As a proud Welsh woman living in Canada,
I have taken on the unofficial role as ‘Chief Cheerleader and Promoter of Wales’ subjecting anyone who will dare tell me that they are visiting Scotland, Ireland and England with a long list of reasons why they’d be completely out of their mind to miss out on Wales.
“It baffles me why Wales is so often overlooked.”
You like the sea? Wales has a coastline which stretches over 2,700km with some of the cleanest beaches in the UK.
You like the countryside? Wales is peppered with ancient forests, rolling valleys and shimmering lakes.
You like mountains? Wales has two large mountain ranges – the Brecon Beacons in the South and Snowdonia in the North which includes the majestic peak of Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa in Welsh) – the second highest point in the British Isles.
You like history? Well Wales, on account of being invaded so many times over the centuries, has more castles per square mile than anywhere else in Europe – over 600 in total. Wales is also steeped in Arthurian legend if you like that kind of thing.
Ok, so maybe you’re more of a city break traveller? As the capital city of Wales, Cardiff has everything you can get in London – great shopping, award-winning restaurants, a thriving arts scene and even a castle in the middle of the city – but on a much smaller, accessible and, dare I say it, friendlier scale.
This last January I made a trip home for my best friend’s wedding in Cardiff. I was taking my Canadian boyfriend with me – just like most people I meet here in Toronto, he had previously visited Ireland, Scotland, and England but never Wales. “Never had a reason to” was his excuse. Having grown up in the Rockies he even scoffed at the idea that there were actual proper mountains in Wales. He later admitted that he was wrong and was impressed by the dramatic landscape with ‘actual bona fide mountains’
We travelled North after the wedding to Portmeirion – an Italianate village designed in the 1920s by architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis and famously known as ‘The Village’ in the 1960’s show ‘The Prisoner’. Portmeirion sits on the estuary of the River Dwyryd and the village hotel, which opened in 1925, has enjoyed famous guests such as HG Wells, Noel Coward, and George Bernard Shaw.
Next, we visited the town of Conwy which has been watched over for the last eight centuries by the looming presence of Conwy Castle. The castle was built in the 1280s by Edward I (the villainous English King as featured in such films as ‘Braveheart’) during his conquest of Wales and was consistently used and inhabited until 1665. Conwy is a pretty Medieval coastal town surrounded by hills and cluttered with ancient houses and cozy pubs.
I hope these words and pictures will induce someone reading this to give Wales a chance: you won’t be disappointed!
Leisha Vaughan-Humphrey is a proud Welsh woman now living in Canada. Originally from Wrexham in Northern Wales (of course!), Leisha studied History at Cardiff University and now makes Toronto her home. This is her first piece (of many, we hope!) for followsummer: Wales is a destination that we have recently come to love ourselves!