When most people (and especially most Americans) plan their first trip to the UK, a handful of destinations usually end up on their itinerary: London, Stonehenge, maybe Oxford, Edinburgh, the Scottish Highlands, and perhaps a hop over to Dublin since it's so close.
I don't know of very many people who add Wales to their first UK itinerary. In fact, it took me more than five visits to Britain before I finally spent any mentionable amount of time in Wales. Everyone knows about London, and Scotland does a great job of marketing itself to tourists. Wales, on the other hand, largely gets overlooked.
But I get it. Because there are so many reasons why you should never go to Wales.
Castles, castles, castles
Wales has a ridiculous number of castles – over 600 of them, in fact, which leads many people to call the country the “castle capital of the world.” That seems a bit excessive, doesn't it? I mean, does a small country like Wales really need THAT many castles? Many of them are in ruins now, and a few are UNESCO World Heritage sites. Seems like a lot of upkeep, if you ask me.
And, really, who wants to drive around and see a castle on nearly every hilltop? Doesn't that get old after a while?
All the legends
Wales has a lot of legends associated with it and its history, from dragons to magic swords to holy drinking vessels. The legend of Merlin, for example, was based on the Welsh legends of the wizard Myrddin Wyllt, and many historians argue that King Arthur isn't a myth at all, but instead a real figure from Welsh history (though perhaps not actually a king). There's the mystery surrounding the Nanteos Cup, too, which many believe to be THE Holy Grail.
But c'mon, Wales. No need to be putting fairy tales in peoples heads.
Go home, Wales: your language is drunk.
The Welsh language is an old one – it dates back thousands of years, in fact, and is likely the oldest language in Britain. And yet the language has changed little despite so many millennia passing. It's still ridiculously difficult to speak (well, for us non-Welsh, at least), and don't even bother trying to read signs in Welsh. It's just futile.
This is seriously a place name in Wales:
It means “The Church of Mary in the hollow of the white hazel near the fierce whirlpool and the Church of Tysilio by the red cave.”
Yes. For real. It's one of the longest place names in the world.
If the place names aren't silly enough, Tolkien also based one of his versions of the Elvish language (Sindarin) on Old Welsh. So yes, it's so strange-sounding and old that it was actually the basis for a made-up fantasy language.
Wales has all sorts of scenery, from rolling hills (that they call mountains) to crashing coastlines. The roads through some of this scenery are twisting and so narrow that two cars literally can't pass one another. And they're often littered with sheep. The combination of these two things will probably mean that you'll stop a lot when driving and you'll be late to everything.
And then there are the beaches, which are far too empty and clean compared to ones you'll find elsewhere in Europe. Some have even won awards and stuff, which kind of just makes it feel like Wales is showing off.
People in Wales are a little crazy. Not only do they do things like surfing and whitewater rafting in frigid mountain water, but they also like to fly down mountainsides on bikes, hurtle over old quarries on zip lines, and even invented a sport that combines swimming, coastal hiking, and cliff jumping in a sport the Welsh have dubbed “coasteering.”
I know of New Zealand as an adventure-crazy country, but Wales may be just as insane when it comes to inventive (and abundant) ways to hurt yourself.
Little Welsh towns – like the ones you'll find in Snowdonia – are unbearably cute. With old stone buildings and cozy low-ceilinged cafes and pubs, it's just too much.
Dial back on the quaintness, Wales. Seriously. You're going to leave people very disappointed when they visit other villages after these.
People in wales are far too humble. Whereas in Scotland they are quick to tell you what a town or loch or island is famous for, in Wales you almost have to force it out of the locals. They also don't like to brag about their famous Welsh residents (like Tom Jones and Roald Dahl) or about cool accomplishments (they built the first traffic suspension bridge) or fun facts (Wales is home to a 4,000 year old tree!).
Stop being so darn sheepish, Wales! (I mean, I know you HAVE lots of sheep, but you don't need to act like them.) A little bragging every once in a while will do you good.
Not a lot of tourists
Lastly, since most tourist to the UK go to places like London and Edinburgh, you'll find many parts of Wales virtually devoid of any tourists. You can walk into a pub in many small cities and find only locals speaking Welsh (who will give you a strange look when you start speaking English). Even the touristy places still feel very quiet.
It's a real shock after visiting so many other parts of the UK where you just find busloads and busloads of tourists.
OF COURSE this entire post is tongue-in-cheek. I think Wales is an amazing part of the UK, and I'm frankly baffled over why more people don't visit. With all the castles, beautiful scenery, outdoor adventure, and the fact that there aren't a ton of tourists, there's really no denying that Wales is a great destination.
I only spent a handful of days in northern Wales, but it was long enough for me to conclude that Wales is very special (and I'm definitely not saying that just because I have a Welsh surname…).
In fact, I think my next trip to the UK might be JUST a trip to Wales!
Who's ready to plan a trip to Wales?
*Note: I was a guest of Visit Wales and Visit Britain on this trip, but all opinions, as always, are 100% my own.