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Not a lot of backpackers make it to Wales, which is a small country with a beautiful countryside and quaint little towns. The country boasts its own strong culture and a unique language that has survived after years of influence from its powerful neighbour. The Welsh language, which is related to Breton and Cornish, is spoken on a daily basis by around 600,000 people or around 21% of the population.

Wales' attractions include a large number of preserved steam railways and impressive castles. A lot of people visit Wales for the outdoors, particularly to walk in the Brecon Beacons, Pembrokeshire Coast and Snowdonia National Parks.

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.


Outdoors
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


 

SOME WELSH FACTS

1. Welshmen may have settled America before Columbus.
2. Canada was explored and mapped by a Welshman.
3. America may have taken its name from a Welshman.
4. Pennsylvania is not named after William Penn.
5. St. Patrick was not an Irishman.
6. Wales is not represented on the British Flag.
7. A pungent vegetable is the national emblem of Wales.
8. The Welsh language is not Gaelic.
9. The modern Olympics did not begin in Athens.
10. A Welshman invented Lawn Tennis in Wales.

WELSH ALPHABET

THE WELSH ALPHABET: (28 letters)
A, B ,C ,Ch, D, Dd, E, F, Ff, G, Ng, H, I, L
Ll, M, N, O, P, Ph, R, Rh, S, T, Th, U, W, Y

(Note that Welsh does not possess the letters J, K, Q, V, X or Z, though you will often come across "borrowings" from English, such as John, Jones, Jam and Jiwbil (Jubilee); Wrexham (Wrecsam); Zw (Zoo).

THE VOWELS: (A, E, I, U, O, W, Y)

A as in man. Welsh words: am, ac Pronounced the same as in English)

E as in bet or echo. Welsh words: gest (guest); enaid (enide)

I as in pin or queen. Welsh words: ni (nee); mi (me); lili (lily); min (meen)

U as in pita: Welsh words: ganu (ganee); cu (key); Cymru (Kumree); tu (tee); un (een)

O as in lot or moe. Welsh words: o'r (0re); don (don); dod (dode); bob (bobe)

W as in Zoo or bus. Welsh words: cwm (koom), bws (bus); yw (you); galw (galoo)

Y has two distinct sounds: the final sound in happy or the vowel sound in myrrh Welsh words: Y (uh); Yr (ur); yn (un); fry (vree); byd (beed)

All the vowels can be lengthened by the addition of a circumflex (ä), known in Welsh as "to bach" (little roof). Welsh words: Tän (taan), län (laan)

SELECT AN AREA

Anglesey South East South West Brecon Beacons Pembrokeshire Central North East Mid North North West Coast Llyn snowdonia