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Wales, a country famous for dragons, castles and the remarkable Welsh language. Welsh names of villages like ‘Ynysddu,’ Bwlchgwyn and ‘Cwmrhydyceirw’ can seem so strange and vowel deficient to a non native, trying to pronounce them will leave you gasping for breath.
Text and pictures : Charlotte Mountford

hile the Welsh people defend their language with a fierce pride, happily for the rest of Britain the country is officially bilingual, with English spoken throughout the land visiting the Celtic nation is not as linguistically challenging as one might expect.

As historic neighbours, the Welsh and English have forever been fierce rivals. However their cultures have also mutually enhanced each other over the centuries. The imposing and ancient Welsh ruin of Tintern Abbey was founded by an Englishman in 1131 and with stone walls reaching to the sky beside a misty river, Tintern is possibly one of the most romantic spots in the UK.

The English poet William Wordsworth certainly thought so when he visited in 1798, and wrote an inspiring poem “Lines composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey;” a bittersweet verse which nostalgically mourns the past, seeking comfort in the nature and beauty surrounding the Abbey. Nature being one of Wordsworth’s favourite poetic themes, he was most impressed by the landscape, and took two walking tours of the country.

Today the beauty of Wales still attracts the wandering artist. Every August, musicians Welsh, English and other from all parts of the world, flock to Green Man music festival in Glanusk Park, not far from Tintern Abbey. Nestled by the river Usk among the Brecon Beacons- a sweeping, rugged mountain range- the lushness of the location makes Green Man a unique festival. While at Glastonbury you might pitch your tent next to a pile of rubbish or a brimming portaloo, at Green Man you wake up in sweet smelling grass next to a clear flowing river; Wordsworth would approve.

Green Man pays tribute to nature and folklore, Wales having plenty of both. There is a family orientated hippy vibe fills the festival site.Children play, and there are unusual activities such as ‘maggot racing’which are played between concerts. As the sun goes down the primary concerts start. Lst year (2011) saw English band Noah and the Wale and the American Fleetfoxes headlining, to the assembled crowd’s delight. while there was great enthusiasm, there was also a relax atmosphere with fans standing as near as five meters from the main stage. In what was technically the ‘mosh pit,’. For the hardened partygoer, the dance tents stay open into the wee hours- a safe distance from the camping areas so others can get their sleep. This August , Irish artist Van Morrison will headline, bringing his ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ all the way to Green Man.

Those who arrive by bus to Green Man Festival are treated with the astounding view of the Glanusk Estate bridge and gate house (see photo), which complete with turret.Some countries might even pass as a castle.

Well, not so by Welsh standards, particularly in comparison to Conwy Castle (see photo.) Built between 1277 and 1304, with Disney-cartoon proportions, Conwy castle must be one of the most staggering of all the Welsh fortresses, and has been defending the Conwy estuary from rogue invaders for centuries. Looking at Conwy it’s easy to imagine a dragon- the national symbol of Wales- swooping down from the battlements, or a warrior violently slaying his enemy on the drawbridge. The Mabinogiom, which is a collection of eleven medieval mythological stories of Wales, are still held sacred by the Welsh culture today.It tells magical tales of kings, castles, virgins and wizards.

History and beauty in such a dramatic setting continues to inspire writers, artists and visitors to come to Wales. Whether they come to attend a folk music festival, see a castle, or just walk among the hills contemplating nature, Wales is truly an inspiring place to be.


The Curious Culture, Myths and Festivals of Wales

Wales is a country famous for dragons, castles and the incredible Welsh language. Welsh names of villages like ‘Ynusddu’ and ‘Cwmrhydyceirw’ are strange for most English speakers because they don’t have very many vowels. However, Wales is a bilingual country so English speakers will have no trouble at all while visiting.

Wales is home to one of the most romantic places in the UK: the ancient ruin of Tintern Abbey. The English poet William Wordsworth visited it in 1798 and the ruin’s beauty inspired one of his poems.

Even today artists come to visit Wales to experience its beautiful landscape and attend its famous “Green Man” music festival. The festival is not far from Tintern Abbey, and unlike other festivals, which are sometimes dirty and unattractive, Green Man is next to a clear river and a scenic mountain range! The experience at this festival is also unique because the concert-goers are relaxed and peaceful; it is a great event for the whole family.

This country is also home to many castles. Conwy, built in the late 1200’s looks like a castle from a Disney movie! It is very impressive. Looking at Conwy, it’s easy to imagine dragons, kings, wizards and knights battling in the medieval days. Today, these stories are still important within Welsh culture, inspiring people from all over the world to come for a visit.



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