About North Wales

Wales (Cymru to the locals) is located right in the centre of the British Isles, with England to the east and the Irish Sea to the west. An ancient land awash with culture, heritage and its own way of life, Wales is characterised by its wild majestic mountains, deep lush valleys and a striking coastline of sandy beaches and rocky coves.

The Welsh people are the Celtic descendants of the earliest inhabitants of Britain, and the Welsh language, one of the oldest in Europe, can be seen and heard all across the country. In fact, the lilting, sing-song nature of its language gave Wales its nickname ‘The Land of Song’.

Academic and author of ‘The Lord of the Rings’’, JRR Tolkien, gave Welsh inspired names to many characters and places in his books and gave this magical accolade to the Welsh language – ‘Welsh is of this soil, this island, the senior language of the men of Britain; Welsh is beautiful.’

Wales is a land of ‘myth and legend’ and ‘castles and dragons’. The origins of world-famous characters like King Arthur, the Knights of the Round Table and Merlin the Magician, can be found in ancient welsh manuscripts that form the origins of ancient British literature.

The local people are well known for their sense of humour, hospitality, and friendliness and are extremely proud of their culture, heritage and identity.

You’ll find a warm welcome in the hillsides and, in all likeliness, the locals will be as interested in your story as you are in theirs.

The earliest inhabitants of Wales can be traced back 26,000 years. Numerous prehistoric burial chambers and standing stones can be found dotted across the landscape with the 5,000-year-old burial chambers at Capel Garmon above Betws y Coed and Bryn Celli Ddu on Anglesey among the best-preserved and worthy of a visit.

And the Welsh have been traders for many thousands of years. As far back as 3,600 years ago there was a copper-mining boom that was so productive that Welsh copper from the era has been found in the far corners of Europe. These mines, such as the one on Llandudno’s Great Orme, can be visited today.

The more recent history of Wales was shaped by invasion and battle with the Romans, Saxons, Vikings, Normans and latterly the English. With its mountains and rugged landscape, Wales was a difficult country to conquer with most invaders taking control of the valuable coastal and eastern agricultural lands and the Welsh retreating into their mountain strongholds to taunt and skirmish with their enemies. The Welsh were never truly conquered until the late 1100s when Edward 1st of England sent his mighty army into Wales and built the great castles that Wales is so famous for. Even then, there followed a prolonged period of unrest culminating in the great uprising of the legendry Welsh leader, Owain Glyndwr, in the early 1400s. It was 15 years before Henry V re-established the English dominance.

Due to this brutal past, Wales has more castles per square mile than any other country in the world. The famous four of Caernarfon, Conwy, Harlech and Beaumaris having been granted UNESCO World Heritage Site status as the finest examples of medieval military architecture in Europe. Our ‘Castles of North Wales’ tour is the perfect way to discover them.

The Age of Discovery followed, and many great stately homes, mansions and country estates were built off the back of trade with the rest of the world. Impressive architecture, beautiful gardens, historical collections and stories of globalisation abound. We highly recommend Powis Castle which houses the ‘Clive of India’ collection along with Plas Newydd in Anglesey with its links to the Battle of Waterloo. Another ‘must see’ is Bodnant Hall in the Conwy Valley, where you can find one of the most highly regarded horticultural gardens in Britain.

The industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries helped shaped North Wales as we know it today. Canals, railways and roads were built to export slate, coal, iron and even gold to the rest of the world. The slate mines of Gwynedd were said to ‘’roof the world’ with coal dominating the industrial landscape of North East Wales. Some historians even claim Wales to be one of the first industrial super nations. This period also coincided with a new tourism boom as the Victorians flocked to the fresh air of the Welsh mountains and pretty seaside towns.

One of North Wales’ greatest pieces of industrial architecture, The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, is another UNESCO World Heritage Site worthy of a visit. Completed by Thomas Telford in 1805, it carries the Llangollen canal high over the River Dee and is the highest canal aqueduct in the world. And, whilst we’re talking about UNESCO, the industrial slate landscape of Gwynedd has just been nominated to become the next UNESCO World Heritage Site in the United Kingdom.

So, you can see why Wales, and magical North Wales in particular, is such a fascinating area to visit.

As locals, we may be biased but we don’t think any other country in the world has such an eclectic mix of beautiful natural scenery, myth and legend, military and industrial history, Celtic culture and an ancient language.

Add in world-class outdoor pursuits, 5 Star accommodation, a flourishing foodie scene and convenient transport links with England, Ireland, Scotland and the rest of the world and you can see why Wales is amongst so many travel writers top 10 countries to visit.