Wales may not seem like a separate country from England, but it is.
Most of the
time, I entered Wales via the M4 motorway where you have to cross the Severn River, also
called the Bristol Channel, across a long toll bridge that must be a couple of miles in length.
This definitely makes you feel like you are entering another country. Physical demarcations
aside, England and Wales possess a large psychological divide that comes from different cultures
being thrown together on the same island. The Welsh descend from the European Celts, whereas
the English descend from the Angles, Saxons, and Normans.
We had close ties with a congregation in Newport, one of the
most populated cities in Wales, so most of my trips to Wales were church-related trips.
However, we did manage to see several interesting sights in Wales, like Cardiff, the capital.
I've been to Cardiff Castle a couple of times, which dates back to Roman times. Also,
the Roman ruins at Caerleon, (see photo above) which are some of the best in Britain.
The bleak mountains of the Brecon Beacons National Park (see photo above) are not far to
the north of Cardiff, and I've been to the large medieval castle at Caerphilly about
three times. Caerphilly Castle was built in the 13th century and was one of the most
advanced castles of its day. SW of Cardiff I have been to St. Fagan's Rural Folklore
Museum, with old houses reconstructed from other parts of Wales, and to the Vale of
Glamorgan, a rugged section of coast along the Bristol Channel.
In July of 1987, my Dad came to visit me for about ten days, and we managed to drive over
to Wales in a rented car for a short trip. We didn't have any big plans, really, Dad just
wanted to see a little bit of Wales. We spent the night in a small village hotel close to
the border, though still in England, in Kington, and the next day we drove into the Welsh
country-side and admired the beautiful bucolic scenery--rolling hills and winding roads--north
of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Then we drove through the Brecon Beacons (see photo
above) and visited the Welcome Center, and later walked to a scenic waterfall, called Hynryd.
Then, we drove down to Caerphilly and looked at the castle from the outside. Then, due to time
constraints, we had to make our way back to London by evening (translation: I drove really fast!).
On a solo motorcycle trip in September 1987, I rode across north and central Wales. I saw
Conway Castle from the road, but motored south to Betws-y-coed, visited the Welcome Center,
and sped on up into the Snowdonian Mountain District (the second tallest mountains in
Britain). The road narrowed, and as I climbed into the mountains I saw fewer and fewer cars
and hardly any people. I had hopes of touring the mountains, but I only got as far as about
Capel Curig, and then the dark clouds began to rain. Fortunately, I had on my waterproof riding
outfit (which I wore the whole trip). I wanted to spend more time in these parts, and
spend the night, but the steady rain thwarted me from going as high as I wanted,
and I decided to abandon the idea. I had just come from a satisfying tour of the English Lake
District, so I wasn't too upset about this defeat, but as fate would have it, I never got the
chance to go back to Snowdonia--what a shame! As I departed Snowdonia, I rode southeasterly
and the rain persisted. I sheltered under a petrol station awning, near Ffestiniog for a
while, and met a Canadian couple on a large BMW motorcycle that were doing the same thing.
They had actually shipped the motorcycle all the way from Canada, and had experienced a lot
of mechanical difficulties with it. I felt blessed that my little Honda had braved the elements
for the whole trip without even the slightest hiccup!
When the rain let-up some, I crossed diagonally across north central Wales, passing by
Lake Bala, and through coal mining country, that was sometimes bleak and desolate for
miles and miles, back into England, near Welshpool, and on to Shrewsbury (I love the sound of
Shrewsbury). I reached my London home very late that evening, because I got a bit lost on the
M25, and I was completely drained of all energy! This excursion to Wales was great, but I
wish that I'd had more time to explore, as usual, and that I hadn't made the whole trip from
Cumbria to Wales, and back to London in one day.
This summarizes what I have seen in Wales. It is a fine place to visit for natural
beauty and history. I am painfully aware of the fact that there is a lot more to see than
what little I have seen.
Folklore Museum, St. Fagan's
National Museums & Galleries of Wales
Snowdonia National Park
click here for a map of Wales