Wales
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LAST UPDATED 07/01/2008
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introduction

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Welsh flag

Wales has is strong cultural identity and is the only country in the UK that still uses, in some part, its own language. It is located with England on its eastern border with the Irish Sea to its West and North and the Bristol Channel to its South. The breaks here do have a fairly narrow swell window similar to its North Eastern England counterparts, but that doesn’t mean it lacks some great surf spots. The Northerly most breaks in Wales lie around the Llyn Peninsula, notably Porth Neigwl, also known as “Hells Mouth”. This area is most affected by the narrowness of swell window relying entirely on strong South Westerly swells and is therefore the most fickle. The further South you come down the coastline the more that window for waves opens out to reveal more potential until you reach Pembrokeshire and The Gower which have endless great surf spots located in the nooks and crannies of this picturesque coast.

history

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Dolwyddelan Castle; Asta

The history of Wales begins in AD 50 when the Romans invaded and occupied the country until the fourth century and during this period christianised the country. Wales was never taken again by the Romans heathen successors and was left to themselves for 6 centuries. After which time Wales emerged as an intricate and cultivated nation who had developed there own Celtic language very different from English, a tradition that survives until today and is one Europes oldest heritages.

The next challengers to the Welsh were the Normans just after the Battle of Hastings in 1066 but they were furiously resisted. Norman castles are spread all over Wales built to contain the disobedient Welsh within their central highlands, the Normans did not control the whole country for nearly 200 years. But even then Wales was never completely conquered. It's rugged terrain meant that English ways and values did not infiltrate the Welsh heartlands and the English never did succeed in completely stamping out the Welsh language, and Wales is still unmistakably Welsh.

surfing

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Marloes peninsula, Pembrokshire; Donarreiskoffer; 18.07.06

Undoubtedly Wales has some awesome surf spots and produced some well regarded surfers too, such as former European surf champions Chris "Guts" Griffiths and Carwyn Williams. The Gower Peninsula and the Pembrokeshire coasts in the south, Aberystwyth on the mid west coast and Porth Neigwl or "Hells mouth" as it is also known in the North are the stand out hotspots, though the Gower and Pembrokeshire are probably the most consistent. Novices and beginners are well catered for on the open beaches such as Llangennith, Newgale and Whitesands, which have consistent, small waves ideal for learning on or developing your technique. For the more experienced there are a good pick of reefs producing wedgy barrels and intense rides such as Porth Ceiriad and the famed Crab Island to name but a couple.

travel

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Severn Bridge; Samuel Wantman; 09.01.06

Wales has the same visa requirements as the rest of the UK.

Air

The main airport is Cardiff International Airport, located nine miles south of the city. This is the only major airport in Wales, and is served by the following airlines.

  • Air South West operate domestics to Manchester and Newquay. 
  • BMI Baby operates domestic services to Edinburgh, Glascow, Jersey and Belfast, and international services to Alicante, Amsterdam, Faro, Ibiza, Malaga, Murcia, Palma, Mallorca and Prague.
  • KLM operates services to Amsterdam 4 to 5 times a day.
  • Aer Arann operates services to Dublin, Cork and Galway in Ireland and also to Nantes in France.
  • Flybe operate multiple daily serices to, George Best Belfast City Airport, Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport, Newcastle Airport, Edinburgh Airport and glascow Airport.
  • Zoom operates direct services to Toronto and Vancouver.
  • Eastern Airways operate flights to Newcastle.
  • Thompson fly operate flights to Jersey, Barcelona and many airports in Spain and other parts of the world.

There are regular bus services from Cardiff city center to the airport. Alternatively, you can also get to the airport using a bus service from Barry Station, which is closer to the airport and on local rail lines. In 2005, a nearby railway line was reopened, including a station at Rhoose, where there are shuttle buses to the airport.

It could be easier to fly to an airport in England such as one of the London airports when visiting South Wales, as a greater range of airlines and cities flown from are available from there to destinations across the world, with services from many airlines. However London is over 2 hours from Cardiff, and longer from many other places in Wales.

Car

South Wales enjoys good motorway connections with the rest of the UK

  • The M4 links London with Bristol, and via the Severn (toll) Bridge, Newport, Cardiff, Swansea, and Carmarthen
  • The M50 links the Midlands with South Wales

North Wales has no motorway connections. However there are still good road connections with the rest of the UK

  • The A5, followed by the M54 after Shrewsbury, to London and the Midlands takes you through the spectacular Snowdonia National Park
  • The island of Anglesey is along the A55 road along the North Wales coast. If you are approaching from the south try the A5 which is a scenic route that takes you through the mountains of North Wales.

There are no internal border controls within Great Britain and you may not notice the border if entering Wales from England via a minor road

where to stay

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Mumbles village; popsracer; 14.04.03

Wales is very tourist-friendly, so finding hotel accommodation or a place to pitch a tent should not be a problem. However, you might need to make prior reservations during the summer season in tourist areas such as Anglesey, Llyn Peninsula, Pembrokeshire, Gower peninsula/Mumbles and Swansea, or around the time of important sporting events in Cardiff.

what to pack

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Hiking boots; Daniel Case; 20.08.07

There is no shortage of supplies available in Wales, you can more or less buy anything you need on arrival here but here are a few pointers to avoid getting caught out.

A lot of what you get up to outside of the surf in Wales will depend on the weather. Although Wales can have some fine warm summers they are much too often washed out with rain and in the winter, swell season, it’s worse. Needless to say bring a water proof jacket as a bare minimum if you’re staying in hotels etc. If you’ve opted to camp make sure you have plenty of quick drying warm clothes and that your tent and bags are also waterproof. Also bring a good quality 4 season sleeping bag.
   
During the warmer months (May-September) it would be wise to pack sun cream and Sunglasses, though Wales, along with the rest of Britain, has the stigma of bad weather the sun can still get high and hot and nicely toast the unwary – especially out on the water.
   
There are lots of great walking tracks around this green and pleasant land with some stunning views to take in, if that sounds like your cuppa tea bring some sturdy walking boots as well as your waterproofs. Mount Snowndon is well worth a climb if the swell gods don't deliver the goods.
   
Of course, don’t forget a plentiful supply of any special medicines you require and a first aid kit, some of the breaks here may be a bit remote.

And don’t forget your camera!!!

dangers and warnings

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DIN 4844-2 warning sign

Emergency service numbers in Wales are the same as the rest of Britain, call 999 or 112 and ask for police, fire, ambulance, coast guard or mountain rescue service.

Wales is considered to be one of the safest parts of the United Kingdom, though visitors should be aware that criminal activity including violent crime is not uncommon. As in many British towns and cities, there are ongoing problems with alcohol related anti-social behaviour.

It is perfectly safe to drive on Welsh roads, though visitors should take extra care on single-carriageways and single lane roads.

Just using your common sense is the go here, don't leave valuables on display in your vehicle etc. etc.

restaurants, shopping and nightlife.

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Mumbles village; Popsracer; 24.08.03

Wales is not particularly famous for its cuisine but that does mean there aren't local dishes worth trying. There is defiantly a thriving restaurant culture and a growing number of eateries from local gastro pubs to seaside cafes and stylish metropolitan restaurants in Wales as eating out becomes ever popular. Things worth trying are: 

  • Cawl or Lobscouse (North) - a lamb broth.
  • Welsh Rarebit - a melted cheese dish, often spiced with ale and herbs and served on toasted bread. ·  Laver bread (pronounced "lar-ver") is not, as the name implies, bread, but a purée made from seaweed (the same kind that is used in the preparation of Japanese nori). It is generally rolled into small cakes mixed with oatmeal and served at breakfast alongside bacon rashers, though it is delicious simply heated and served on buttered toast. This dish is only available in the Swansea area and can be purchased raw at Swansea Market.
  • Ice-cream - due to an influx of Italians into Wales, the area boasts some of the best cones and tubs in the country. Also worth a mention is the local seafood, cheeses, beef and lamb.
In Wales bars, pubs and nightclubs are the hub of a good nightlife scene with many places having live bands and folk groups. Cardiffs vibrant nightlife is home to 350 bars and pubs and thanks to the student population of Bangor it also has a kicking pub culture with literally every type of bar going. Close to the surf of the Gower peninsula is Mumbles, home town of movie star Catherine Zeta Jones and the famous Mumbles mile. A mile long stretch of road of bumper to bumper pubs, with conveniently, a night club at either end so no matter where you start you'll finish at a club. And you never know, you might spot Catherine at her old local pub The White Rose, though it's unlikely!!

what to do when it's flat

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Snowdon from Llyn; Gdr; 29.07.04

With an area of over 2100 sq km with rolling hills and mountains, Snowdonia National Park is a walker and climbers paradise and is home to the highest peak in Wales, Mount Snowdon. It sits east of the Llyn peninsula and at 3560ft high, on a clear day it offers stunning views of Wales.

The best way to reach the summit of the peak is via the village of Lianberis, take the A487 to Caernarfon and follow the A4068 to the village itself. From here you have a choice of routes to suit different abilities and fitness levels and if you don't fancy the walk then take the train to the top! The train service has been operating for over a hundred years now and takes about an hour to ascend.

 

useful phrase guide

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Welsh road markings; Adrian Pingstone; 09.09.04

Good morning             -    Bore da

Good evening          -   Noswaith dda

How are you?           -   Sut dach chi ?

How are you?           -   Sut mae ?

Good bye                -   Hwyl or Ta ra

Good afternoon        -  P'nawn da

Good night              -   Nos da

Very well thank you  -   Da iawn, diolch

Fine thanks             -   Reit dda

See you again         -   Wela i chi eto

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