Most country on the planet has its brag list of interesting facts and things it’s famous for. But tiny Wales, only about the size of the US state of New Jersey, seems to have the lion’s share of fascinating things to be proud of.
With its rugged coastline and mountainous interior, the country in southwest Great Britain is known for many things from its distinctive Welsh language to a long list of captivating castles.
Here’s a list of facts about Wales you probably don’t know.
Thanks to its jaw-dropping landscapes, Wales has gorgeous national parks and areas of natural beauty. Its three national parks have something for everyone. The largest is Snowdonia with rugged peaks for climbing and hiking. You’ll also find picturesque villages, forested valleys, and moorland.
Brecon Beacons National Park features rolling hills gentle hikes, glacial lakes, and striking waterfalls, the tallest of which is featured in the film The Dark Knight Rises.
Pembrokeshire is famous for its stunning beaches, coastal walks, and birdwatching.
The Llyn Peninsula, Gower Peninsula, Clwydian Range, Wye Valley, and the Isle of Anglesey are all designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs). Between them, you’ll find some of the UK’s most breathtaking scenery including coastlines, valleys, and hills.
Everyone has heard of Mt. Everest. The highest peak above sea level on the globe is in the Mahalangur Himal sub-range of the Himalayas. But did you know it was named after a Welshman from far away from the Himalayas?
Colonel Sir George Everest was a British surveyor born in Crickhowell, Wales who was a traveler, geographer, and explorer. While serving as Surveyor General of India from 1830 to 1843, he became the first to map out the mountain and named it after— you guessed it, himself.
Every country has its national sport. The United States has baseball and England has cricket. For Wales, it’s rugby, a game a little like American football. But the Welsh play their rough and tumble sport without all the protective gear and often leave the pitch bleeding.
The Welsh are very proud of their rugby expertise. The national team plays at Principality Stadium in Cardiff and the crowds turn out to sing and cheer with pride at every game.
The Welsh rugby team competes against Scotland, England, Ireland, Italy, and France. They also play at the Rugby Union Cup.
Driving through Wales, you’ll notice the road signs are plenty wide. They have to be because the Welsh are known for naming places with ridiculously long names. In fact, you’ll find the second-longest named place in the world in Wales. (The longest is in New Zealand. Let’s just say it’s 85 characters long.)
The place with the longest name in Wales is “Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.” That translates loosely to “The Church of St Mary in the hollow of the white hazel near the rapid whirlpool and the Church of St Tysilio near a red cave.” Fortunately, it’s often shortened to Llanfairpwll or Llanfair PG.
Who knew the Welsh were so tech-savvy? In 1897, Welshman Guglielmo Marconi sent the world’s first radio message. It traveled three miles from Larvenock Point in Penarth, Wales, to Flat Holm in the Bristol Channel.
Moreover, Welsh computer pioneer Donald Davies played a role in paving the way for the birth of the internet by creating packet-switched networking.
On Saint Patrick’s Day, people around the world dress in green, attend mass, and join parades to honor St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. But the real St. Patrick was actually Welsh. He was a resident of Banwen in the Dulais Valley when he was taken to Ireland by Irish slavers at the age of 16. After six years, he escaped and returned to his family.
Patrick later became a cleric and returned to Ireland where he eventually became a Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop.
Gold is Wales’ most precious resource, and the British Royals have used the gold from Welsh mines for wedding rings since 1923. The tradition began with the late Queen Mother Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon and continued with the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011.
Royals who wear Welsh gold wedding rings include Prince Charles and Camilla, Prince William and Catherine Middleton, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and, of course, Queen Elizabeth II herself.
If you’re a castle chaser, Wales is the place to go. The country is famous for having lots of castles, and you’ll see them everywhere. The majority of them were built between the 11th and 15th centuries when English invasions were frequent.
Some of the most popular castles are Conway, Beaumaris, Harlech, and Caerphilly, one of the largest castles in Europe. The castles are part of a UNESCO heritage site known as King Edward’s Castles and Town Walls in Gwynedd.
All totaled, Wales has around 600 castles that vary in location, age, and size. Some are nothing more than walls of ruins while others stand majestically in cities, on mountain tops, and by the sea.
The Welsh speak English fluently, but they also have their own unique language. It’s a baffling language for outsiders and difficult to learn. The language is called Cymraeg and it’s about 4000 years old making it the oldest in Britain and one of the oldest in Europe.
For a long time, the Welsh were persecuted for their language. Its origins are from the Celtic language and spoken by ancient Britons. It’s still spoken today by about 10 percent of the population.
Want to learn a little of the old Welsh language before you go to Wales? To say “cheers” in the pubs, say “yaki dah.”
The first suspension bridge in the world, Menai Bridge in Anglesey was constructed to carry heavy traffic. It was designed by Thomas Telford born in 1757 in Westerkirk, UK.
The bridge first opened on January 30, 1826. Measuring 386 meters (1,265 ft) it was also the longest bridge in the world at that time.
The Ogof Flynnon Dddu is found in Wales near Abercraf. Great Britain’s deepest cave is 308 meters (1,010 ft)deep and has over 30 miles of passages and tunnels. It’s the third-longest underground network in the UK.
You’ll find the deep, dark cavern under a hillside in the Upper Swansea Valley in South Wales in an area surrounding Penwyllt.
Wales gets lots of rain, and it contributes to making some stunning waterfall views. Travelers come from around the world and other parts of the UK to chase waterfalls in Wales.
One of the most beautiful and most famous waterfalls to look for in Wales is Swallow Falls. The thundering giant of cascading water can be found in Conwy, North Wales.
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.