Ryan at the Rank

Ryan a Ronnie

20 Great Welsh Classic Melodies

A Nation Sings

Massed Male Voice Choirs of North Wales

Pontarddulais Male Voice Choir

The Crusaders

Themes and Dreams of Wales

Best of Welsh Comedy

Black Mountain Records


What makes Wales & its people what it is today?  The answer could be found with the following lists -  a complex amalgam of fascinating facts & figures which hint at our history, our character, our heritage, our idiosyncrasies & our modesty in boasting about them!

Here’s the first 101 facts – if you have some you would like to include, contact us.    

There’s more to come!                                                         
(Compiled by Mike Evans – contact mike@blackmountain.me.uk)

World Firsts

Wales and The U.S.A.

European Firsts

British Firsts

Wales Worst

Welsh Quotes


#1   On 11th May 1897, GUGLIELMO MARCONI transmitted the world’s first radio message. It travelled the sum total of 3 miles (!) from Lavernock Point, Penarth, South Wales to Flat Holm Island in the Bristol Channel. Unfortunately, there was no ‘One Step for Mankind’ speech – his first words were just - ‘Are you ready?’

#2   In 1927, Sir Malcolm Campbell became the fastest driver in the world at the lengthy Pendine Sands, South Wales.  He drove his car, Blue Bird, to a speed in excess of 170 miles per hour.  A Welshman, Parry Thomas made a similar attempt that year, but sadly lost his life.

#3   Do you know the way to.....
Translated: The Church of St.Mary, in the hollow of the white hazel, near the fierce whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio, by the red cave.
It’s the world’s third longest place-name and all 58 letters can be seen outside the village on the Isle of Anglesey, North Wales. You should see the size of the postcode!!

#4    We all know the name of the world’s highest mountain, but few would have associated with it being named after Sir George Everest (1799 – 1866) who was the Surveyor-General of India. He resided in Crickhowell in the Brecon Beacons.

#5    And furthermore.......when Sir Edmund Hilary prepared for the world’s first successful attempt at climbing Everest, he used Snowdonia as his training ground.

#6    Seeing the size of the Amazon Despatch Centre in Swansea (the size of 7 football fields), one appreciates the rapid expansion of the internet market. Yet one can trace its historical roots back 150 years to Newtown, just 70 miles away!                                                                                                             In 1859, the world’s first mail-order business was opened by Sir Pryce Pryce-Jones in the      mid-Wales market town. Central to Pryce-Jones business expansion was the rapid extension of the latest technology – the rail network, on a similar scale to the current advancement of the internet.

#7   During the Industrial Revolution, Wales was regarded as the ‘engine-room’ of this radical period in world history. Amongst the many achievements, there were two ‘World-Firsts’ carried out in Wales in the space of a few short years and only 30 miles apart:                                                                                      i)  I’m sure you have always considered that Stephenson’s Rocket was the world’s first steam engine (1829). Yet, in 1804 an earlier design by Richard Trevithick called the Pen-y-Darren Locomotive hauled 10 tons of iron, 5 wagons and 70 men over 10 miles between Merthyr Tydfil to Abercynon, Rhondda Valley.                                                                                                                           ii)  And in 1807, the Swansea and Mumbles Railway became the first fare-paying, passenger railway service in the world and it continued in existence for 150 years.

#8   A full-scale replica of Trevithick’s Pen-y-Darren locomotive can today be seen at the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea, South Wales – which is very ironical. For it stands on more-or-less the exact spot is from where the Swansea & Mumbles Railway commenced its 6 mile journey. And a replica of the front of the ‘Mumbles Train’ is on show nearby – both a tribute to Wales’ past industrial heritage.  
#9    The rapid industrial and economic expansion in Wales happened between the period 1750 and 1850. During that time, Wales moved from being a very agriculturally-based country to becoming the first nation in the world to employ more people in industry than in agriculture.

#10   Swansea, South Wales was the first area to develop into the world’s major centre for non-ferrous metal smelting in the early 19th century, with its access to local coal deposits and a harbour through which it imported the copper ore from Cornwall and Anglesey.

#11   Following copper, the next area of expansion was the smelting of iron. Its manufacture was centred in Bersham, North Wales and Merthyr Tydfil in the South, the latter becoming the second world trade centre of metallurgy.

#12   In the late 19th century, Dr.Ludwig Mond, a German-born scientist discovered a process to produce pure nickel from ores mined in Canada. In 1902, he opened a refining plant at the Mond Nickel Works, Clydach near Swansea which became the world’s largest production plant.

#13   Between the copper, the zinc and nickel smelting, the Swansea Valley  probably became ‘the smelliest place on earth’ with its highly noxious fumes – although other parts of industrial Wales, at that time, would compete for that accolade!

#14   Wales now possesses three World Heritage sites: Blaenavon Industrial Landscape, Castles & Town walls of King Edward I in Gwynedd and Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Blaenavon grew around an ironworks which opened in 1788 with the steel-making and coal industry following. At one time, the population exploded to 20,000, but with the loss of its industry has settled back to just over 6,000. The Big Pit Mining museum and the Ironworks museum contribute greatly to its tourist industry.

#15   Slate quarrying also expanded rapidly, at this time, mainly in North Wales. Although referred to as ‘the most Welsh of Welsh industries’, the public perception, around the world, of the industry of Wales was coal-mining. Initially to supply the smelting industry, coal’s real boom period was brought on by the expansion of the rail network, which resulted in many mines being sunk in the areas around Aberdare and the Rhondda.

#16   Of the hundreds of collieries sunk across the South Wales coalfield, the Cefn Coed Colliery, near Neath, South Wales was the deepest anthracite coalmine in the world when it opened (1926).

#17   Output reached its height in 1913 with 61 million tons of coal being produced. This tonnage in turn made the ports of Swansea, Barry and Cardiff into world record exporters of coal.

#18   In Cardiff, the extent of the coal exports necessitated a purpose-built clearing house – the Coal Exchange and it was here that, at one time, the price of the world’s coal was determined. In 1901, the world’s first million pound cheque was written here for the export of 2,500 tonnes of coal to France. It is equivalent to £78 million today.

#19   So equate that to today’s first welsh billionaire – Sir Terry Matthews. He has founded over 80 hi-tech companies in the UK and Canada but always carried a dream which he achieved in 2010. If you arrive in Wales on the M4, you’ll see ‘his dream’ as you pass Newport.                   Having bought the former nursing home where he was born, he commenced on his project to create Europe’s leading conference resort with golfing facilities. Several hundreds of millions of pounds later, the five star Celtic Manor resort opened and with it came the highest sporting achievement – the staging of the 2010 Ryder Cup! Another rags....(not exactly rags) (!) to riches story.

#20   And here’s a Derren Brown moment.......... (no, he’s not Welsh!).                                                From now on, everytime you write an equal sign (=), you will forever think of Wales and, in particular, Robert  Recorde of Tenby. (You can bore your friends with this snippit!) He was a brilliant 16th-century academic who bestowed this algebraic symbol on the world – (thanks).

#21  The National Museum & Gallery in Cardiff plays host to a remarkable range of art which would not have happened but for the generosity of two spinster ladies – Margaret and Gwendoline Davies. They collected works by Daumier, Monet, Renoir, Rodin, Van Goch and Cezanne which became the best collection of Impressionist Art outside France - and then remarkably donated them all to the nation. Their wealth was created by their grandfather, David Davies, the great Welsh industrialist from Llandinam in Mid Wales.

#22   As the old adage goes, people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones – especially at the Welsh National Botanic Gardens near Carmarthen, West Wales. Based on the site of the 400 year old Middleton Hall, the new Gardens opened in 2000, and which possess the largest single-span glass-house in the world (designed by Sir Norman Fowler).

#23    The Middleton estate, in the late 18th century, was purchased by William Paxton; it was he, who on learning of the death of his friend, Admiral Lord Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, built a large Tower in his honour on a nearby promontory. This folly, which became known as Paxton’s Tower and can be viewed from many parts of the Towy Valley, is now  maintained by the National Trust.

#24    The next Welsh ‘first’ is a little open to conjecture but one promoted by a Cardiff academic.  In Pembrokeshire, there is range of hills called the Preseli’s and from here, many generations ago a family left for the New World. Years later, that self-same family produced a rock and roll legend ...........Elvis.........yes, that’s right, Elvis Preseli!!! ‘Ain’t nothin’ like a Helgi (welsh for ‘hound dog’).

#25    Before one scoff’s, there’s evidence of his Welsh links! Not only did his mother, Gladys have a Welsh name but Elvis’ dead twin, Jesse Garon Presley had a Welsh second name. And back in the Preseli Hills, there is a small hamlet called .......St. Elvis.

#26   Since 1977, the 1900 inhabitants of Hay-on-Wye, East Wales are not only the most well-read but they possess the only ‘independent kingdom in Wales with its own self-appointed monarch!’  Albeit tongue-in-cheek, the mighty ruler Richard Booth’s publicity stunt to promote his bookshop has subsequently created a mecca for book lovers. Hay is now home to over 30 bookshops and holds its renowned literary festival in June – it is regarded as the ‘second-hand book capital of the world’!

#27    Just so you know, here’s the top ten sports stadia in Wales:                                                     
(1) Millenium Stadium, Cardiff (74,500)                                                                                             
(2) Cardiff City Stadium (26,828)                                                                                                  
(3) Liberty Stadium, Swansea (20,532)  
(4) Swalec Stadium, Cardiff (15,643)   
(5) Racecourse Ground, Wrexham (15,500)                  
(6) Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli (14,870)                                                                                                                   
(7) Cardiff Arms Park (12,500)        
(8) Brewery Field, Bridgend (12,000)  
(9) Rodney Parade, Newport (11,676)                                                                                                               
(10) Cwmbran Stadium (10,500)  

#28    Although the Racecourse Ground in Wrexham ranks as fifth in the table above, it has a worldwide significance that the other stadia cannot match. It is recognised in the Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest international football stadium, having hosted Wales’ first ever home international match in 1877. It has also hosted more Wales international matches than any other ground. 

#29   The Welsh can be found in many outposts across the world, but the most historical and ‘romantic’ was the settlement of Patagonia, South America. In 1865, a group of 153 arrived from Wales to a remote part of Argentina for religious and political reasons and there followed a fascinating merge of Spanish and Welsh colonisation. Today, over 50,000 Patagonians are of Welsh descent with an estimated 25% who speak Welsh as a first language. 


Wales & the U.S.A.

#1    America has, for centuries, been an emigration sanctuary for the Welsh in search of  prosperity. Whereas the Irish have certainly made their presence felt, the Welsh have been rather more circumspect about their heritage – ‘they don’t like a fuss!’ In the 2008 Census, an estimated 1.98 million Americans had Welsh ancestry, just less than 1% of the total U.S. population (but a huge proportion compared to the 3 million who actually live in Wales!).

#2    The Welsh have always had lofty ambitions, but for eight of them these immigrants they achieved the ultimate in U.S. profile......... as Presidents! They included Jefferson Davis, James Garfield, John Quincy Adams, John Adam, Thomas Jefferson who was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776) and even Abraham Lincoln. Today, one of the latest to aspire to the post was another of Welsh extraction – Hilary Clinton.

#3   Yale University (originally a College), based in Connecticut, is the third leading university in the U.S. and was named after is benefactor, Elihu Yale in 1718.  He was the Governor of the British East India Company and is buried in Wrexham’s  St.Giles Church, North East Wales.    There has been a move recently to credit Jeremiah Dummer as the main benefactor – but the University have played down this argument, understandably, as maybe the thought of being known as the Dummer University didn’t appeal!

#4   The ultimate aerial challenge was traversing the Atlantic. Alcock & Brown were the first to achieve this in 1919 flying from Newfoundland to Ireland – at the time Arthur Whitten Brown lived & worked in Swansea. 14 years later, Amy Johnson flew non-stop from Britain to the U.S., taking off from Pendine Sands, South Wales and landing 34 hours later.

#5   William Randolph Hurst, the U.S. newspaper magnate, regularly enjoyed entertaining the super-rich, the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and a young John F. Kennedy at his castle. One would expect this to be in the Hollywood Hill – but the reality was that this occurred at his St. Donat’s Castle on Wales’ south coast! Having purchased the building in 1925, his lavish parties became legendary and George Bernard Shaw described St. Donat’s: ‘This is what God would have built if he had had the money’. Hurst died in 1951 and it is now a College.

#6   The man who was recognised in 1991 as ‘the greatest American architect of all time’ (American Institute of Architects), Frank Lloyd Wright was a proud Welshman who even called his home Taliesin after the Welsh bard. During his life (1867 – 1959) he designed over 500 projects, one of the most brilliant being the Guggenheim Museum. 409 still stand with many  open to the public in recognition of his revolutionary work. 

#7   ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a relative’ goes the old adage (!) and that certainly is the case    in regard to the disputed ownership of Manhattan. Robert Edwards was a Welsh Buccaneer who was bestowed with a gift of 77 acres of land by Queen Anne in recognition of his ‘pirating’ of the Spanish fleet. This plot of land just happens to be in the middle of the now, Manhattan and is  reckoned to be worth 650 billion dollars with a very complicated history, which has resulted in it being the subject of many lawsuits. Time or space (for all our sakes!) does not allow a detailed account, but the matter carries on, still unresolved.



#1   The Welsh reputedly love a good funeral (!) and the oldest known ceremonial burial in Europe occurred in Gower, near Swansea. He was discovered in 1823 but had been laid to rest 29,000 years previously amongst gifts of ivory rods, ivory bracelets and seashells. Found in the Paviland Caves, he was mistaken for a female and for many years earned the name, the Red Lady of Paviland as the bones were stained red. However, improved research methods later exposed the mistake.

#2   Wales is littered with remnants of the presence of ancient peoples over a period of 225,000 years – not all that time has seen continuous occupation as ice-sheets regularly moved across the North of Europe. The hunter-gatherers of the Stone Age and the farmers of the Bronze and Iron Ages left enough for modern archaeologists to analyse and to scratch their heads over.

#3   One example is the Tinkinswood Burial Chamber in the Vale of Glamorgan – it has a 40 ton capstone covering the Chamber and is regarded as the largest in Britain. It has been estimated that it took the efforts (and ingenuity) of at least 200 men to put in place the 24ft x 14 ft limestone cap.

#4   Wales has long been regarded as the Land of the Castles and it has the highest concentration of castle fortifications in the whole of Europe – approaching nearly 500 sites, but with only 100 now still standing. It says a lot about Wales being a battleground and the hostile nature of its inhabitants – but we think we were given a bit of a bad press!!

#5   Leading the way was the castle at Chepstow, which holds the accolade of being the first stone built, not only in Wales but across the U.K.  Previously they were of a basic motte and bailey construction (timber & earth mounds), but with the Normans’ Conquest in 1066 & the start of their castle building at Chepstow the following year, showed that they were here for the duration. And it is a tribute to their remarkable building skills and we can feel privileged to be able to look at the same building nearly 1000 years later.

#6   Every August, Wales promotes the oldest and largest cultural festival in Europe, the National Eisteddfod, which draws over 160,000 visitors. A travelling event (alternating between North and South), it conducts its proceedings through the medium of Welsh and in druidic fashion, which has instilled that strong element of arts performance in our culture. The first eisteddfod dates back nearly 850 years when the event was launched in Cardigan Castle in 1176.

#7   Perhaps one of the most poignant moments in the Eisteddfod’s history was the Chairing of the Bard in 1917. The Chair is awarded to any Welsh person with the winning entry in the competition for poetry written in a strict metre. The winner was called, but after three such summons, there was no response from the audience. It was then that the Archdruid announced that he had been killed in action in six weeks before at the Battle of Passchendale.  The empty Winner’s Chair was draped in a black sheet and presented to his parents. Ellis Humphrey Evans or ‘Hedd Wyn’ (his literary title) was just 30 years old.

#8   At Christmas, all roads lead to Bethlehem – and that is certainly the case at the little post office in the Bethlehem, near Llandeilo, Mid Wales in December.  The appeal of the Bethlehem franking of Christmas mail has certainly increased in popularity in recent years.

#9   Wales is very crowded - at the last count, 13 million were packed into this small country – that’s 3 million people and 10 million sheep! (Although sheep were introduced to Wales 6000 years ago, the jokes only started 5,999 years ago). This reflected on a Monday in Welshpool, Mid Wales at its regular sheep market, which is the largest in Europe.

#10   As reported in a Gwent newspaper, the ingenuity of sheep should never be undervalued! On the outskirts of the town of Ebbw Vale, sheep’s progress from the mountain were halted by a cattle-grid. After many failed attempts to cross this barrier, they devised a method which would astound animal researchers: retreating to a good distance, they would approach the grid at a good canter and launch themselves while at the same time shrinking into a ball-shape. This rolling method successfully carried them across the obstacle much to the delight of passing motorists. Imagine this image of cannonball sheep! Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction!

#11     As you may have gathered, Wales has its fair share of rainfall each year owing to its westerly position of the British Isles. To give you some idea, it has ten times that compared to the lowland areas in England and, as a result, has the densest network of watercourses in Europe. Wherever you are in Wales, you’re just a few metres from moving water – whether drain, ditch, brook or river.

#12   With our rocky, coastal defences, it comes as a surprise when you come across a huge network of sand dunes at Merthyr Mawr, Porthcawl, South Wales. Reputedly once being the largest sand dune system in Europe, it also possesses the ‘Big Dipper’, the highest dune in Europe and a favourite with kids and the more energetic. Even some scenes from the cinematically beautiful film, Lawrence of Arabia, were shot there.

#13   Another film with a similar military, fact-based nature with Welsh connections is Zulu, the early Michael Caine feature. It depicts the story of the 139 members of South Wales Borderers heroic defence of Rorke’s Drift, South Africa against 4,000 warriors. The Zulu Room in the Borderers’ Museum, Brecon is full of memorabilia of the incident.

#14  Wales has been used to having its military associations and even the rugged wilderness of the Brecon Beacons has not escaped its links. It is used regularly by the Army, the SAS and the Ghurkas for its training exercises. Even the German Tank Command, the Panzas made use of another National Park at Castlemartin in Pembrokeshire. The relationship, at times testing, continued 35 years from 1961 between the locals and the German military.



#1   In 1895, a 4 acre piece of land, overlooking Cardigan Bay at Barmouth was bequeathed to the nation and a new charity was born in Wales......The National Trust.

#2   Britain’s most famous prehistoric ancient monument, Stonehenge, was actually made of Bluestone which originated nearly 200 miles away in the Preseli Hills in North Pembrokeshire. The big mystery is how they managed to transport the massive stones that distance? Even with today’s technology, it would be some feat!

#3   The highest waterfall in England & Wales is Pistyll Rhaeadr. (Pistyll being the Welsh for ‘a jet of water’). Situated in the beautiful Berwyn Mountains west of Oswestry, Mid Wales, it has a fall of 240 feet.

 #4   The 13th Century Monnow Bridge in Monmouth, South East Wales is the only bridge in the U.K. which is fortified with a gatehouse. This very individual feature, however, may not make up for the fact that its 21st Century application for vehicular access is not as impressive as town planners would wish – admire the traffic jams!

#5   A Statue and Exhibition stand in Monmouth, South East Wales in honour of one of its famous sons – Charles Stewart Rolls, co-founder of Rolls Royce. He was quite an adventurer being a pioneer aviator, driver and even a balloonist. Sadly, in 1910 he became the first Briton to be killed in a flying accident – a sad irony for a man whose mechanical influence would have such an impact on future aviation.

#6   Wales’ rugged terrain also extends underground – the deepest cave in the U.K can be found in Abercaf at the top of the Swansea Valley in South Wales. Ogof Fynnon Ddu / Black Well Cave has a depth of 1010 feet and it extends for 28 miles! (2nd Longest in the U.K.)

#7   Described as one of the most colourful characters in Welsh history and one of the most remarkable in Victorian Britain, William Price was a Welsh doctor based in Llantrisant, South Wales. This Welsh nationalist eccentric was a fanatical walker who never wore socks (unhygienic), refused to treat patients who were smokers and washed every coin he possessed (contaminated). He was a child of the ‘60’s (18 rather 1960’s) as he was a nudist, vegetarian, a conservationist and was an exponent of free love! His greatest legacy was the legalising of cremation in Britain.

#8    The history of mining Wales’ natural resources, which we have been blessed (or cursed with!) goes as far back as man existed – but it was the Romans who approached it in an orderly and large scale fashion. They identified Pumsaint, near Lampeter, Mid Wales as the only area in the UK having gold reserves and this could well have been one of the main reasons why they invaded Wales. In AD75, they commenced mining in the region with many sophisticated methods plus a lot of manpower with thousands of slaves, to extract the gold to supply their mint in Lyon, France. The National Trust have daily tours in the mines at Dolaucothi.

#9   Wales in the 19th Century is normally perceived as the Klondike for ‘Black Gold’ – coal.      Yet in Dolgellau, Mid Wales, it really had its own gold rush which eventually employed over 500 workers. Its reputation extended to the supplying of gold for many a Royal wedding.

#10   If you visit Swansea, South Wales, and want to know the weather forecast, there is an old adage which says:                                                                                                                                                    
If you can see Mumbles Head, it is going to rain – if you can’t, it is raining!
Swansea has the unenviable title of the Wettest City in Britain with 1361mm. / 53.6 inches of annual rainfall.

#11   The last invasion of Britain occurred over 3 days in February, 1797 in what became known as the Battle of Fishguard (West Wales).  A French invasion force of just 1400 (obviously their aim was not total supremecy of Wales!) dispersed in disarray due to indiscipline on landing. Further humiliation came when 12 French soldiers were captured by one feisty local character, Jemima Nichols, who locked them up in the local Church. Her exploit has gone down in local folklore.

#12    Probably one of the most incredible man-made feats in Wales is the construction of the Pontcysllte Aqueduct, nr. Llangollen, Mid Wales.  Built by Thomas Telford in1805, it is the longest and highest aqueduct in Britain, a Grade 1 Listed Building and a World Heritage Site. Opened in November 1805, it had taken 10 years to build at a cost of £47,000 (£3 million pounds in today’s currency).

#13   If ever a subject was open to fact, fiction or myth and legend, then, that certainly is the case with King Arthur. Almost certainly there is a real figure behind the legend in the sixth century, but the various myths surrounding him meant that he was a prime subject for Welsh storytelling through the Mabinogion and other writings. What can be certain is that he is an important figure in the mythology of Britain.

#14   Wales possesses several smaller islands around its coast which some provide sanctuary for thousands of birds. The Isle of Anglesey on the North West Coast is the largest island in the Irish Sea and the largest in Wales. Through Holyhead it provides the principal surface link between England & Wales to Ireland – nearly 2 million passengers per year. The island is reached by two famous bridges – Thomas Telford’s Menai Suspension Bridge (1826) and the Britannia Bridge, originally designed by Robert Stephenson.

#15   Bardsey Island, again in the North West, is a national nature reserve and was once a famous place of pilgrimage. There are ruins of the 13th century St. Mary’s Augustinian Abbey and the burial place for a reputed 20,000 Saints.

#16   A similar island of prayer exists on the South Coast – Caldey Island, near Tenby. Inhabited by Cistercian monks, they have continued a tradition on the island which began a 1000 years ago in Celtic times.

#17   The first bird observatory in the UK was established in 1933 by Ronald Lockley on Skokholm island off Pembrokeshire. The pioneering ornithologist lived on the island which he shared with Manx shearwaters (15% of world population), storm petrels (20% of European population), puffins, guillemots, razorbills, Lesser Black-backed, Great Black-backed & Herring gulls, Oystercatchers, Chough, Skylark, Wheatear, Chiffchaff, Willow Warblers, Whitethroat, Redstarts, Spotted and Pied Flycatchers. Visitors to this bird paradise are not encouraged to look up!!

#18  When we move to the next island in Pembrokeshire, Grassholm, it serves as a breeding site for 39,000 pairs of gannets which represents about 10% of the world’s population.

#19   Of all the 746 miles of coastline in Wales, the most important area for wildlife is the estuary at the mouth of the River Loughor near Llanelli, South Wales. It is reputed to be one of the ten best sites in the world. To emphasise this point, the National Wetlands Centre has been set up amongst the 450 acre site of lakes, pools and lagoons.

#20   And for once, they got their priorities right – when it came to declare the first ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ in 1956, they looked no further than the Gower Coast, near Swansea with its countless beaches. Interestingly, only three other areas in Wales have been designated: Clwydian Range (NE Wales), Lleyn (NW Wales) and Angelsey (NW Wales). The Wye Valley is also an AONB but most of the valley is in England.

#21   The National Parks in Wales are: Brecon Beacons, Snowdonia and the Pembrokeshire Coast. Almost a quarter of the landmass of Wales is made up of these National Parks (3) and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (5).

#22   One of the top tourist attractions in Gwynedd, North Wales is the ‘eccentric’ village of Portmeirion. Designed & built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, on the lines of an Italian village between 1925 and 1975, it has become the location for many film and TV shows – most notable in the series, the Prisoner, with Patrick McGoohan. Now owned by a charitable trust, the Portmeirion Pottery was launched by his daughter in 1961.

#23   Conversely, another Williams-Ellis design was his 1930’s summit building on Snowdon. With the help of unsympathetic alterations and lack of maintenance, it was described by Prince Charles as ‘the highest slum in Wales’! It has now been reduced to rubble and replaced.

#24    If  you hear the term – ‘the other side of Offa’s Dyke’- it is not some disparaging reference, but simply refers to England. Although the reference appears to be just a turn of phrase, the Dyke actually exists (in parts) stretching from Prestatyn to Chepstow. Built not as Wales’ Berlin Wall, but representing an 8th century agreement between Offa and the Welsh to depict the English/Welsh border.

#25    It is interesting how cities somehow become synonymous with the public perception of the organisations which happen to be based within their boundaries. Cardiff has the easier perception with Companies House, which registers the nearly 2 million limited companies in the UK. Swansea, on the other hand, supports the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) which deals with the 37.5 million vehicle owners in the UK. Thankfully, Swansea doesn’t support large Tax or VAT establishments as well!

#26   King Arthur was the legendary British leader who led the defence of his country against the Saxons in the early 6th century. Modern historians still debate his very existence as, it is argued, he is composed from folklore and literary invention. His name appears in early Welsh texts when he was based in Caerleon, Gwent – so logically (?!) we claim him to be Welsh!

#27   It has been said that the Irish are actually the Welsh who could swim!                                 
The two Celtic countries have much in common and it may surprise you to know that even St. Patrick was Welsh. Historians have traced his supposed roots back to Banwen, nr. Neath, South Wales and was captured as a teenager and shipped to Ireland.

#28   The Welsh, an eye for fashion? Our artistic flair has, it seems, even influenced British  fashion with names such as Jeff Banks (Own Label), David Emmanuel (Own Label - Diana’s wedding dress), Sybil Connolly (Tiffany’s), Julien Macdonald (Givenchy), Nina Morgan-Jones (Romp), Tommy Nutter (Savile Row), Jayne Pierson (Own Label) and Mary Quant (Own Label – the miniskirt).

#29   One Welsh fashion name we have kept separate as she not only designed but also manufactured, turning a kitchen-table enterprise into an international fashion label – Laura Ashley. Born in Merthyr Tydfil in 1925, she was a Welsh textile designer and her company became a household name on the strength of her work with a range of colourful fabrics for clothes and home furnishings. Following a fall, she died of a brain haemorrhage in 1985.



#1   As a nation, we are rightly proud of our rich heritage especially with regard to the realms of mythology.  In the dark ages, these tales were passed down by word of mouth and it wasn’t until medieval times that they were eventually written down. The collection became known as the Mabinogion and its earliest 14th century manuscripts can be seen at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth, Mid Wales.

#2   The Welsh are renowned for being romantic (just ask the wife!). And if you follow in the tradition of St. Dwynwen, our Patron Saint of Lovers, when it comes to the proposal, the centuries-old symbol of our affection is a lovespoon.  Carved from a single piece of wood, its style can reflect the many interpretations of our affections.

#3   Dylan Thomas is regarded as Wales’ finest poet and prose writer. One of his biggest fans is the ex-U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who opened a Centre dedicated to the poet in his hometown of Swansea.

#4   If  you happen to come across this great Welsh delicacy, you are heartily recommended to buy some as a present for a friend or relative. (How it will be received is another matter!!)  Black, sticky in consistency and looking like cowpat, laverbread is (obviously) regarded as an acquired taste. If you ignore the fact that it is seaweed, it is wonderful addition to a fry-up with bacon and eggs (and very healthy as it is fortified with lots of iron). You will be regarded with pride by the ‘natives’ if you announce that you have consumed a ‘plateful’.

#5   Bala Lake (Llyn Tegid), is the largest natural lake in Wales followed by Llangorse,  but due to the preponderance of rain ‘in these ‘ere parts’, it is closely followed by many man-made lakes & reservoirs including Llyn Trawsfynnydd,  Lake Vyrynw & Llyn Brenig. Our fresh water requirement in Wales comes from mainly from ‘surface water’ (97%) and only 3% from ground water.

#6   Cardiff became the capital city of Wales in 1955. In 1800, there were just 6,000 residents but to reflect the industrialisation of Wales, it grew to nearly a quarter of a million in less than 100 years.

#7   You may get a bit confused with our road signs and directions being bi-lingual. Welsh is, actually, a living language used by hundreds of thousands across Wales on a daily basis and even has its own TV channel, S4C. While, historically, Welsh is the oldest language in Europe, the last Census showed that the language is playing a vital part in today’s Wales and its use is still expanding.

#8   Wales is now officially recognised as a bi-lingual country with both English & Welsh having equal status. Approximately 20% of our population of 3 million can now speak the language. There are four counties in Wales where Welsh speakers are in the majority: Gwynedd, Anglesey, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire.

#9   The Red Dragon has come to symbolise all things Welsh and many private & public institutions make use of it with their logo (ref: Black Mountain!). Historically, it has had connections for centuries and the oldest recorded use even dates back to 820 AD from the ‘Historia Brittonum’.

#10   The largest Castle in Wales is the 30 acre Caerphilly Castle, South Wales. It was nearly the largest in the UK but was pipped by Dover at 34 acres.

#11 1st March is a proud date in the Welsh calendar as it represents St. David’s Day, the Patron Saint of Wales. Patriotic Welsh men & women across the world can be seen sporting either a leak or a daffodil. How a pungent member of the onion family has been chosen as a national emblem is somewhat a mystery, lost in the mists of time?  Earliest reference dates back to the 6th- century poet Taliesin. The daffodil, on the other hand, has been associated with Wales for more than 600 years, but only became popular as an emblem in the 19th Century especially with women. The nearest explanation to their joint use could be the similarity of their Welsh names (sillier things have happened!!!):                                                                    
 Leek:        Cenhinen                                                                                                                                   Daffodil:  Cenhinen Pedr

#12     Question:  The highest rainfall in Wales?  Answer: At the summit of Snowden.                        But is that a trick question in itself as the summit of Snowden is Wales’ highest point, so any rainfall would obviously be the highest!? As it happens, it receives 15 feet/180 inches of water per year – which makes it both the highest and wettest in Wales.

#13   Wales has always been regarded as a rugby-mad nation and that charge has been led by the musical antics of Max Boyce, who encapsulated the ‘one-eyed’ Welsh supporter in verse and song. And the statistics tend to back up this claim – in Wales we have 239 rugby clubs, 70,000 players, 2321 referees and even 2,056 female players. (Figures: IRB)   Impressive for a nation our size.

#14   Soccer in Wales, on the other hand, has generally been regarded as being overshadowed by rugby. So it’s time to shatter that myth – according to FIFA, Wales has 173,550 soccer players, outnumbering rugby by over 100,000! So there’s a statistic which will divide the nation!

#15   Maybe what will settle any discussion is the mention of just one building, being the most famous and recognisable structure in Wales – that of the Millenium Stadium, which happens to be the home of the Welsh National Rugby side. Its capacity of 74,500 is regularly achieved at rugby internationals but not with soccer internationals – so the elite of Welsh rugby enjoy more support than their soccer counterparts. But the grassroots enjoy playing with the round ball.                                                                                                                                                                           The Millenium Stadium is the world’s second largest structure with a retractable roof which can be seen from the moon (or so we’re informed!).

#16   So why does this country have a predilection for the team sport or even hobby (e.g. male voice choirs)? One theory actually traces its roots back to our forebears and the coalmining industry. A place where you worked as a team and the reliance on your fellow-worker could be lifesaving – one mistake by him could result in a tragic accident. This reliance then inevitably extended to social activities and explains why, in the coalmining valleys, so many group activities sprung up – from orchestras, theatrical groups, choirs to the team sports.  

#17    It might surprise you to know the following were Welsh:
T.E.Lawrence  (or as his mates called him...Lawrence of Arabia – actually they called him Ned!), was born in Tremadog, Porthmadog, North Wales in 1888.                                                                                                                 Roald Dahl -  children’s story writer., was born in Llandaff, Cardiff in 1916.                                  Laura Ashley – designer/manufacturer, was born in Merthyr in 1925.

#18   Wales is famous for its steam-powered, narrow gauge railways normally associated with the slate industry and its rugged terrain:
Smallest: Fairbourne & Barmouth Steam Railway which runs on a gauge of 12.25”                  Highest: Snowdon Mountain Railway which takes you to the highest point in England & Wales (3,560 feet).                                                                                                                                                          First & Only: Snowdon (again) – running since 1896, the only public rack and pinion railway in Britain.

#19  With such a wealth of castles in Wales, it’s difficult to feature them all even though they have all got some individual features worth mentioning. So here’s a brief summary:
First Built of Stone:  Chepstow                                                               
Largest:  Caerphilly                
Finest Folly: Castell Coch

 #20   One of Wales’ great industrialists was David Davies, who started life as a lowly farm hand. Such was his spirit and work ethic, (plus a little Lady Luck) he became a rail and coal magnate. He even built his own coal port – that of Barry Docks where stands a statue of this remarkable man – a replica appears in his home village of Llandinam. His popularity among his workforce & community was rewarded when he become the Liberal MP for Montgomeryshire, Mid Wales. His life reads like a fictional rags-to-riches story.

#21   Wales is blessed with countless thousands of saints, but there is only one we celebrate on 1st March each year – that of St. David, the Patron Saint of Wales. A man of simple lifestyle, he was renowned as a teacher and preacher, founding monastic settlements and Churches in Wales. One such monastery in Pembrokeshire became the site which is now St. David’s Cathedral and houses his shrine. He died on 1st March 589AD and was officially recognized as a Saint by the Vatican in 1120.

#22    For all ‘macho’ imagery that Wales portrays with its heavy industry, male choirs and rugby players, the reality is that Wales actually has a softer side to its nature. For in the 2001 Census, there were 100,000 more women than men (male: 1,403,782 female: 1,499,303).

#23   There is an old Welsh saying that ‘the load of a man is his coracle’ (Llwyth dyn ei gorwg). The coracle is a small circular fishing boat ideal for fast flowing rivers, but it is small enough to be carried on the fisherman’s back. It dates from Roman times and still in use today – its colourful history as part of river life can be seen at the Welsh Coracle Centre, Cenarth Falls, West Wales and which helps preserve this fascinating, ancient tradition.

#24   The Welsh do enjoy their time-travel with the renewed popularity of the Dr. Who series. Although since inception, there have been 11 Doctors but with the new series in 2005 came a fresh approach in all aspects. Driven by Russell Davies, the Swansea writer and producer, the whole production was moved to Cardiff and the TV Series has been ‘spot the location in Wales’ ever since.

#25   Robin Hood, he of Sherwood Forest, had a Welsh counterpart who was reputedly born near Tregaron, Mid Wales in 1530.  Twm Sion Cati’s exploits became part of local folklore and these were included in various publications in the centuries that followed. Viewed by the cynical as a thug or through rose-tinted glasses as a hero, he outlived many of his arch enemies to the grand age of 79.

#26   In 1947, the welsh Health Secretary, Aneurin Bevan, devised and ushered in the new NHS. However, 700 years previously there was in Wales a very famous medieval group of doctors called the Physicians of Myddfai.                                                                                                                   
Based near Llandovery, Mid Wales, earliest records date them to the early 1200’s and for several centuries they relied on their herb lore and potions as well as their mystical powers and insight into the human condition. A book of their ancient remedies is, remarkably, still available.

#27    This fact will have little impact on your visit to Wales, but you may like to know that Cors Caron, or Tregaron Bog is the largest in Wales. When they had to drive a railway across it in 1866, the whole sheep fleece output in the area was purchased to pack beneath the line to form a stable foundation.

#28   And talking of bogs, Llanwrtyd Wells, Mid Wales (the smallest town in the UK) makes full use of theirs. They now run an annual International Bog-Snorkelling Competition, which sounds a rather eccentric sport...... and it is !

#29   The Orangery at Margam Park, Port Talbot was built between 1787 and 1793 to house Thomas Mansel Talbot’s collection of orange, lemon and citrus trees. The original house has been raized in a fire, but the surviving orangery at 109 yards (100m) is the longest in Wales.

#30   The Welsh have strange methods in adjudging people.......

  • Take the innocent, law-abiding citizen in Gwent, whose business premises were subject to what appeared to be vandalism with windows smashed etc. It transpired that the attack was retribution for the owner carrying on the occupation of PAEDIATRICIAN by a person whose knowledge of spelling fell somewhat short.

#31      Or Howard Marks, the Welsh-born drug smuggler with connections with the IRA and the Mafia. At the height of his drug career, he controlled 10% of the world’s hashish trade. Eventually caught by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, he served 7 years. Eventually, he returns to Wales, craves publicity, publishes an autobiography and then embarks on a lecture tour which, surprisingly, many pay to attend– such notoriety gives him the nickname is Mr. Nice!

#32    Why have the Welsh picked up the tag ‘Taffy’ (a merger of Dafydd (David) and (River) Taff which flows through Cardiff?  The reference was first noted in a disparaging nursery rhyme published in London in 1744 and has appeared in various guises up until World War II. This wartime scenario, when soldiers from all parts of the UK were thrust together in their regiments, gave anyone with a welsh accent a ready nickname......Taffy Evans / Jones / Williams / Thomas etc. Since then it has been lost in the P.C. brigade bombardment of anything that sounds too familiar or disparaging.

#33   What was disparaging was the use of the term ‘to welsh’ especially used in the U.S.      
‘You aren’t going to welsh on me, are you?’ / to go back on one’s word.   Or the noun, welsher!                                           
It, apparently, derives from the 1855/60 period and more recently was the subject of legal representations to suppress its use. Of course, never go back on your promise to make welsh cakes or you could find yourself in a Wikipedic nightmare (Founder: Jimmy Wales – no connection to our homeland).

#34   It was mentioned earlier how romantic Welshmen are (?!) and to confirm this, they require two dates on the calendar to reflect their passion: 14th February (Valentine’s Day) and 25th January (St. Dwynwen’s Day – the 5th Century Welsh Patron Saint of Lovers). Although Welshmen have for centuries given lovespoons to their beloved in her name, sadly Dwynwen’s own experience with love was very tragic and she ended her days running a convent on an island off Anglesey.



#1   Wales has had an horrendous history associated with one of its main industries – that of coal and its pit disasters. During the period 1850 to 1930, the South Wales coalfield had the worst disaster record in the industrialised world, due to the depths being sunk with the greater risk of gas suffocation and explosion. There were nearly 40 such explosions with the total death toll being 3,119 men and boys.

#2  The worst coal disaster occurred in 1913 when 439 men and boys were killed at the Universal Colliery, Senghenydd, Caerphilly, 290 lives lost at the Albion Colliery in Cifynydd in 1894, 272 lives at Prince of Wales Colliery, Abercarn in South Wales. The Gresford Disaster in Wrexham, North Wales claimed 266 lives in 1934.

#3   And now a link between Guantanamo Bay and Swansea Bay – involving slavery! We have to go back to the 1820’s and the need by the Swansea copper trade for new supplies of ore. An old mine was re-opened in Cuba and the Swansea industrialists then supplied the many slaves to work in atrocious conditions to meet their requirements, at a time, when the slave trade was being vigorously outlawed in the UK.



Wales.......it’s a ghastly place. Huge gangs of tough sinewy men roam the valleys terrifying people with their close harmony singing.     (BlackAdder III)

You need half a pint of phlegm in your throat just to pronounce the place names. Never ask for directions in Wales, you’ll be washing spit out of your hair for a fortnight.  (BlackAdder III)


The Many Faces of Ryan


Music of South Wales Choirs


Long and Winding Road

Seasons Greetings from Wales

Lennon and McCartney

Dunvant Male Voice Choir With a Voice of Singing

Black Mountain Records 2010