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Travel Guide: Wales
Wales lies on a peninsula in central west of Great Britain and is about the same size as El Salvador. Its main population and industrial areas are in the South. It’s landscapes is mountainous, shaped during the last ice age. The west of the country is beautiful with its blue seas, white sands and marine life, but is also known for its devastation, having some of the highest shipwreck rates. To sea basking sharks, leatherback turtles, dolphins as well as other marine life tourists can see these in south west Wales.
The name Wales originates from the Germanic ‘Walh’, referring to speakers of celtic languages. Wales’ Welsh national identity emerged in the early 5th century after the Roman withdrawal from England.
Wales was incorporated into England with the Laws of Wales Acts 1535-1542, creating the legal entity known today as England and Wales. Cardiff was declared the national capital in 1955 and in 1999 the National Assembly for Wales was created.
Tourists are drawn to Wales’ wild and picturesque landscapes, with its prehistoric origins from as early as the ice age. For a small country we have a varied and dramatic landscape. It is only 170 miles from north to south and 60 miles east to west. Mostly green and very beautiful Wales has three National Parks, and five areas of outstanding natural beauty, all part of a landscape that offers opportunities for all kinds of activities. Walking, cycling, climbing, golf, mountain biking and paragliding are just the beginning of the list. You will find over six hundred castles.
In Wales English and Welsh are spoken, both languages spoken equally though one of other being dominant in different areas of the country. Welsh is a Celtic language, closely related to Cornish and Breton. The Welsh we speak today is directly descended from the language of the sixth century, and is one of Europe’s oldest living languages.
The patron Saint of Wales is St David, which is celebrated 1st March. The national symbol is the red Welsh dragon, and other national emblems being the leek and daffodil.
Wales is known for its sheep farming and in regards to its cuisine lamb stew (cawl) is popular. Wales is called ‘the land of song’, famous for its male choir voices and solo singers like Tom Jones and Aled Jones to mention a few.
There are many legends and myths in Wales with the Legend of Brave Gelert being possibly the best known. The Welsh like a good story in Wales. You'll hear tales of King Arthur and Merlin the Magician, of kingdoms lost beneath the sea and battles between dragons, of haunted castles and knightly deeds. These captivating tales don't just spring from a fertile Celtic imagination. They are inspired by Wales's wonderful landscapes and seascapes. Which may explain why Pembrokeshire in West Wales is still proud to be known as Gwlad hud a lledrith - 'The land of magic and enchantment'.
Aerfyrddin (Carmarthen) is believed to be Merlin’s birthplace, and is named after him. Some way north, in the caves below the ruins of DinefwrCastle, Merlin is said to have communed with fairies. Legend has it that Arthur killed a giant called ‘Rhitta’ on MountSnowdon, and fought another fierce battle nearby at Bwlch y Saethau. Even now, he and his knights are thought to be sleeping in a cliff-top cave beneath ChepstowCastle. So many tales and legends, all making Wales a place not to be missed, while at the same time a beautiful country in which to live.
Visas are not needed to visit Wales but to study or work there if you are travelling from the USA you will need a visa. You need to apply online on the UK Border Agency website.