Cymru (Welsh)
Wales (English
Flag of Wales Arms of Wales
Flag of Wales Unofficial coat of arms
Motto: Cymru am byth
(Welsh for "Wales forever")
Anthem: Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau
(Welsh for "Land of My Fathers")
Location of Wales
Capital Cardiff (Caerdydd)
Largest city Cardiff (Caerdydd)
Official language(s) Welsh, English
Government Constitutional monarchy
 - Queen Queen Elizabeth II
 - Prime Minister of the UK Tony Blair MP
 - First Minister Rhodri Morgan AM
 - by Gruffudd ap Llywelyn 1056 
 - Total 20,779 km² (3rd in UK)
  8,022 sq mi 
 - 20054 est. 2,958,600 1 (3rd in UK)
 - 2001 census 2,903,085
 - Density 140/km² (2nd in UK)
361/sq mi 
GDP (PPP) 2002 estimate
 - Total $48 billion
 - Per capita $23,741
Currency Pound sterling (GBP)
Time zone GMT (UTC0)
 - Summer (DST) BST (UTC+1)
Internet TLD .uk3 or soon could be .cym as well[1]
Calling code +44
Patron Saint St David (Dewi Sant) 
1Office for National Statistics - UK population grows to more than 60 million

2Figures for the UK
3ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 is GB, but .gb is unused

The Principality of Wales (Welsh: Tywysogaeth Cymru; pronounced IPA: /ˈkəmrɨ/, approximately "COME-ree") is one of the four constituent nations of the United Kingdom. Wales is located in the south-west of Great Britain and is bordered by England to the east, the Bristol Channel (Môr Hafren) to the south and and the Irish Sea (Môr Iwerddon) to the west and north, and also by the estuary of the River Dee (Afon Dyfrdwy) in the north-east.

Welsh monastic asceticism, a highly evolved secular legal system (Cyfraith Hywel), and a distinctive literary tradition illustrate a strong sense of cultural identity, which emerged among the Welsh after the Roman withdrawal from Britain in the 5th century. Of the principal polities, Gwynedd retained independence until the late 13th century, when it too was conquered by England. However, formal annexation and abolishment of Welsh law did not take place until the 16th century. Wales (with all regions united under one government) has never been a sovereign state, although a number of rival principalities remained independent until English conquest.

From the 20th Century a revival in Welsh national consciousness and sentiment has taken place. Cardiff (Caerdydd) was established as the capital of Wales in 1955, with the Welsh Office centred here in 1964, and has also established itself as the largest city in Wales and one of the centres of culture, history and employment in Wales. The National Assembly for Wales (Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru) was formed in 1999, with powers to amend primary legislation from U.K. Parliament. These powers will be further widened by the Government of Wales Act 2006 taking effect after the 2007 Welsh Assembly election has been held. A Welsh Government with the capability of producing some primary legislation (similar to, but not as powerful as, the Scottish Executive), will be separated from the Welsh Assembly.




See also: List of meanings of countries' names and History of the term Vlach

The English name for Wales originates from the Germanic word Walha, meaning "stranger" or "foreigner", probably derived from the name Volcae. The same term appears as well in the "-wall" of Cornwall. The Welsh themselves called themselves Cymry, "compatriots", and named their country Cymru, which is thought to have meant "Land of the Compatriots" in Old Welsh; this has reference to their awareness that they were the original countrymen of Wales, and indeed Britain by virtue of their ancestors the Brythoniaid (Brythons), and also in order to distinguish themselves from the foreign invaders of Britain, the Saeson (English). There is also a mediaeval legend found in the Historia Regum Britanniae of Sieffre o Fynwy (Geoffrey of Monmouth) that derives it from the name Camber, son of Brutus and, according to the legend, the eponymous King of Cymru (Cambria in Latin); this however was largely the fruit of Geoffrey's vivid imagination. Cumberland and Cumbria in the north of England derive their names from the same Old Welsh word.





Humans first inhabited what is now Wales at the end of the last Ice Age. The first documented history was during the Roman occupation of Britain. At that time the area of modern Wales was divided into many tribes, of which the Silures in the south-east and the Ordovices in the central and north-west areas were the largest and most powerful. The Romans established a string of forts across what is now southern Wales, as far west as Carmarthen (Caerfyrddin; Latin: Maridunum), and mined gold at Dolaucothi in Carmarthenshire. There is evidence that they progressed even farther west. They also built the legionary fortress at Caerleon (Latin: Isca Silurum), whose magnificent amphitheatre is the best preserved in Britain. The Romans were also busy in northern Wales, and the mediaeval Welsh tale Breuddwyd Macsen Wledig claims that Magnus Maximus (Macsen Wledig), one of the last western Roman emperors, married Elen or Helen, the daughter of a Welsh chieftain from Segontium, present-day Caernarfon.[1] It was in the 4th century during the Roman occupation that Christianity was introduced to Wales.

After the Roman withdrawal from Britain in 410, much of the lowlands were overrun by various Germanic tribes. However, Gwynedd, Powys, Dyfed and Seisyllg, Morgannwg, and Gwent emerged as independent Welsh successor states. They endured, in part because of favourable geographical features such as uplands, mountains, and rivers and a resilient society that did not collapse with the end of the Roman civitas. This tenacious survival by the Romano-Britons and their descendants in the western kingdoms was to become the foundation of what we now know as Wales. With the loss of the lowlands, England's kingdoms of Mercia and Northumbria, and later Wessex, wrestled with Powys, Gwent, and Gwynedd to define the frontier between the two peoples.

Having lost much of the West Midlands to Mercia in the 6th and early 7th century, a resurgent late 7th century Powys checked Mercian advancement. Aethelbald of Mercia, looking to defend recently acquired lands, had built Wat's Dyke. According to John Davies, this endeavour may have been with Powys king Elisedd ap Gwylog's own agreement, however, for this boundary, extending north from the Severn valley to the Dee estuary, gave Oswestry (Welsh: Croesoswallt) to Powys. King Offa of Mercia seems to have continued this consultive initiative when he created a larger earth work, now known as Offa's Dyke (Welsh: Clawdd Offa). Davies wrote of Cyril Fox's study of Offa's Dyke:

In the planning of it, there was a degree of consultation with the kings of Powys and Gwent. On the Long Mountain near Trelystan, the dyke veers to the east, leaving the fertile slops in the hands of the Welsh; near Rhiwabod, it was designed to ensure that Cadell ap Brochwel retained possession of the Fortress of Penygadden." And for Gwent Offa had the dyke built "on the eastern crest of the gorge, clearly with the intention of recognizing that the river Wye and its traffic belonged to the kingdom of Gwent.

Offa's Dyke largely remained the frontier between the Welsh and English, though the Welsh would recover by the 12th century the area between the Dee and the Conwy known then as the Perfeddwlad. By the eighth century the eastern borders with the Anglo Saxons had broadly been set.



The southern and eastern lands lost to English settlement became known in Welsh as Lloegyr (Modern Welsh Lloegr), which may have referred to the kingdom of Mercia originally, and which came to refer to England as a whole.[2] The Germanic tribes who now dominated these lands were invariably called Saeson, meaning "Saxons". The Anglo-Saxons, in turn, labelled the Romano-British as Walha, meaning 'foreigner' or 'stranger'. The Welsh continued to call themselves Brythoniaid (Brythons or Britons) well into the Middle Ages, though the first use of Cymru and y Cymry is found as early as 633 in the Gododdin of Aneirin. In Armes Prydain, written in about 930, the words Cymry and Cymro are used as often as 15 times. It was not until about the 12th century however, that Cymry began to overtake Brythoniaid in their writings.

Dolwyddelan Castle, built by Llywelyn ab Iorwerth in the early 13th century to watch over one of the valley routes into Snowdonia.
Dolwyddelan Castle, built by Llywelyn ab Iorwerth in the early 13th century to watch over one of the valley routes into Snowdonia.

From the year 800 onwards a series of dynastic marriages led to Rhodri Mawr's (r. 844-877) inheritance of Gwynedd and Powys. His sons in turn would found three principal dynasties (Aberffraw for Gwynedd, Dinefwr for Deheubarth, and Mathrafal for Powys), each competing for hegemony over the others. Rhodri's grandson Hywel Dda (r.900-950) founded Deheubarth out of his maternal and paternal inheritances of Dyfed and Seisyllg, oust the Aberffraw's from Gwynedd and Powys, and codify Welsh law in 930, finely going on a pilgrimage to Rome (and allegedly having the Law Codes blessed by the pope). Maredudd ab Owain (r.986-999) of Deheubarth (Hywel's grandson) would, (again) temporarily oust the Aberffraw line for control Gwynedd and Powys. Maradudd's great-grandson (through his daughter Princess Anghared) Gruffydd ap Llywelyn (r.1039-1063) would conquer his cousins' realms from his base in Powys, and even extend his authority into England. Owain Gwynedd (1100-1170) of the Aberffraw line was the first Welsh ruler to use the title princeps Wallensium (prince of the Welsh), a title of substance given his victory on the Berwyn Mountains, according to historian John Davies. The Aberffraw dynasty would surge to pre-eminence with Owain Gwynedd's grandson Llywelyn Fawr (the Great) (b.1173-1240), wrestling concessions out of the Magna Carta in 1215 and receiving the fealty of other Welsh lords in 1216 at the council at Aberdyfi, becoming the first Prince of Wales. His grandson Llywelyn II also secured the recognition of the title Prince of Wales from Henry III with the Treaty of Montgomery in 1267. Later however, a succession of disputes, including the imprisonment of Llywelyn's wife Eleanor, daughter of Simon de Montfort, culminated in the first invasion by Edward I. As a result of military defeat, the Treaty of Aberconwy imposed English fealty over Llywelyn in 1277. Peace was short lived and in 1282 the English conquest of Wales permanently ended the rule of the Welsh princes, with Llywelyn's death and his brother prince Dayfdd's execution. To help maintain his conquest of the independent nation he constructed a series of great stone castles. Beaumaris, Caernarfon, and Conwy were built mainly to overshadow the Welsh royal home and headquarters Garth Celyn, Aber Garth Celyn, on the north coast of Gwynedd. Despite a brief uprising by Owain Glyndŵr in 1404, when he was reputedly crowned Prince of Wales in the presence of emissaries from France, Spain and Scotland.[1], holding parliamentary assemblies at several Welsh towns, including Machynlleth.

Although English conquest of Wales took place under the 1284 Statute of Rhuddlan, a formal Union did not occur until 1536, shortly after which Welsh law, which continued to be used in Wales after the conquest, was fully replaced by English law under the Laws in Wales Acts 1535-1542.


Nationalist revival

In the 20th century, Wales saw a revival in its national status. Plaid Cymru was formed in 1925, seeking greater autonomy or independence from the rest of the UK. In 1955, the term England and Wales became common for describing the area to which English law applied, and Cardiff was proclaimed as capital. In 1962 the Welsh Language Society (Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg) was formed in response to fears that the language might soon die out. Nationalism grew, particularly following the flooding of the Tryweryn valley in 1965, drowning the village of Capel Celyn to create a reservoir supplying water to Liverpool. In 1966 the Carmarthen Parliamentary seat was won by Plaid Cymru at a by-election, their first Parliamentary seat. A terror campaign was waged for a short period by the Free Wales Army and Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru (MAC - Welsh Defence Movement). In the years leading up to the investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales in 1969, these groups were responsible for a number of bomb blasts destroying water pipes and tax and other offices. In 1967, the Wales and Berwick Act 1746 was repealed for Wales, and a legal definition of Wales, and of the boundary with England was stated.

A referendum on the creation of an assembly for Wales in 1979 (see Wales referendum, 1979) led to a large majority for the "no" vote. However, in 1997 a referendum on the issue was secured, although by a very narrow majority. The National Assembly for Wales (Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru) was set up in 1999 (as a consequence of the Government of Wales Act 1998) and possesses the power to determine how the central government budget for Wales is spent and administered.



See also: Politics of the United Kingdom

The head of state in Wales, a constituent part of the United Kingdom, is the British monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II (since 1952). Executive power is derived by the Queen, and exercised by the Parliament of the United Kingdom at Westminster, with some powers devolved to the National Assembly for Wales in Cardiff. The United Kingdom Parliament retains responsibility for passing primary legislation in Wales. The National Assembly has regulatory authority over laws passed that are applicable to Wales, and has limited power to vary these by secondary legislation. The National Assembly is not a sovereign authority, and the UK Parliament could, in theory, overrule or even abolish it at any time. However, its powers are set to increase as the Government of Wales Act 2006 will allow it to speed up the passage of 'Assembly Measures'.

The National Assembly was first established in 1998 under the Government of Wales Act. There are 60 members of the Assembly, known as "Assembly Members (AM)". Forty of the AMs are elected under the First Past the Post system, with the other 20 elected via the Additional Member System via regional lists in 5 different regions. The largest party elects the First Minister of Wales, who acts as the head of government. The Welsh Assembly Government is the executive arm, and the Assembly has delegated most of its powers to the Assembly Government. The new Assembly Building designed by Richard Rogers was opened by The Queen on St. David's Day (March 1st) 2006.

The current First Minister of Wales is Rhodri Morgan (since 2000), of the Welsh Labour party who form a minority government, with 29 of 60 seats. The largest opposition party, with 12 seats is Plaid Cymru ("Party of Wales"), who favour Welsh independence. Other parties include the Conservative Party (11 seats), the Liberal Democrats (6 seats) (who formed part of a coalition government with Labour in the first Assembly), and Forward Wales (1 seat).

In the British House of Commons, Wales is represented by 40 MPs (out of a total of 646) in the Welsh constituencies. Currently, Welsh Labour represents 29 of the 40 seats, the Liberal Democrats hold 4 seats, Plaid Cymru 3 and the Conservatives 3. A Secretary of State for Wales sits in the UK cabinet and is responsible for representing matters that pertain to Wales. The Wales Office is a department of the United Kingdom government, responsible for Wales. The current Secretary of State for Wales is Peter Hain.



Wales shares the same legal system as England, within the legal distinction of England and Wales. England "legally" annexed Wales under the Laws in Wales Act 1535, in the reign of King Henry VIII. Prior to that Welsh Law had survived de facto after the conquest up to the fifteenth century in areas remote from direct English control. The Wales and Berwick Act 1746 provided that all laws that applied to England would automatically apply to Wales (and Berwick, a town located on the Anglo-Scottish border) unless the law explicitly stated otherwise. This act, with regard to Wales, was repealed in 1967.

As such, English law is the law of Wales. English law is regarded as a common law system, with no major codification of the law, and legal precedents are binding as opposed to persuasive. The court system is headed by the House of Lords which is the highest court of appeal in the land for criminal and civil cases (although this is due to be replaced by a Supreme Court of the United Kingdom). The Supreme Court of Judicature of England and Wales is the highest court of first instance as well as an appellate court. The three divisions are the Court of Appeal; the High Court of Justice and the Crown Court. Minor cases are heard by the Magistrates' Courts or the County Court.

However with the large degree of autonomy caused by the creation of the Welsh Assembly, there is a degree of independence in terms of law-making. Following the Government of Wales Act 2006, which transferred some primary legislation powers to the National Assembly for Wales (although the final authority on such legislation must be passed by the Westminster Parliament), the ancient and historic Wales and Chester court circuit was disbanded and a separate Welsh court circuit was created to allow for any 'Welsh laws' passed by the National Assembly.



Clock tower of Cardiff City Hall
Clock tower of Cardiff City Hall

For the purposes of local government, Wales was divided into 22 council areas in 1996. These are unitary authorities responsible for the provision of all local government services, including education, social work, environment and roads services. Below these in some areas there are community councils — that cover specific areas within a council area.

The Queen appoints a Lord Lieutenant to represent her in the eight Preserved counties of Wales — which are combinations of council areas. The 13 traditional counties of Wales are also used as geographical areas.

City status in the United Kingdom is determined by Letters patent. There are five cities in Wales:

(St. Asaph historically had city status. The 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica refers to it as a city, but it is no longer considered as such. Applications for restoration of city status in the 2000 and 2002 competitions were unsuccessful).

Principal areas of Wales Flag of Wales
Subdivisions created by the Local Government (Wales) Act 1994
Anglesey | Blaenau Gwent | Bridgend | Caerphilly | Cardiff | Carmarthenshire | Ceredigion | Conwy | Denbighshire | Flintshire | Gwynedd | Merthyr Tydfil | Monmouthshire | Neath Port Talbot | Newport | Pembrokeshire | Powys | Rhondda Cynon Taff | Swansea | Torfaen | Vale of Glamorgan | Wrexham


Map of Wales
Map of Wales

Wales is located on a peninsula in central-west Britain. The entire area of Wales is about 20,779 km² (8,023 square miles). It is about 274 km (170 miles) north-south and 97 km (60 miles) east-west. Wales borders by England to the east and by sea in the other three directions: the Welsh Channel to the south, St George's Channel to the west, and the Irish Sea to the north. Together, Wales has over 1,200km (750 miles) of coastline. There are several islands off the Welsh mainland, the largest being Ynys Môn (Anglesey) in the north west.

The main population and industrial areas are in South Wales, consisting of the cities of Cardiff (Caerdydd), Swansea (Abertawe) and Newport (Casnewydd) and surrounding areas.

The summit of Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa), Snowdonia (Eryri), highest mountain in Wales
The summit of Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa), Snowdonia (Eryri), highest mountain in Wales

Much of Wales' beautiful and diverse landscape is mountainous, particularly in the north and central regions. The mountains were shaped during the last ice age, the Devensian glaciation. The highest mountains in Wales are in Snowdonia (Eryri), and include Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa), which, at 1085 m (3,560 ft) is the highest peak in Wales. The 14 (or possibly 15) Welsh mountains over 3,000 feet (914 m) high are known collectively as the Welsh 3,000s. The Brecon Beacons (Bannau Brycheiniog) are in the south and are joined by the Cambrian Mountains in mid-Wales, the latter name being given to the earliest geological period of the Paleozoic era, the Cambrian.

In the mid-nineteenth century, two prominent geologists, Roderick Murchison and Adam Sedgwick used their studies of the geology of Wales to establish certain principles of stratigraphy and palaeontology. After much dispute, the next two periods of the Paleozoic era, the Ordovician and Silurian, were named after ancient Celtic tribes from this area.

Wales has four Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. These areas include Anglesey, Clwydian Range, Gower and Wye Valley. The Gower Peninsula was the first area in the whole of the United Kingdom to be designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in 1956.

Tor Bay and Three Cliffs Bay, Gower (Gŵyr), South Wales.
Tor Bay and Three Cliffs Bay, Gower (Gŵyr), South Wales.

Along with its Celtic cousins in Devon and Cornwall, the coastline of South and West Wales has more miles of Heritage Coast than anywhere else. The coastline of the Vale of Glamorgan, the Gower Peninsula, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion is particularly wild and impressive. Gower, Pembrokeshire and Cardigan Bay all have clean blue water, white-sand beaches and impressive marine life. Despite this scenic splendour the coast of Wales has a dark side; the South and West coasts of Wales, along with the Irish and Cornish coast, are frequently blasted by huge Atlantic westerlies/south westerlies that, over the years, have sunk and wrecked many vessels. On the night of 25th October 1859, 114 ships were destroyed off the coast of Wales when a hurricane blew in from the Atlantic - Cornwall and Ireland also had a huge fatality rate on its coastline from shipwrecks that night. Wales has the somewhat unenviable repuatation, along with Cornwall, Ireland and Brittany, of having, per square mile, some of the highest shipwreck rate in Europe. [citation needed] The shipwreck situation was particularly bad during the industrial era when ships bound for Cardiff got caught up in Atlantic gales and were decimated by "the cruel sea".

The modern border between Wales and England is highly arbitrary; it was largely defined in the 16th century, based on mediaeval feudal boundaries. It has apparently never been confirmed by referendum or reviewed by any Boundary Commission. The boundary line (which very roughly follows Offa's Dyke up to 40 miles (64 km) of the northern coast) separates Knighton from its railway station, virtually cuts off Church Stoke from the rest of Wales, and slices straight through the village of Llanymynech (where a pub actually straddles the line).

The Seven Wonders of Wales is a traditional list of seven geographic and cultural landmarks in Wales: Snowdon (the highest mountain), the Gresford bells (the peal of bells in the mediaeval church of All Saints at Gresford), the Llangollen bridge (built in 1347 over the River Dee, Afon Dyfrdwy), St Winefride's Well (a pilgrimage site at Holywell, Treffynnon) in Flintshire) the Wrexham (Wrecsam) steeple (16th century tower of St. Giles Church in Wrexham), the Overton yew trees (ancient yew trees in the churchyard of St Mary's at Overton-on-Dee) and Pistyll Rhaeadr (Wales' tallest waterfall, at 240 ft or 75 m). The wonders are part of the traditional rhyme:

Pistyll Rhaeadr and Wrexham steeple,
Snowdon's mountain without its people,
Overton yew trees, St Winefride wells,
Llangollen bridge and Gresford bells.


Highest maximum temperature: 35.2°C (95.4°F) at Hawarden Bridge, Flintshire on 2 August 1990.

Lowest minimum temperature: -23.3°C (-10°F) at Rhayader, Radnorshire on 21 January 1940. [2]

See also: List of towns in Wales





Jones, W.E. (Ed)1968. Natural History of Anglesey. Anglesey Antiquarian Society, Llangefni, Wales.



Parts of Wales have been heavily industrialised since the eighteenth century. Coal, copper, iron, silver, lead, and gold have been mined in Wales, and slate has been quarried. Ironworks and tin-plate works, along with the coal mines, attracted large numbers of immigrants during the nineteenth century, particularly to the valleys north of Cardiff. Due to poor-quality soil, much of Wales is unsuitable for crop-growing, and livestock farming has traditionally been the focus of agriculture. The Welsh landscape (protected by three National Parks), as well as the unique culture of Wales, attract large numbers of tourists, who play an especially vital role in the economy of rural areas.

Light engineering is still an important activity in the main population areas of the South and extreme North-East, but the economy, as elsewhere in the UK, is now focused on the service sector.

The Cardiff economy is a growing base for many companies and as a result it has been increasingly used for new businesses, and many new employment opportunities have been created as a result. The new St David's 2 project in the city centre, the Sports Village construction in Cardiff Bay along with the creation of a new stadium for Cardiff City FC will boost employment by nearly 10,000 according to early projections and will prove a massive boost to the regional economy. It has now been revealed that Cardiff is the fastest growing city in the EU as there are so many new buildings and projects appearing.[citation needed]

The St David's 2 project will include the expansion of the city centre to include a new 6 story city centre library, a new multi-storey car park for the Marriot hotel, 9 new large stores which will include Wales' first John Lewis and many other small stores.

The Cardiff Bay 'Sports Village' will be the base for a new casino, Snow Dome, retail park and the ice rink for the Cardiff Devils ice-hockey team.

Many other cities are also conducting major projects of regeneration, such as the SA1 Waterfront project in Swansea and in Newport a major regeneration project will vastly improve transport throughout the city, the building of a new retail centre and 6000 homes.



The population of Wales in the 2001 census was 2,903,085, which has risen to 2,958,876 according to 2005 estimates. This would make Wales the 132nd largest country by population if it were a sovereign state.

According to the 2001 census, 96% of the population was White British, and 2.1% non-white (mainly of Asian origin).[3] Most non-white groups were concentrated in Cardiff, Newport and Swansea.

In the 2001 Labour Force Survey, 72% of adults in Wales considered their national identity as wholly Welsh and another 7% considered themselves to be partly Welsh (Welsh and British were the most common combination). [4]

In 2001 a quarter of the Welsh population were born outside Wales, mainly in England; about 3% were born outside the UK. The proportion of people who were born in Wales differs across the country, with the highest percentages in the South Wales Valleys, and the lowest in Mid Wales and parts of the north-east. In both Blaenau Gwent and Merthyr Tydfil 92% were Welsh-born, compared to only 51% in Flintshire and 56% in Powys.[5] One of the reasons for this is that the locations of the most convenient hospitals are over the border in England. In the case of Flintshire, The Countess of Chester Hospital is only 13 miles (21 km) from Mold, the prime town of the county. The Welsh option would be Glan Clwyd Hospital in Denbighshire which would be a 25 mile (40 km) trip.

Main cities/towns and their populations (2005 estimates)

Cardiff - 320,524

Swansea - 270,463

Newport - 145,769

Merthyr Tydfil - 54,700

Barry - 50,661

Port Talbot - 49,654

Cwmbran - 47,254

Wrexham - 44,723

Llanelli - 44,475



The official languages in Wales are English and Welsh. English is spoken by almost all people in Wales and is the de facto main language (see Welsh English). However, Wales is officially bilingual, with 21.7% of the population able to speak Welsh and a larger proportion having some knowledge of the Welsh language according to a 2004 language survey. Today there are almost certainly no monoglot Welsh speakers, other than small children, although there would still have been many as recently as the middle of the twentieth century.[6] The Welsh Language Act 1993 and the Government of Wales Act 1998 provide that the Welsh and English languages should be treated on a basis of equality. Public bodies are required to prepare and implement a Welsh Language Scheme. Thus the Welsh Assembly, local councils, police forces, fire services and the health sector use Welsh as an official language, issuing official literature and publicity in Welsh versions (e.g. letters to parents from schools, library information, and council information). All road signs in Wales should be in English and Welsh, including both versions of place names where names or versions exist in both languages e.g. Caerdydd and "Cardiff".

During the 20th Century a number of small communities of speakers of languages other than English or Welsh, such as Bengali or Cantonese, have established themselves in Wales as a result of immigration. This phenomenon is almost exclusive to urban Wales. The Italian Government funds the teaching of Italian to Welsh residents of Italian ancestry. These other languages however have no official status, although public services may produce information leaflets in minority ethnic languages where there is a specific need, as happens elsewhere in the United Kingdom.



The largest religion in Wales is Christianity, with 72% of the population describing themselves as Christian in the 2001 census. The Presbyterian Church of Wales is the largest denomination and was born out of the Welsh Methodist revival in the eighteenth century and seceded from the Church of England in 1811. The Church in Wales is the next largest denomination, and forms part of the Anglican Communion. It too was part of the Church of England, and was disestablished by the British Government under the Welsh Church Act 1914 (the act did not take effect until 1920). The Roman Catholic Church makes up the next largest denomination at 3% of the population. Non-Christian religions are small in Wales, making up approximately 1.5% of the population. 18% of people declare no religion.

The patron saint of Wales is Saint David (welsh: Dewi Sant), with St David's Day (welsh: Gŵyl Dewi) celebrated annually on March 1.

Islam is the largest non-Christian religion in Wales, with over 30,000 reported in the 2001 census. There are also communities of Hindus and Sikhs mainly in South Wales' cities of Newport, Cardiff and Swansea.





About 80% of the land surface of Wales is given over to agricultural use. Very little of this is arable land, though–the vast majority consists of permanent grass or rough grazing for herd animals. Although both beef and dairy cattle are raised widely, especially in Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire, Wales is more well-known for its sheep farming, and thus lamb is the meat traditionally associated with Welsh cooking.

Some traditional dishes include laverbread (made from seaweed), bara brith (fruit bread), cawl cennin (leek stew), Welsh cakes, Welsh rarebit (cheese on toast), and Welsh lamb. Cockles are sometimes served with breakfast. [7]

In 2005 the Welsh National Culinary Teams returned from the Culinary World Cup in Luxembourg with eight gold, 15 silver and seven bronze medals; plus an overall top 7 place in the world.



The principal Welsh festival of music and poetry is the National Eisteddfod. This takes place annually in a different town or city. The Llangollen International Eisteddfod echoes the National Eisteddfod but provides an opportunity for the singers and musicians of the world to perform.

Wales is often referred to as "the land of song",[3] being particularly famous for harpists, male voice choirs, and solo artists including Sir Geraint Evans, Dame Gwynneth Jones, Dame Anne Evans, Ivor Novello, Madam Adelina Patti, John Cale, Tom Jones, Charlotte Church, Bonnie Tyler, Bryn Terfel, Mary Hopkin, Katherine Jenkins, Shirley Bassey and Aled Jones.

The popular New Wave/synthpop group Scritti Politti was a vehicle for singer/songwriter and Cardiff native Green Gartside.

Indie bands like the Manic Street Preachers, Catatonia, Stereophonics, Feeder, Super Furry Animals, and Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, in the 1990s, and later Goldie Lookin' Chain, McLusky, Lostprophets, Funeral for a Friend, The Automatic, skindred and Bullet for my Valentine were preceded by Man in the 1970s. Another famous Welsh singer includes pop icon Jem who has recorded songs for/performed on TV programmes such as Las Vegas and The OC, and movies such as Eragon.

The Welsh traditional and folk music scene, long overshadowed by its Irish and Scottish cousins, is in resurgence with performers and bands such as Crasdant, Carreg Lafar, Fernhill, Siân James, Robin Huw Bowen, Llio Rhydderch, KilBride and The Hennessys.

The 'Sîn Roc Gymraeg' (Welsh language Rock Scene) in Wales is thriving, with acts ranging from rock to hip-hop which routinely attracts immense crowds and audiences. The Welsh-language Rock Scene presently is stated as 'the best yet,' with more bands, and more audiences than the 'Sin Roc Gymraeg' has ever seen in its existence. Dolgellau, in the heart of Snowdonia has held the annual Sesiwn Fawr (mighty session) festival since 1992. From humble beginnings the festival has grown to be Wales' largest Welsh-Language Music Festivals.

The BBC National Orchestra of Wales performs in Wales and internationally. The world-renowned Welsh National Opera now has a permanent home at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay.





The most popular sports in Wales are football and Rugby union. As in New Zealand, Rugby is a core part of the national identity, although Football is the prefered sport in North Wales.

The Welsh national rugby union team takes part in the annual Six Nations Championship, and the Rugby World Cup. Welsh teams also play in the Celtic League (rugby union) alongside teams from Ireland and Scotland, the EDF Energy Cup and the European Heineken Cup.

Wales has its own football league since 1992, but for historical reasons, the 3 major Welsh clubs (Swansea City, Cardiff City and Wrexham) play in the English Football League and another three minor clubs in its feeder leagues. The Welsh national team like Scotland plays independently for international competition.

Rugby league is now developing in Wales. Since 2003, there has been a national league and in 2006, semi-professional league comes back to the principality with the advent of the Celtic Crusaders.

The Isle of Anglesey/Ynys Môn is a member island of the International Island Games Association. The next Island Games will be held in 2007 on Rhodes (Greece). In the 2005 Games, held on the Shetland Islands, the Isle of Anglesey/Ynys Môn came 11th on the medal table with 4 gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze medals.

Wales has produced some great world class snooker players such as Terry Griffiths Mark Williams and Matthew Stevens and amateur participation in the sport is very high. The rugged terrain of the country also gives plenty of opportunities for rally driving and Wales currently hosts the finale of the World Rally Championship. Glamorgan compete in county cricket competitions and the Cardiff Devils were once a strong force in British ice hockey. There is also some success in boxing. Joe Calzaghe the half-Welsh, half-Italian boxer is current World Super-Middleweight Champion and Swansea born Enzo Maccarinelli the current WBO, WBC and WBU World Cruiserweight Champion. Wales has also produced a number of athletes who have made a mark on the world stage, including the 110m hurdler Colin Jackson who is a former world record holder and the winner of numerous Olympic, World and European medals.

Two Welsh drivers have competed in the Formula One championship: the first was Alan Rees at the 1967 British Grand Prix, who finished in ninth position, four laps behind the winner, Jim Clark. Tom Pryce was the more notable of the two drivers, as he finished on the podium twice and, at the 1975 British Grand Prix, qualified in pole position. Pryce's career was cut short after he collided with volunteer marshal, Jansen Van Vuuren, killing both instantly. As well as Formula One, Wales have had some notability in the World Rally Championship, producing two championship winning Co-Drivers, those being Nicky Grist, who helped Colin McRae to victory in 1996 and Phil Mills who helped Petter Solberg win the 2003 title.

Other notable Welsh sports people include 11 times gold medal winning paralympic athlete Tani Grey Thompson and international champion cyclist Nicole Cooke.



Cardiff is home to the Welsh national media. BBC Wales is based in Llandaff and produces Welsh-oriented output for BBC One and BBC Two channels. BBC 2W is the Welsh digital version of BBC Two, and broadcasts between 8.30pm and 10pm each week night for specific Wales based programming. ITV the UK's main commercial broadcaster has a Welsh-oriented service branded as ITV Wales provided by HTV. S4C broadcasts mostly Welsh-language programming at peak hours, but shares English-language content with Channel 4 at other times. S4C Digidol (S4C Digital), on the other hand, broadcasts entirely in Welsh. Channel 4 and Channel 5 are now available in most parts of the country via digital television and satellite.

BBC Radio Wales is Wales's only national English-language radio station, while BBC Radio Cymru broadcasts throughout Wales in Welsh. There are also a number of independent radio stations across Wales. Major radio stations around the country include Marcher Sound, Coast FM, Swansea Sound (the longest-established commercial radio station in Wales) 96.4FM The Wave, Red Dragon and Real Radio.

Most of the newspapers sold and read in Wales are national newspapers sold and read throughout Britain, unlike in Scotland where many newspapers have rebranded into Scottish based titles. Wales-based newspapers include: Llanelli Star; South Wales Echo; South Wales Argus; South Wales Evening Post; Liverpool Daily Post (Welsh edition) and Y Cymro, a Welsh language publication. The Western Mail is the main all-Wales newspaper which includes the Wales on Sunday paper. The first Welsh language daily, Y Byd, is due to commence on St David's Day 2007 [8].

In addition to English-language magazines, a number of weekly and monthly Welsh-language magazines are published. Wales has some 20 publishing companies, publishing mostly English titles. However, some 500-600 titles are published each year in Welsh[9].


National symbols

The Flag of Saint David (Baner Dewi Sant)
The Flag of Saint David (Baner Dewi Sant)

Photos of Wales


Notable Welsh people

see List of Welsh people


Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwll-llantysiliogogogoch The longest name in Great Britain.


See also



  1. For the original Middle Welsh text see, Ifor Williams (ed.), Breuddwyd Maxen (Bangor, 1920). Discussion of the tale and its context in, M.P. Charlesworth, The Lost Province (Gregynog Lectures series, 1948, 1949).
  2. The earliest instance of Lloegyr occurs in the early-10th century prophetic poem Armes Prydain. It seems comparatively late as a place name, the nominative plural Lloegrwys, "men of Lloegr", being earlier and more common. The English were sometimes referred to as an entity in early poetry (Saeson, as today) but just as often as Eingl (Angles), Iwys (Wessex-men), etc. Lloegr and Saeson became the norm later when England emerged as a kingdom. As for its origins, some scholars have suggested that it originally referred only to Mercia - at that time a powerful kingdom and for centuries the main foe of the Welsh. It was then applied to the new kingdom of England as a whole (see for instance Rachel Bromwich (ed.), Trioedd Ynys Prydain, University of Wales Press, 1987). "The lost land" and other fanciful meanings, such as Geoffrey of Monmouth's monarch Locrinus, have no etymological basis whatsoever. (See also Discussion, article 40)
  3. "Wales: Cultural life: Music, literature and film". Britannica (Online). (2006).

External links

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