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Have you ever visited the United Kingdom? Don’t answer that if you’re from the United Kingdom, just skip down a few lines. Now, if you answered yes to having visited this island full of chips and sheep, did you visit Wales on your trip?
It saddens me that a lot of people will answer no to the latter, that some will say they only visited Cardiff on a quick day trip from London, and some others will even say “Eh? Wales? Isn’t that a fish?” Compared to our big siblings Scotland and England, our little bro Northern Ireland and our, shall we say, half-sibling, the Republic of Ireland, we’re easily forgotten. Just this little pig-looking splodge sitting next to England.
Based on the amount of time I’ve spent outside of the UK in the last seven years, and how quick I am to jump on that plane outtaz, you’d be forgiven for thinking that I’m not actually that keen on Wales. But honestly, I love it! I’m so proud to be from here, even if it is way too much effort explaining it to people overseas.
“I’m from Wales.”
“Wales, you know? Next to England.”
“Oh, you mean Scotland?”
“No, the other one.”
“No! Wales, next to England. You know – Gareth Bale.”
“Oh!! Gareth Bale! Yes, Wales.”
Way back in January 2017 I made it my New Year’s Travelution (that’s a travel-resolution hybrid, in case you couldn’t tell) to explore more of my own backyard, to see more of what Wales and its surrounding areas had to offer. Because Wales really is quite magnificent, like the lovechild of JRR Tolkien and Jane Austen’s imaginations. And I was so bloody excited about it!
Planning a trip to Cardiff? Check out this post by A Little Nomad:
1 Day Itinerary For Cardiff
See, despite having lived here my whole life (minus that year I spent in Europe on Erasmus and, like, the last 6 years I’ve spent travelling on and off…) I haven’t ever ventured North, and I don’t think I’ve been West since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. And East? Honestly, there is no East. In Welsh geography, there’s a north, a south, a mid and a west, but east doesn’t exist. If you know, you know.
My plans to frolic in the Welsh countryside were unfortunately scuppered when my mother passed away a few weeks later, and I found myself very much in the “Fuck It, You Only Live Once” mindset, booking myself flights to far-off countries left, right and centre, and essentially bankrupting myself, or at least maxing 2 of the 3 credit cards I shouldn’t have signed up for anyway #ByeByeCreditRating. After my mind and my finances settled a little bit, I flew to India, then to Malta, and then to New Zealand.
Now here I am wondering where those 17 months have gone and why I haven’t climbed Snowdon yet…
I’m seeing more and more travel influencers visiting Wales on press trips, and more and more “regular” folk adding Wales to their UK itinerary, and while it does make me want to stand on the roof with a daffodil around my head screaming “CYMRU AM BYTH”, it also makes me want to sob into my bowl of cawl wondering WHYYYY I haven’t seen more of my beautiful country.
That feeling of FOMO has majorly intensified this weekend because I booked a one-way flight all the way to the other side of the world, back to New Zealand, so now I’m determined to see as much as possible before shooting off. Mainly so when I’m back in NZ I can get into regular “my mountain is greener than yours” debates with some Kiwis.
If you’re umming and ahhing about visiting the Land of Song, maybe these ten reasons you should visit Wales will help make your mind up. And also get my own ass in gear to get exploring…
10 Reasons You Should Visit Wales
1. The most castles per square mile in Europe
When you think of pretty castles, your mind will probably jump straight to Germany. I wouldn’t blame you – Germany has some absolute ballers and would definitely win the World Cup of Castles. However, Wales would be a pretty close runner-up.
Throughout history, Wales has been home to at least 600 castles, with around 100 of them still standing to this day in some shape or form. Off the top of my head I think I’ve been to around 8 of them, which makes me totally undeserving of my Welsh-ness.
If you ever find yourself visiting Cardiff, there are at least 15 castles to visit within an hour’s drive, and that’s not including Cardiff Castle, situated right in the heart of the city centre.
2. Our mountains are small but mighty
When I visited Nepal back in 2012, the one thing almost every single person was keen to talk about was mountains. They’d ask where’s my husband, where I’m from and are there any mountains there… in that exact order. I’d then answer with yes, we have mountains, and they’d ask how tall the biggest one is.
Without fail every single person who asked that question laughed at my reply when I’d tell them 1,085m, an eighth of Everest. “That’s not a mountain, that’s a hill,” was the most common response.
Whether you’d consider them mountains or hills, there’s no doubts that our mountains are pretty bloody fantastic and offer the most EPIC views of the Welsh countryside.
3. We have dragons
For real. And I’m not just talking about Dewi, the red dragon on our flag (bet you didn’t know he had a name!), but actual living, breathing dragons.
In 2016 a dragon mysteriously popped up overnight on the banks of Caerphilly Castle and the Cadw dragon family have been an almost permanent summer fixture ever since! Last year Dewi and Dwynwen had two little baby dragons called Cariad and Dylan, and then they took off on a road trip around Wales, showing off their sprogs. I haven’t heard anything about their whereabouts yet this year, but hopefully they’ll be back soon!
4. Europe’s best beach
You think I’m joking?! Swansea’s Rhossili Bay has repeatedly been named as one of the best beaches in the UK, Europe and the world in various different lists, and those titles are definitely well-deserved!
Who even needs a cocktail by the pool in Barbados when you can have a bag of chips by the sea in Wales?!
Wales is also the first country in the world to have a dedicated coastal walk, meaning you can actually walk around the whole coast, from start to finish. It’s 870 miles long, so you should probably pack some snacks and put your Out of Office on for a while, but what a trek that would be?!
5. Lots of cute little villages in the middle of nowhere
You might have already heard of Hay-on-Wye, the little market town just on the border with English, most famous for its book festival, or Portmeirion, the most randomly-located Italian-style tourist village in North Wales. But there are a hell of a lot of other little Welsh towns and villages you won’t have heard of that are definitely worth visiting!
My hometown is actually a village, but definitely not one worth visiting. It’s basically just two really long streets that run parallel to each other for a few miles. We don’t have a market square, a local butchers or any of the other things you typically associate with a picturesque cutesy village.
There are lots and lots of villages that DO fit that image in Wales though, and most of them are completely off the grid.
6. Welsh cakes
No trip to Wales is complete without trying Welsh cakes. In fact, no life is complete without trying Welsh cakes! They don’t quite have the consistency of a cake, so don’t think you’re gonna be chowing down on a Victoria sponge. Welsh cakes look like tiny little pancakes, but with the consistency of a scone and the taste of Heaven!
DO NOT under any circumstances make the mistake of buying pre-packed Welsh cakes in a supermarket! They’re nice, but they won’t blow your mind. And they’ll also leave your mouth dry and a weird feeling behind your bottom teeth.
If you’re in the market for a Welsh cake or two, make sure you buy them still warm, preferrably from a little bakery or random cafe somewhere. And if you’re in Cardiff you absolutely cannot miss Fabulous Welshcakes!!! They have two locations just opposite Cardiff Castle and in Cardiff Bay, and they are just so unbelievably incredible! They do all sorts of flavours beyond your typical raisin, have options for vegans, coeliacs AND DOGS!
7. Our language is actually F%!#@ng fantastic
Have you ever heard a Welsh person speaking Welsh? If not, I definitely urge you to do so. It kind of sounds like Daffy Duck having a sneezing fit while reading a book backwards, but in the most poetic way imaginable. We have sounds that don’t exist in other languages, words that can’t really be translated (cwtch!), some that are translated in the most fantastic way possible, and others that make you just think why did you even bother translating that? It’s just bloody great. I’m not fluent myself, but if you want to pick up a few words and get a very catchy song stuck in your head for the rest of eternity, search for Aderyn Melyn on YouTube.
We also have Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch and do I really need to say any more?!
8. Rugby days
There’s absolutely nothing like the atmosphere in Cardiff on a rugby day! I’m not even a rugby fan and I absolutely hate crowds, but there’s something about a rugby day that has me grinning from ear to ear. It’s almost as if the whole population of Wales descend on the same few streets in the city centre, all dressed in identical jerseys with little red dragons or daffodils spray-painted on their cheeks and there for the exact same reason.
And have you ever seen the Welsh National Anthem sung in the stadium during a home game?! Chills! There may be only 3 million of us, but bloody hell do we multiply for a rugby match!
9. The sheep (and, you know, the rest of the countryside)
We have a lot of sheep. Not as many as New Zealand, but we’re catching up! And do you know what tends to come hand in hand with sheep?! GREEN! Green as far as the eye can see.
The Welsh countryside really is something to behold, and it’s actually everywhere. We’re full of Valleys, so a lot of the time if you look around you’ll be able to see mountains or hills on all four sides. Actually, I find it really strange when I visit Central London and there are NO mountains.
Tom Jones was on to something, you know…
10. We’re just a bunch of all-around good eggs
I don’t want to toot my own horn or anything, but we are quite a friendly folk. I mean, this one time I arrived in Stansted Airport in the middle of the night and was complaining out loud to my friend about having to wait 6 hours for the bus. This woman from across the carriage whipped her head around and said, “Are you heading to Wales?! We’ll take you!” She didn’t even ask where I was going or whether I was a serial killer, but just blindly agreed to drive me 3 hours home.
Like, I’m not saying every single Welsh person would offer to take a stranger in their car in the dead of night but what I am saying is if you’re ever in the South Wales area, let me know and I will 100% buy you welsh cakes!
Let me know if you’ve ever visited Wales, OR if you plan on coming within the next 2 months, and I really will buy you the best Welsh cakes you will ever taste!