Situated on the little island of Britain, Wales is often overlooked by its neighbouring countries England, Scotland and Ireland. Whilst most travellers visiting the UK will love the idea of visiting the built-up fast-paced city of London, they’re also deeply missing out on the idyllic, silent gem of Wales. A country filled with fairytale castles, histories dripping with dreamy romanticism, and traditional Celtic food to make your mouth salivate just thinking about it, it is easily one of the most underrated destinations in Europe – and here’s why.
Wales :- Endless mountain ranges
The highest peak in Wales is stationed at the top of the deeply under-appreciated mountain range of Snowdonia. Mount Snowdon summits at 1,085m and is quite a feat on its own, despite the harsh conditions the climb lends. Featuring incredible views cross-country, Snowdon is just one of many mountains you can visit and climb in Wales. Carnedd Llewelyn, Tryfan, and Garnedd Ugain are other homely favourites, bordered by gold mines and a sprinkling of red Clogau. A single climb could easily see you pushing through terrains of copper, coal, and flint – a hiker’s paradise.
Wales :- Coastline
A range of bays and beaches can feature on a single ten-mile stretch – such as the Gower, Mumbles, and Swansea Bay in the general Abertawe area. Pearl-white sand, pristine and litter-free, you will often find locals carrying pickers and bags to clear away the debris. Following the incredible beaches are caves and caverns and underground tunnels, lending the perfect playground for an explorer. Islands such as Ynys Enlli also showcase features such as marine phosphorescence, making the water glitter with bright blue swirls as you swim. Steep cliff faces mirroring neighbouring waterfalls, the coastline of Wales is one of the best things in the whole European continent.
Wales :- The food
The rich diversity of coastal cuisine and natural ingredients lend to food that is both unique and extremely tasty. Scour any restaurant menu and it will likely come up with Cawl, bara brith, and laver bread, or visit a local market for a rich selection of cockles, mutton, and venison. Not forgetting the famed sweet indulgence of Welsh cakes and Crempog, the Welsh have turned their traditional cooking into poetry for the tastebuds.
Wales :- City life
Just because Wales praises its uncluttered countryside backdrops and snow-topped mountains doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the fast-forward pace of city life. Places such as Cardiff and Swansea offer both a cosmopolitan vibe and traditional tidbits, a combination which most visitors instantly fall in a love with. Just south of fields of healthy arable you will find university towns and built-up cities with malls and international food stores, featuring some of the best nightlife on the island. With an abundance of clubs and festivals, the social aspects of small-citied Wales are more involved than other metropolis, without sacrificing an energetic atmosphere.
Wales :- Castle grounds
With over 600 castles dotted around the country, you’d trip over the fairytale structures and ruins in Wales if you weren’t careful. Some intimidate whilst some are intricate, the castles stand in the middle of shopping centres, landscapes, and roads. They showcase the deep history of the country in the most beautiful way possible, as with the collapse of heavy industry came a slow stream of funds to look after the ruins. Towns in mid-Wales reflect the religious past in the form of church- connected castles, whispering a history that other cultures couldn’t even imagine.
Wales :- Legends and history
The dreamy romanticism of Welsh history is one often overlooked by travellers, but local children still grow up with tales of long-ago myths and legends, of Owain Glyndŵr and King Arthur. The struggles of the coal mining industry and “Welsh Not” are talked in whispers in old novels and poetry, with grandparents retelling stories to knee-tall juniors. The battles of early ancestors, of a Celtic nation surviving through forces of sheer will and determination are retold in the plethora of historical museums and schoolhouses situated across the country. Myths and legends are so engrained in Welsh culture that Primary schools still commit assemblies to keep the stories alive, alternating one morning with Christian storytelling to another with stories of dragon defeats and wars that may never have happened, blurring the lines of truth and tales.
Wales :- Art culture
The music of Wales is fine and celebrated, with traditional angel-choir-voiced singers and clog dancers contrasting newer artists such as Catherine Jenkins and Tom Jones. Welsh song has always been an engrained part of the culture, from the days of coal miners singing through valleys to work and church on Sundays, with poetry about the country also in abundance. Poets such as Dylan Thomas have flourished in the gorgeous landscapes of Wales, creating untranslatable words such as “hiraeth” – a craving for Welsh soil. A thirst for art has created stunning architecture and high- ceilinged galleries, with marble-decorated shop roofs and oak-beamed restaurants.
Wales :- The atmosphere and community
Visit towns such as Aberaeron or the valleys of Rhondda and witness the strong community vibes first-hand, or step into a local-run cafe and get asked with genuine interest about your life. Wherever you go, you avoid the impersonal nature of other tourist destinations such as Paris or London, and instead get real interactions with interested people. The love that the locals feel for their country is strong and draws you in, welcoming you to a tight-knit whispered family that will care for you as if you were one of their own. You aren’t labelled as an outsider, and greetings on the street won’t be welcomed with the glares and confusion found in central London. Respect the country and its people and they will love you.
Wales is a country filled with an intense amount of diversity and history, art and culture. The unique traits and quirks of Wales make it one of the most overlooked countries in the whole of Europe, with tourists still choosing overrated countries such as England and France for their European trips abroad. Alas, now the truth is out there, and Wales’ time to shine has come. So what’s stopping you? Come on, join the family.
More of Amy Aed’s work can be seen at wandering-everywhere.com
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