A Traveller's Guide to Wales
- The Midgie
- 10 September 2009
Just a short journey from central Scotland, Wales is an ideal spot for those of you who want to do a little bit of exploring without leaving the United Kingdom. Here’s our traveller’s guide of top things to see and do
Bright lights, big city
A visit to Cardiff, the capital of Wales, is likely to be top of your hitlist. It has a bustling art and music scene, with the Chapter Arts Centre offering a packed schedule of off-beat films, exhibitions, theatre events and live music. Or there’s always the Cardiff Barfly, which has regular indie gigs and themed club nights; like Hammertime!, which pays tribute to the mastery of 90s pop poets like Vanilla Ice, Shaggy and MC Hammer. Basically, Cardiff has a pleasingly diverse social scene – from high brow to, err, no brow. We’ll be down the front doing the Hammer dance.
It’s oh so quiet
Alas, sometimes all you want is a bit of peace. And surely it’s not too much to ask just to be able to clamber up a quiet hillside and breathe some fresh air. Well, Snowdonia National Park in the north of Wales has nine separate mountain ranges and many of the peaks reach a dizzying 3,000 feet – is that fresh enough for you? The park itself comprises of 823 square miles of unspoilt countryside; with nature trails, mountain walks and off-road cycling all idyllic possibilities. We feel an air of calm coming over us already.
Camp it up
Shell Island in South Wales has over 450 acres of beautiful countryside, of which 300 acres are devoted entirely to camping – making it one of the biggest camp sites in the United Kingdom. With views out across the mountain tops and lovely sheltered beaches around the coastline, you’ll be spoilt for choice for where to pitch your tent. And there’s plenty to see and do, with a spot of fishing or crabbing being the best way of experiencing the great outdoors. Then again, there’s always the onsite Tavern Bar, which sells the locally brewed beer, Purple Moose. You know where you’ll find us.
Go on, admit it – a big highlight of visiting a new place is sampling its culinary delights. And, no, we won’t judge you if one of your first stops in Wales is a local bakery, because their food forte seems to be all about the cakes and buns. The most traditional is probably the simply named Welsh cake, which is a type of sweet biscuit, usually cooked on a griddle and served with afternoon tea. How very civilised. Also try Teisen Mel (honey cake), or perhaps some speckled Bara Brith fruit bread. Or perhaps you’d rather have some Welsh ‘rarebit’ – basically fancy toasted cheese with a special sauce. Ooh stop, we’re dribbling.
There’s always room for a little bit of history and a visit to The Big Pit Museum should give you your recommended daily dosage. It’s a coal mine operating as a mining museum, where you can go 90 metres underground and explore a real mine shaft. We can’t help but recall an Ali G sketch where he visited Wales and ‘learnt’ all about their culture and history. During a conversation with a rather confused old miner, he asks: ‘Is it true that there were dogs working down there that had the head of an ant and could fly?’ Let us know if you see one.
You can travel from Scotland to Wales on various forms of public transport. Scotrail CrossCountry train service takes you via Birmingham to Cardiff, www.scotrail.co.uk.
Or try the inter-town bus routes, which often duplicate train routes. National Express is the most comprehensive bus service provider, www.nationalexpress.com
Learn the Lingo
Welsh is spoken widely throughout Wales and is the first language in many parts of the North and West. Swat up on these words and phrases and you’ll blend right in:
Good Afternoon – Pnawn da
Please – Os gwelwch yn dda
Thank you – Diolch
Pub – Tafarn
I’d like a pint of lager – Ga I beint o lager
This gentleman will pay for everything – Bydd y dyn ma yn talu am popeth
My hovercraft is full of eels – Mae fy hofrenfad yn llawn o lyswennod