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How Many Sheep Are There In Wales? ...and other interesting facts about Wales

Updated on July 6, 2016

Wales 101

I am constantly surprised at how little people really know about Wales and this comes from people living in the United Kingdom and in Wales itself in many cases. I have been asked many times, "Where is Wales"? as if it is some ancient Celtic Neverland of mythical creatures sitting in some far off ocean. Some folk even assume that Wales has something to do with whales. I really can't do much to enlighten these individuals but for those who would like to find out more about this beautiful country through answers given to commonly asked questions about Wales please read on. I am also including many of my own pictures from my travels around Wales to entice you to learn more about this country that isn't England, isn't Scotland nor Northern Ireland but uniquely Wales.

The video below sums up many people's perception of Wales. It made me giggle.

Why I wrote this article!

Where Is Wales? and Is It A Country?

So let's start at the beginning and answer the question, "Where Is Wales or Cymru, as it is known in Welsh?"

Wales is located to the west of England and south of Scotland in what is called Great Britain. It is bordered by the English Counties of Lancashire to the Northeast, Staffordshire and West Midlands to the East and The Counties of Gloucestershire and Somerset to the Southwest. The Bristol Channel is situated in the Southwest part of Wales and can be crossed by the Severn Bridge to the County of Somerset and the Irish Sea lies in between the western coast of Wales and Ireland.

Wales is a "constituent country" like England,and Scotland which, as parts, along with Northern Ireland, which is considered a province, all form a whole which is the United Kingdom.

The principality of Wales

Wales From Above

What Is Wales Known For?

Off the top of my head I think of Wales in terms of the colours green and grey. The rolling hills and valleys display every kind of green in an artist's palette and, especially in North Wales, where I live, I think of the villages with houses made of slate from the local slate mines which is light grey in the sun but turns almost black on wet days. However, the hills can also be awash with heathers of many shades of purple and deep yellow gorse. Snowdrops and multi-coloured crocuses dominate in the late winter then the daffodils take over in the early spring followed by masses of bluebells carpeting the woods like a blue haze.

I also think of chapels and the hymns that the congregation have known since childhood and the clear, melodious sound of a Welsh choir. I often wonder why there are so many fine singers in Wales? Maybe it is the mountain air, as some claim, but I will have to delve into this further.

Of course, you have to think of sheep, and there are many, but there are also cattle and, I suppose, rain comes to mind. The rain is the reason that the hills are so green throughout the year but I have known warm sunshine for weeks on end in the Spring, Summer and Autumn and then you forget about those soggy days. For the most part, it seems to be one day nice and one day not so nice so you plan your activities accordingly.

When you think of Wales you have to think of its ancient history which has been covered in many books and of those castles and there are many, some partly destroyed due to various battles but some in wonderful condition. I just visited Powys Castle near Welshpool which is in superb condition. Harlech Castle, although open to the elements, is your classic castle in a superb setting overlooking Cardigan Bay. There is now a new gateway to the castle and a visitor centre and restaurant. There are over 100 castles in Wales (there used to be around 400) so I won't name them all but some of the impressive ones are: Conwy, Caernarfon, where Prince Charles had his Investiture in 1969; Cardiff Castle, in the centre of Cardiff ;White Castle and Chirk Castle.

The beaches in Wales are as beautiful as any in other parts of the United Kingdom and very often uncrowded. The Gower Penninsula and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park are breathtaking and one can walk the entire 870 mile coast of Wales on the newly completed Welsh Coastal Path , see: walescoastpath.gov.uk This is on my bucket list!

Wales is no longer known primarily for coal, iron and steel or for forestry, although this is an important industry in Wales. It has had to reinvent itself as a tourist destination. Wales is an active player in many modern economic activities but is becoming especially well known for its film industry. For example, did you know that the series 'Gavin And Stacey', 'Casualty', 'Hinterland','Holby City', 'Torchwood', 'Being Human', and 'Dr. Who' are filmed in Wales?

Wales has also been used as a location for some major motion pictures such as, 'Clash Of The Titans', 'Die Another Day', 'Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows', 'Merlin',and 'Robin Hood' (2010) to name a few. See visitwales.com for more information.

Wales is obviously known for its lamb but it also produces some wonderful cheeses. I especially like the Black Bomber mature cheddar cheese produced by the Snowdonia Cheese Company, www.snowdoniacheese.co.uk .

Another Welsh specialty is cawl, (the Welsh word for soup), a hearty soup often containing lamb but can also be suitable for vegetarians like myself and for afters try a slice of buttered bara brith (literally meaning "mottled or speckled bread") which is a fruit loaf made with steeped tea or a "welsh cake" which I liken to a flat fruit scone cooked on a griddle (not like the ones shown in the video above) and very delicious. Welsh wine, cider, perry and beer are becoming very competitive. So they are worth a try.

I would be remiss not to mention that the Welsh are passionate about rugby. It is football in England and rugby in Wales and you have never heard the Welsh National Anthem sung louder than at at the Six Nations Championships, Wales vs England. Welsh rugby players such as Gareth Edwards, Barry John, J.P.R. Williams, Gerald Davies, Mervyn Davies have become legends.


The Story Of Wales

The Story of Wales
The Story of Wales

A Welsh history that spans 30,000 years by author Jon Gower with an Introduction by BBC news anchor, Huw Edwards published by BBC Books to accompany the series.

 

The Cregennan Lakes in bloom

Gorse, heather and bracken
Gorse, heather and bracken | Source

What Is The Connection Between Mt. Snowdon in North Wales And Mt. Everest?

Mount Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales, at 1,085 metres (3,560 feet) doesn't hold a candle to the mighty Mount Everest in the Himalayas at 8,848 metres (29,029 feet) but Sir Edmund Hillary, Tenzing Norgay and their mountaineering team used Mount Snowdon for training for six months between 1952 and 1953 before they went on to be the first men to conquer Everest on May 29, 1953. The treacherous winter conditions found on Snowdon's craggy slopes were ideal to partially prepare the team for what they would encounter on Mount Everest. In recognition of its role in the expedition the Western Cwm of Mt. Everest is named after the valleys of Mt. Snowdon.

Members of the expedition later donated items used during their ascent to the Pen-y-Gwryd hotel where they stayed in Snowdonia. The hotel has oxygen canisters, crampons, rope and many other items, including a shrunken head, on display in glass cabinets.

What Is The National Anthem Of Wales?

The official National Anthem of Wales sung with gusto at sporting matches and official occasions is "Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau" literally meaning "Old Land Of My Fathers" and became better known as "Land Of My Fathers". It dates back to 1856 and was written by Evan James , a weaver, wool merchant and poet and his son James James, a harpist and musician from Pontypridd, South Wales.The song was originally penned as "Glan Rhondda" or "The Banks Of The Rhondda" and became famous after the Bangor Eisteddfod of 1874.

I have included a video of the anthem with lyrics in Welsh with an English translation. I am still trying to learn the Welsh words so I can sing out confidently rather than try to bluff my way through.

I Never Knew That About Wales

I Never Knew That About Wales
I Never Knew That About Wales

More information about Wales.

 

The National Anthem Of Wales, "Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau" or "Land Of My Fathers' "

Daffodils

The daffodil - the official flower of Wales.
The daffodil - the official flower of Wales. | Source

Who Is The Patron Saint Of Wales?

Saint David was a Welsh bishop born in the 6th Century who founded many churches in Wales. He lived a very simple life and rarely ate meat or drank beer. His symbol, consequently, was the simple leek probably extensively grown in the monastery gardens. It has also become a symbol of Wales. The city of St. David's in Pembrokeshire, South Wales and its Cathedral, where he is buried, are named after him and became a place of pilgrimage. The Welsh celebrate his life every March 1 and can be seen wearing daffodils or leeks, yes leeks, in their lapels.

Who Are The Famous People From Wales?

In my research I found so many famous people from Wales or with a Welsh connection that I will choose to include the obvious but also those that might surprise you:

Archbishop Rowan Williams was born in Swansea, South Wales to Welsh-speaking parents.

Yale University was named after Welsh merchant and philanthropist, Elihu Yale (1649-1721) who was born in Denbighshire, North Wales.

Frank Lloyd Wright, the architect (1867-1959), had Welsh ancestry on his mother's side and named his estate, which stood on the brow of a hill, Taliesin (meaning "shining brow") after the village settled by Lloyd Wright's maternal grandparents.

Jefferson Davis (1807/1808 - 1889) President of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War, had Welsh ancestry through his paternal grandparents who emigrated from Snowdonia, North Wales in the early 1700s.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, the 67th United States Secretary Of State, claims Welsh ancestry through her father, Hugh Ellsworth Rodham and her mother, Dorothy Emma Howell.

Ted Lewis (1872-1936), the famous American Major League Baseball player and later a Professor of English, was born Edward M. Lewis in Machynlleth, Wales

Aneurin Bevan (1897-1960), Welsh Labour Party politician, and son of a coal miner is possibly considered the most influential Welshman for his contribution to bringing in The National Health Service to Britain.

Laura Ashley was born in Wales to Welsh parents and she set up her first shop in Machynlleth, Powys

T.E. Lawrence (1888-1935) "Lawrence Of Arabia" was born in Tremadog, North Wales

Augustus John (1878-1961) the post-impressionist painter was born in Tenby, South Wales

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) one of the foremost philosophers of the 20th century was born in Monmouthshire

Sir Kyffin Williams (1918-2006) Welsh landscape painter was born on the Island of Angelsey.

David Lloyd George (1863-1945) Liberal Prime Minister was born to Welsh-speaking parents

Welsh Writers/Poets:

Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) possibly Wales' most famous writer, born in Swansea, whose centenary was just celebrated in 2014

R.S. Thomas (1913-2000) poet was born in Cardiff

Hedd Wyn (1887-1917) World War I poet born in Trawsfynydd, Meirionydd

George Herbert (1593-1633) Metaphysical poet born in Powys

Roald Dahl (1916-1990) Cardiff born children's writer

Daniel Owen (1836-1895) a Welsh language novelist born in Mold, Flintshire.


Famous Welsh Entertainers:


There are many Welsh actors that most of us know and love like: Sir Anthony Hopkins, Richard Burton, Michael Sheen, Ioan Gruffudd (Hornblower fame), Catherine Zeta-Jones, Taron Egerton (Testament of Youth fame),who have taken Hollywood by storm but there other Welshmen/women who have made their mark.

Ruth Jones and Rob Brydon of 'Gavin and Stacey' fame

Rhod Gilbert, the comedian

Sir Harry Secombe, singer and member of 'The Goons'

Tommy Cooper, British comedian born in Caerphilly

Bob Hope, Actor/Comedian had a Welsh mother

Bette Davis - her father, Harlow Davies, was a Welshman

Ray Milland , the actor, was born in Neath, South Wales

Leslie Nielsen - Canadian actor/comedian whose mother was Welsh

Gena Rowlands - her father was of Welsh descent

Naomi Watts has a Welsh mother and attended a Welsh language school in Angelsey when she was young which has helped her with adopting different accents as an actress

Famous Welsh Singers/Musicians:


John Cale - composer, sing-songwriter and a founding member of 'The Velvet Underground' was born in Garnant in the Amman Valley of Wales

Sir Tom Jones was born in Pontypridd, South Wales

Dame Shirley Bassey is from, what was called 'Tiger Bay' and is now Cardiff Bay in Cardiff

The Stereophonics formed in the village of Cwmaman

The Manic Street Preachers is an internationally acclaimed band from Blackwood, South Wales

Duffy is a singer/songwriter from Bangor, North Wales

Mary Hopkin, singer, was born in Pontardawe, Wales to Welsh-speaking parents

Catatonia and Cerys Matthews - Catatonia was a popular band formed in Cardiff with lead singer Cerys Matthews who is still making her mark as a solo artist, singer/songwriter, broadcaster

Bryn Terfel, opera singer from Trawsfynydd, North Wales

Aled Jones, 'Walking In The Air' singer from Bangor, Wales who is also a television presenter

Katherine Jenkins, singer

Ivor Novello, composer and actor was born in Cardiff

Bonnie Tyler is a singer born in South Wales and is famous for the song, 'Total Eclipse Of The Heart'

Donna Lewis is a singer/songwriter from Cardiff

The Alarm formed in Rhyl

Feeder is from Newport, South Wales

Super Furry Animals and Gruff Rhys formed in Cardiff in 1993; Gruff Rhys is a popular solo artist in his own right and is also an author and filmmaker

I know I have left out so many from this list but I will keep updating.



Sir Richard Burton

Richard Burton, CBE

The Welsh actor with the rich, distinctive voice was one of the greatest actors of his time who graced both stage and screen and was the heart throb, along with his then wife, Elizabeth Taylor, in the 1950s and 60s.

What Is The Official Language Of Wales?

There are two official languages in Wales, English and Welsh. Most people in Wales can speak English and 19% of the population can speak Welsh with an increasing interest in the language meaning many people in Wales are learning the language. It is a living language used by the Welsh government and in an official capacity and all documents have to be produced in both languages. it is taught in all schools in Wales and is a compulsory subject up to the age of 16.

The Welsh language is heard in cafés, shops, on street corners on a regular basis in many parts of Wales, less in some parts, and the Welsh government encourages everyone to learn the language by promoting' Welsh for Adults' and 'Welsh for the Family' classes. There is a Welsh television station called S4C which has also aided in making the language accessible to everyone. The use of the Welsh language is increasing because the children are becoming bilingual which encourages their parents to strive to keep up with them. It is a good sign for the future.

For a light-hearted look at the Welsh language see 'The World Of Funny Welsh Words' in the link section below.

What Is The Eisteddfod?

The International Musical Eisteddfod is an annual celebration of music, dance and cultures from all over the world which is held in Llangollen, North Wales every July. It was established in 1947 by the people of Llangollen and Wrexham to spread a message of peace and harmony among nations following the hardship of World War II. It has become a well respected and renowned event throughout the world.

Such luminaries as Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, Nigel Kennedy and José Carreras have performed at the Gala concerts. Placido Domingo's first professional experience in the U.K. was at the Eisteddfod of 1968 and in 1955 Luciano Pavarotti and his father and others from his home of Modena competed in the Male Voice Choir section.

Burt Bacharach, Rufus Wainwright and Alfie Boe headline the 2015 Eisteddfod. You will find more information in the link section at the bottom of the page.

The National Eisteddfod of Wales

The National Eisteddfod, celebration of Welsh language and culture, is held during the first week of August and alternates each year between North and South Wales. This year, 2015, it is being held in North Wales in Meifod near Welshpool. For more information go to the link section at the bottom of the page.

Eisteddfod Urdd


The Urdd is one of Europe's largest touring festivals for youth. It highlights the talents of youth in many areas such as cooking, design and technology as well as musicianship. Bryn Terfel actually began his career by participating in the various local Eisteddfods held throughout Wales and a scholarship in his name has been established for the most promising solo performer under 25.This year, 2015, it is being held at the end of May in Caerphilly. For more information visit the link section at the bottom of the page.

The International Eisteddfod in Llangollen 2014

So How Many Sheep Are There In Wales?

Now we come to that vital question posed in the title of this hub. Wales is certainly famous for its sheep that can be seen in the valleys and on all over the verdant hills. In the Spring there are more sheep to be seen and heard as the little lambs prance and bleat amongst the bracken and gorse.

The latest statistics claim that there are approximately 9.74 million sheep in Wales according to EBLEX, The English Beef and Sheep Industry website, November 2014 which means there are more than three times more sheep than people going by the statistics from the Welsh Government estimating the population of Wales in 2014 to be around 3,082,400. New Zealand certainly holds the record for the ratio of sheep to people. New Zealand, like Wales, has a population around 3 million but sheep outnumber people by 10 to 1.

How Many Sheep Are In Wales?

And do you have a problem with this?
And do you have a problem with this? | Source

North Wales vs South Wales

What is your favourite part of Wales?

See results

We look forward to hearing from you and hope you enjoy this hub.

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      Edith Melhuish 2 years ago

      Great article Chris. You must have spent hours researching and I am sure you have covered every item of interest about this wonderful little country. Well done!

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      Trudy Cooper 2 years ago from Hampshire, UK

      Very informative hub, I have also written about riding a motorcycle in Wales. Wales has absolutely beautiful riding roads to explore and I can't wait to go back this year. Thanks for the info.

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