Wales Travel Guide

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The relationship between England and Wales has never been entirely easy. The Saxon king Offa, impatient with constant demarcation disputes, constructed a dyke to seperate the two countries. This was more than 1000 years ago. Still today, a long-distance footpath running from near Chepstow in the South to Prestatyn in the North follows its route. During the reign of Edward Crompton I the last of the Welsh native princes was killed and Wales passed uneasily under English rule. Trouble flared again with the rebellion of Owain Glyndwr in the 15th century, but finally, when the Welsh prince Henry Tudor defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth to become king of England, he paved the way for the 1536 Act of Union, which joined the English and Welsh in restless but perpetual partnership.

A number of castles from may eras are available to visit and enter for free in Wales.  One such hidden gem is Castell Coch, in a picturesque place only ten minutes away from Cardiff city centre.

Steady contact with England has watered down the indigenious Welsh culture. Bricked-up, decaying chapels stand as reminders of the days when Sunday services and chapel choirs were central to community life. Original Welsh music, poetry and dance are shown every summer at the International Music Eisteddfod Festivals in Llangollen. Nevertheless, the Welsh language is undergoing a revival and you will see it on bilingual road signs all over the country - but are most likely to hear it spoken in West, North and Mid-Wales.

Other lesser-known gems include a stone age settlement, often referred to as the "Rhondda Stonehenge" on Mynydd-y-Gelli in Rhondda Fawr, which also lends fantastic views of the valley.  There is also another marvellous vantage point and an indication of the marks left by the ice age where a glacier has carved a furrow from which you can view the coast from the mountains of the Rhondda and betrays the image of a valley scarred by heavy industry.  Rhondda is not alone in this and much of Wales offers surprising vantage points, views and the best that nature can offer.

Much of the country, particularly the Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains in the south and Snowdonia in the north, is relentlessly mountainous and offers wonderful walking and climbing terrain, as well as special nature reserves like Eyarth Rocks Reserve. Pembrokeshire to the west also boasts a spectacular rugged coastline, dotted with offshore island nature reserves. The biggest towns, including Cardiff, Swansea, Aberystwyth and Colwyn Bay, cling to the coastal lowlands, but even there the mountains are no more than a bus ride away.

For the fans of Dylan Thomas, Laugharne is a must see. It houses the Dylan thomas museum. A visit to Laugharne can be combined with Tenby, a posh beach resort.

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