Pocket Britain

A diverse and interesting country sitting on a western peninsula of the mainland of Great Britain

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The Welsh Flag
Wales sits on a western peninsula of the mainland of Great Britain. Of course, it's one of the four nations that make up the United Kingdom. But in many parts of this diverse and interesting country, the newspapers, street signs, and place names are in a completely different language. It feels like stepping into a different culture. Wales has a proud history and a strong heritage, which makes it a fascinating destination.

Wales has plenty of Castles
Photo by The Ancient Brit
The country is well-known for its breathtaking natural landscape, which easily rivals anywhere else in the UK. There are numerous National Parks, and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, of which the most famous is Snowdonia. Within this park's borders there is everything from sandy beaches, to the tallest mountain in the country - which lends the area its name. This is Mount Snowdon, the first stop on many itineraries. It is also the last stop on the Snowdon Mountain Railway, which has recently opened a new station at the very summit, over a thousand metres above sea level!

Mount Snowdon
Photo by Gdr

Snowdon Mountain Railway
Photo by The Ancient Brit
More mountains can be climbed in the Brecon Beacons range, further south. In days of old, these peaks were used as signalling points, to warn against attacks from the English! You can still see the remnants of those war-filled times, nestled away within the mountains. The most famous of these spots is Carreg Cennen, a once impregnable fortress that balances dangerously on a cliff edge.

The Brecon Beacons
Photo by Chris P Jobling

The ruins of Carreg Cennen
Photo by zingyyellow
But Wales isn't just empty scenery. The southern side of the country is its biggest population centre, full of modern cities and busy towns. First and foremost, of course, is Cardiff, the capital city. History here stretches back a long way, a fact which is immediately obvious when you reach the city centre for the first time, and come face to face with Cardiff Castle. This stone structure uses the foundations of an ancient Roman fort, from around 2000 years ago. There is a fantastic array of rooms, towers, exhibits, and displays. On the other hand, Cardiff also represents Wales' modern side; the forward-thinking, youthful energy for which it doesn't always get credit. This is perhaps best exemplified in its huge sports arena, the Millennium Stadium. As well as being the home of the national rugby and football teams, this huge complex has also hosted events such as the FA Cup Final, the Rugby World Cup, and even concerts from the likes of Madonna and The Rolling Stones.

Cardiff Castle
Photo by pjo18

Inside the Millenium Stadium
Photo by Thomas Duesing
Elsewhere, both Cardiff, and Wales' second city of Swansea, are filled with other attractions that vary wildly between these two extremes of old and new - from art galleries displaying classic paintings, to a huge choice of modern cinemas, theatres, and music venues. A similarly youthful vibe can be found in university towns like Aberystwyth and Bangor, which are home to large populations of students. Nevertheless, unlike many similar towns in other parts of the UK, these places also offer calm beaches, and beautiful old architecture, providing a real Welsh atmosphere.

Part of Aberystwyth University and Arts Centre
Photo by Vertigogen

Riding the Great Orme Tramway out of Llandudno Town Centre
Photo by The Ancient Brit

Tenby Harbour in Pembrokeshire
Photo by Skellig2008

Rhossili Bay on the Gower Peninsula
Photo by heatheronhertravels
In fact, visiting smaller towns and villages is perhaps the best way to get a taste of the country's real culture. Places like this, particularly in the north, are home to the highest concentrations of Welsh speakers, giving you the best chance to hear this musical language. And who knows - you might even pick up a few words yourself!

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