Rugby, dragons and places with weird names that defy all the normal rules of pronunciation… If you’ve never been to Wales they might your only points of reference for this small country hanging off England’s northwest.
But a visit – quick or otherwise – will no doubt surprise. Cardiff is the capital, although its size is eclipsed by many other cities in the UK. It is, however, a cool mix of innovative modernity and historical sites. Don’t miss Cardiff Castle in the centre of the city, then catch a show or an exhibition at the Wales Millennium Centre.
Most of the Welsh population lives in its southern reaches, so head north for some respite. Snowdonia National Park has it all, with lakes, peaks and tiny villages. Go walking through the mountains or along beaches, cycle trails or fish for wild trout in the Mawddach river. These more northern areas are also where you’re more likely to hear people speaking Welsh. Chances are you won’t understand any of this Celtic language, although it may be helpful to know that Iechyd da i chwi yn awr ac yn oesoedd is the traditional greeting and means “Good health to you now and forever”.
You might also want to visit the town with the longest name in the English-speaking world. Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch means “St Mary’s Church in the Hollow of the White Hazel near a Rapid Whirlpool and the Church of St Tysilio near the Red Cave”. Good luck asking for directions.