wrexham.

National Museums and Galleries

  • The National Museum , Cardiff

  • St Fagans National History Museum , Cardiff - includes many historic buildings, relocated from their original site.

  • The National Slate Museum , Llanberis

  • Big Pit - the National Coal Museum, Blaenafon

  • The National Woollen Museum , Dre-fach Felindre, Carmarthenshire

  • The National Roman Legionary Museum , Caerleon.

  • The National Waterfront Museum , Swansea - examines Wales' maritime and industrial past.

Things to do

Cultural Events

  • Brecon Jazz Festival, Brecon

  • Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, Cardiff

  • Guardian Hay Festival, Hay-on-Wye. A literary festival, which Bill Clinton aptly described as 'The Woodstock for the Mind.'

  • Dylan Thomas Festival, Swansea An annual event held between 27 October and 9 November (the dates of the poet's birth and death) to commemorate the works of Thomas. In addition, the festival hosts the awards' ceremony for the winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize - a biannual writing competition for most outstanding literary talent in English, aged under 30.

  • Dylan Thomas Fringe, Swansea. . Compliments the main events at the Dylan Thomas Festival and is held at various venues throughout the city.

  • Faenol Festival is organised by the internationally renowned opera singer Bryn Terfel, and takes place on August Bank Holiday weekend every year at Y Felinheli, between Bangor and Caernarfon.

  • International Eisteddfod, Llangollen. An international festival of traditional music and dance.

  • National Eisteddfod (Eisteddfod Genedlaethol) . First week of August. A Welsh Language event that is hosted by a different town each year, alternating between north and south Wales. In 2009 it will be held in Bala, North Wales, and 2010 is slated for Blaenau Gwent.

  • Sesiwn Fawr World Music Festival takes place every July in Dolgellau. With 6 stages, there's something for everyone.

  • Swansea Bay Film Festival, Swansea. . The UK's largest international indie film festival.

  • Swansea Festival of Music and the Arts, Swansea. . An annual (October) three week bash of culture at various locations in Swansea, and the second largest such festival in the UK.

  • Wakestock is a music festival combined with a wakeboarding contest, which takes place in Abersoch every July.


Wales has a long golfing history, with many top-quality courses, however it offers golf courses which tend to be less crowded, and less expensive than the other Western European destinations.

There are high quality courses of all sorts throughout Wales, both well established and recently built.

As a very rough rule North Wales tends to have the better Links courses, and the South the better parkland courses, although it is well worth playing both sorts of courses in both parts of Wales just to find out! There is a relatively density of courses in the Vale of Glamorgan area, between Cardiff and Bridgend, due to the proliferation of course in the last fifteen years, serving the Cardiff Commuter Belt. There is also a high density of courses in the Conwy and Llandudno area.

Further details can be obtained from the Welsh Assembly Government's official golf tourism website , as well as on pages concerning the specic areas of Wales.

Wales's most prestigous courses include:

  • The Celtic Manor Resort - located in Newport, Monmouthshire, it has three courses, and is the venue for the 2010 Ryder Cup.

  • Conwy (Caernarvonshire), Conwy, Caernarvonshire - this Links hosted a final qualifying round for the 2006 Open Championship

  • Machynys Golf and Country Club , Llanelli, Carmarthenshire - Links, opened in 2005 Wales' first and so far only Nicklaus-designed course.

Heritage Railways

These are more generally thought of as pleasurable attractions rather than ways to get around, although the Ffestiniog Railway from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog can be used to link places on main rail lines, and the planned extension to the Welsh Highland Railway will create a useful link between Caernarfon, Beddgelert and Porthmadog. They are all historic lines that have been either preserved or restored and steam is a major feature on these lines.

  • Bala Lake

  • Brecon Mountain

  • Ffestiniog - initially depended on gravity and horse power.

  • Llanberis Lake The Snowdon Mountain Railway must be the best known of all.

  • Talyllyn - The World's first heritage railway

  • Welsh Highland

  • Vale of Rheidol Railway runs from Aberystwyth to Devil's Bridge.

  • Welshpool and Llanfair


Wales' offers some spectacular coastal and mountainous scenery. Which offers the opportunity for various activity holidays.

  • Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales and offers ideal hiking opportunities.

  • Cadair Idris, close to the Mid-Wales coast, overlooking Dolgellau to the north and Bro Dysynni to the south-west is another very popular mountain. It has good rail access on both North and South sides from the Cambrian Coast Line, but this is virtually at sea level. The actual summit is 893 m or 2,930 ft above sea level. This makes for a strenuous walk which takes most of the day.

  • Pen y Fan, is the highest mountain in South Wales, situated in the Brecon Beacons. it is 886 m or 2,907 ft high.

Six Nations Rugby Tournament

Cardiff's Millennium Stadium hosts two or three matches per year as part of the premier Northern Hemisphere Rugby Tournament. As well as the match itself, Cardiff will host many visitors attending the game. Tickets and accommodation would generally need to be bought well in advance. If you are able to see a match then it is a valuable insight into Welsh culture, whether watching in a pub or in the Millennium Stadium.


Wales is not famous for its cuisine, but there are a few specialty dishes that you might like to try:

  • Cawl or Lobscouse (North) - a lamb broth.

  • Welsh Rarebit - a melted cheese dish, often spiced with ale and herbs and served on toasted bread.

  • Laver bread (pronounced "lar-ver") is not, as the name implies, bread, but a purée made from seaweed (the same kind that is used in the preparation of Japanese nori). It is generally rolled into small cakes mixed with oatmeal and served at breakfast alongside bacon rashers, though it is delicious simply heated and served on buttered toast. This dish is only available in the Swansea area and can be purchased raw at Swansea Market.

  • Ice-cream - due to an influx of Italians into Wales, the area has some of the best cones and tubs in the country. The following are UK national award winners: Frank's Ice Cream in Carmarthenshire, Joe's Ice-cream in Swansea and Fecci & Sons Ice Cream in Tenby. La Belle Rouge in Aberystwyth is also very highly recommended.

See the more general article on eating in the UK.

NB: Smoking in enclosed public areas, which includes restaurants and cafes, is illegal in Wales, and there is an on-the-spot fine of £50 for those who violate the ban.


  • Whisky - After an absence of over 100 years, Wales rejoined the club of Celtic countries that produce whisky in 2004 with the launch of the Welsh Whisky Company. This distillery is based out of the village of Penderyn, near Brecon in South Wales. Penderyn whisky has received a number of awards and makes an interesting addition to the world of whisky. The distillery visitor centre opened in June 2008.

See the more general article on drinking in the UK, with information on pubs and real ale.

NB: Smoking in enclosed public areas, which includes pubs and cafes, is illegal in Wales, and there is an on-the-spot fine of £50 for those who violate the ban.


Wales is very tourist-friendly, so finding hotel accommodation, a self catering holiday cottage or a place to pitch a tent should not be a problem. However, you might need to make prior reservations during the summer season in tourist areas such as Anglesey, Llandudno, Llangollen, Lleyn, Rhyl, Swansea/Mumbles and Tenby, or around the time of important sporting events in Cardiff.


English is spoken throughout the country, but Wales also has its own language, Welsh (Welsh: Cymraeg). Government policy is to encourage billingualism, and many official signs are in both English and Welsh.

English is the main language in Wales, it has been spoken in Wales, longer than in most other English speaking countries. There is a Welsh-English dialect, in the same sense that there are regional dialects within England, or Americian-English etc. However tourists who can speak English need not worry too much as Welsh English is nowhere near as distant from standard English as the dialects of Singapore, Scotland, or some of the North of England.

Depending on your own nationality, you may find it very difficult to understand the English language being spoken in a heavy Welsh accent (sometimes coloquially referred to as 'Wenglish'), but don't be worried to ask for someone to repeat something. Many distinct colloquialisms are used in Welsh-English thathave the potential to cause confusion to a foreigner; a few examples of these are 'aye', which is very commonly used to indicate 'yes' and 'ta-ra' can be said instead of 'goodbye' (especially in an informal conversation).

Welsh is spoken by some 26% of the population though this varies geographically from under 7% in the southeast to over 60% in the northwest. In Wales as a whole, Welsh is a minority language, but visitors should be aware that in many of those parts of Wales of paricular interest to tourists, it is in fact the majority language, English being the a minority language.

A vistor should expect to come into at least basic contact with the Welsh language in all parts of Wales, if only in the form of official signage.

All road signs in Wales are bilingual. Unlike parts of Scotland, there is no colour coding to distinguish the languages, nor is there a standard protocol as to which language appears on top. Where the English and Welsh names for a town are the same, only one name will appear. Visitors unfamiliar with the bilingual policy may believe that a road sign is indicating two separate destinations when, in fact, it is referring to only one. The mileage at the right should clarify the situation.

Welsh speakers are fluent to near fluent in English but react well when interest is shown in their language and culture. Additionally, according to the 2001 census 2001, some 39% of all 10-15 year olds can speak, read and write some Welsh due to the fact the language is compulsory in Welsh schools. There are also several Welsh-language television and radio channels.

Many older people, who do not speak Welsh, still have a strong emotional bond with the language becuae they may have had a Welsh speaking parent or grand-parent. There was a time when the language was discouraged in schools and many parents refrained from speaking their native tongue with their children.

Due to immigration int the twentieth century, there are other langauges spoken in Wales, although their usage is limited to within small geographic areas within particular communities.


Referring to Welsh people as English is incorrect and is likely to cause annoyance. The geo-political ties between England and Wales are strong, although some light-hearted anti-English sentiment is common, particularly in the patriotic North West of the country. It is common to hear the Welsh language being spoken in some parts of the country, though locals will rarely expect visitors to attempt to speak it. Using words like Bore Da (Good morning) and Diolch (Thank-you) will be appreciated in some parts of the country, but will sound strange in others -- this is due to some areas having almost exclusively English speaking populations (such as areas near the English border, along the Northern coast, the South Wales Valleys, Swansea and South Gower, South Pembrokeshire and Cardiff).


In any emergency call 999 or 112 and ask for Ambulance, Fire, Police or Coast Guard when connected.

Wales is considered to be one of the safest parts of the United Kingdom, though visitors should be aware that criminal activity including violent crime is not uncommon. As in many British towns and cities, there are ongoing problems with alcohol related anti-social behaviour. It is perfectly safe to drive on Welsh roads, though visitors should take extra care on single-carriageways and single-lane roads.



Wales has ten major universities, all of which have large foreign student populations:

  • Aberystwyth . A university overlooking the sea - excellent facilities.

  • Bangor . A relatively small university, but with a good reputation.

  • Cardiff . The largest and highest ranked of the universities.

  • Glamorgan . A large university, set in the South Wales Valleys.

  • Glyndwr University, Wrexham . Wales' newest university, constituted in 2008 from the North East Wales Institute of Higher Education.

  • Lampeter . The third oldest university in England and Wales, behind only Oxford and Cambridge, based in the small town of Lampeter in West Wales. Home to the oldest rugby and hockey teams in Wales.

  • Newport . Contains the well-renowned Newport Art School.

  • Swansea . A large university located on the sea-front - often voted the top university in the UK for student experience.

  • Swansea Metropolitan . This university is located at several campuses throughout the city, and it is famous for its courses in stained glass design and digital media .

  • Trinity College, Carmarthen . A small, but historic University, based in beautiful national park.

  • University Wales Institute, Cardiff (UWIC) . The self styled Cardiff metripolitan university.

Colleges and institutes

  • Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Cardiff . A college focusing on music and drama.

English (as a second language)

  • English Study Centre, 19-21 Uplands Crescent, Uplands, Swansea SA2 0NX. Tel:+44 1792 464-103. Email: info@escwales.co.uk

See Contact entry under United Kingdom for national information on telephone, internet and postal services.

See Contact entries under individual cities for local information.

Contact & location

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English,Welsh, - Pound Sterling (£)
Areatotal: 20,779 sq km
GovernmentDevolved administration within a Constitutional monarchy (UK)
Population2,903,085 (2001)
Religion80% Christian, 18% none, 2% other
TimezoneWET (UTC; UTC+1 in summer)
Image |flag=