Wales won my heart in 1995 when I stood at the bottom of a Welsh coal mine and heard the spellbinding, soulful voices of a Welsh men’s choir. Wales won my children’s hearts when they spent an afternoon running through the ruined corridors of Caernarfon Castle, playing hide and go seek.
Wales has over 641 castle ruins dotted throughout its craggy hills, forbidding mountaintops, pastoral landscapes and 2740kms of coastline. It seems an excellent choice for a weekend or week away since it’s only 2 hours from London, but Wales is both blessed and cursed by being an under-appreciated destination. Blessed that it isn’t overrun by coach buses and crowds of tourists, cursed because it is often overlooked for more obvious choices.
Wales offers more than castles and coastlines, however. It has a Celtic soul and spirit of rugged individualism, born of struggle and expressed through a powerful tradition of music and literature. The stunning ruins of Tintern Abbey inspired Wordsworth to “pen a few lines.” Dylan Thomas, Roald Dahl and Gillian Clarke were born in Wales. Ancient Arthurian legends draw curious wanderers to the birthplace of Merlin and the watery grave of Excalibur. Exciting stuff.
Tiny Hay-On-Wye, known as the Little Town that Loves Books, hosts a world-famous literary festival every May. The internationally famous National Eisteddfod of Wales attracts over 150,000 people every year who come to celebrate the Welsh tradition of culture and music. The sound of a thousand voices singing the Welsh National Anthem brings grown men to tears.
Why am I telling you this? I’m going to Wales, of course, and hope you’ll follow along. I don’t have extended time off, so I’ll be taking occasional 5 – 7 day trips to different parts of Wales. While it doesn’t meet my dream trip of spending a month in Wales, driving around and seeing it all at once, it should give me enough time to settle in and explore each area thoroughly. I hope to find the best Wales has to offer and uncover “things not found on a gift shop postcard.”
Thanks for reading,
Caernafon Castle, Gail Johnson/Shutterstock
View from Mount Snowdon, Matt Gibson/Shutterstock
Tintern Abbey, Pam Brophy/CCL
Three Cliffs Bay, Paul Cowan/Shutterstock
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