Welsh Trivia and Facts

If you’re looking for trivia about Wales, then you’ve landed on the right page.  Feast on these facts:

Area: 20,764 sq km (just over 8,000 sq miles)
Wales measures 160 miles long by 60 miles wide, the greater part being 600ft above sea level (our holiday cottages are 492 feet above sea level). It is over six times smaller than England and over three times smaller than Scotland or Ireland. However, Wales is very mountainous and Welsh people like to think that if someone was to iron the countryside with a gigantic iron, Wales would end up bigger than most other countries! Despite its relatively small size, the phrase “an area the size of Wales” is frequently to be found in newspapers and on TV & radio news bulletins as a means of demonstrating the sheer scale of an issue. There is even a “Wales-o-meter” on the internet which tells you how big something is compared to the size of Wales – a useful tool that can be used to impress your colleagues and amaze the general public.

Capital: Cardiff has been the capital of Wales since 1955 and styles itself as Europe’s youngest capital. It’s population is around 320,000.

Climate: Wales has a temperate climate. This means that there are few extremes. The summer months (June, July and August) are generally the sunniest and driest months. During the winter (December, January and February) temperatures rarely drop below zero. They’re normally between five and seven degrees. A coat and a good jumper is usually all that’s required when the weather is a bit ‘iffy’. For more information see our Guide to the Weather in Wales.

Culture: Welsh culture and tradition is celebrated at a festival called the Eisteddfod which is one of the oldest and largest cultural festivals in Europe. It is a competitive festival seeking to embrace all aspects of Welsh Culture, much of which lies rooted in Celtic history. Even before the Celts had written language (which they acquired in the sixth century) they exhibited a passion for rhetoric, story telling and music.

“….The present form of the eisteddfod is a nineteenth century creation. Wales at that time was a country where the national language and culture lacked patronage because the property owning gentry had become Anglicised. The medieval meeting of the bards called an eisteddfod was revived as a means of attracting patronage for Welsh cultural activity. At first competitions were confined to poetry composition and harp playing but today choir singing, bands, acting, recitation, fiction writing, painting and much more is judged at an eisteddfod.”

“There are two important annual eisteddfodau in Wales. The first is the National Eisteddfod which is held in North and South Wales in alternate years at the beginning of August. The ceremonies of this Eisteddfod are carried out by the Gorsedd of Bards which is an association of people interested in Welsh literature and music. The International Eisteddfod takes place in Llangollen where dancers, singers and choirs from every part of the world converge to take part in this global festival of music. The Llangollen Eisteddfod usually takes place in July.”

Currency: 1 Pound Sterling (£ or GBP) = 1 Pence
It was decided that from 1984, British £1 coins would feature different reverse designs for each of the four parts of the United Kingdom. All £1 coins dated 1985 feature on the reverse the Welsh Leek.

Government: Constitutional monarchy
The Act of Union in 1536 “incorporated, united and annexed” Wales to England and meant that English law and government ruled in Wales. Almost 500 years later and Wales is still governed from London. However, in 1997 a referendum on limited devolution was held in Wales which resulted in the establishment of a Welsh Assembly in Cardiff. This means that the people of Wales now have greater control over their own affairs. Elections to this new institutions were held in May 1999. The Welsh Assembly has 60 members, directly elected every four years. It has many responsibilities, including the ability to amend laws passed by Parliament which affect Welsh areas.

Highest Mountain: Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) 3,650ft / 1,085m
The Welsh name from Snowdon is Yr Wyddfa which means burial place and a legend suggests that the cairn at the top marks the grave of Rhita Fawr a particularly fierce giant who had a cloak made out of the beards of all the kings he’d killed. Snowdon is the highest mountain in England and Wales.

International Code: +44

Internet domain: .co.uk

Life Expectancy: 76 years (men), 81 years (women) (UN)

National Emblems: Dragon, Daffodil, Leek
The national flag of Wales is The Red Dragon (Welsh: Y Ddraig Goch). It consists of a red dragon, passant, on a green and white field. The red dragon has been associated with Wales for centuries; indeed, the flag is sometimes claimed to be the oldest national flag still in use, though the origin of the adoption of the dragon symbol is now lost in history and myth. The Welsh Flag is the only flag of the constituent countries of the UK not to be used in the Union Jack.

The daffodil and the leek are also famous emblems of Wales. The leek had been recognised as the emblem of Wales since the middle of the 16th century. Its association with Wales can in fact be traced back to the battle of Heathfield in 633 AD, when St. David persuaded his countrymen to distinguish themselves from their Saxon foes by wearing a leek in their caps. Nowadays, the leek is worn on March 1 (St. David’s Day””the Welsh national holiday) and at international rugby matches. The daffodil is also a Welsh national emblem because its Welsh name is translated as a type of leek.

National Sport: Rugby Union
The main sports in Wales are rugby union, football and cricket.

The Welsh are obsessed with rugby and the biggest game of the year is when Wales take on England in the Six Nations Championship which also includes Scotland, Ireland, France and Italy. For it’s size, Wales has a remarkable record in this competition, winning the competition outright over twenty times. The governing body is the Welsh Rugby Union.

Most of the Welsh football team play in England’s Premier League. Wales have qualified for the World Cup only once (1958 in Sweden) and the most famous Welsh player of all time is John Charles, thought by many to be one of the greatest players of all time along with the likes of Pele, Cruyff and di Stefano. More recently Gareth Bale has made headlines after becoming the most expensive football player in the history of the game when he moved between Tottenham Hotspur and Real Madrid.  The governing body is the Football Association of Wales.

Welsh cricketers play for the England and Wales cricket team (often shortened to just England). The governing body is the England and Wales Cricket Board.

Neighbouring Countries: England

Neighbouring Seas and Oceans: Atlantic, Irish Sea
Wales’s coastline is almost 750 miles long (1,200 Km).

Newspapers: Western Mail, Wales on Sunday

Official Languages: Welsh, English
English is the main day-to day language of the majority of people in Wales. However, around a fifth of the population are also Welsh speakers (The 2001 census gives a figure of 20.5% up from 18.5% in 1991).

Patron Saint
Wales’s patron saint is Dewi Sant, St. David. He was a monk who lived on bread, water, herbs and leeks and died on 1 March 589 and was buried in what is today St. David’s Cathedral, the oldest cathedral settlement in Britain.

Per capita GNP: £10,071 (1998)
Over 60% of the population live in an area where the GDP is below 75% of the average for the European Union. The GDP for Wales as a region is 20% below the UK average. Average earnings lag the UK average by about 10%.

Population: 2,952,500
This is just under 5% of the population of the United Kingdom. Almost two thirds of the population of Wales is concentrated in the south-east and north-east urban/industrial parts of Wales which account for just one sixth of the total land area.

Radio: BBC Radio Wales/Cymru
The national radio station for Wales is BBC Radio Wales (882AM or 93.9FM) which broadcasts news and information, current affairs, farming and talk programmes. Its Welsh language equivalent is BBC Radio Cymru (96.8FM). There are also local stations e.g. The City of Swansea has Swansea Sound (1170AM) which plays classic hits of the eighties and nineties and The Wave (96.4FM which plays contemporary hits).

Religion: The 2001 census states that Wales is 72% Christian, 18% have no religion, 8% did not state a religion on the form and the remaining 2% are other religions.

Television: BBC Wales, ITV1 Wales, S4C
BBC Wales (BBC Cymru in Welsh) is the regional branch of the British Broadcasting Corporation for Wales. Based at Broadcasting House in Cardiff. ITV1 Wales was created in the 1950s as a commercial competitor to the publicly funded BBC. S4C (Sianel Pedwar Cymru – ‘Channel Four Wales’) is a Welsh-language television channel which was established in response to demands for a channel to cater for the Welsh-speaking population in Wales.

Topography: Wales has extensive tracts of high plateau with mountain ranges deeply dissected by river valleys radiating from the centre of the upland area. The lowland area is confined mainly to the relatively narrow coastal belts and the valley floors.

Welsh Trivia

  • The 7-mile (11km) beach at Cefn Sidan on Carmarthen Bay is the longest in Wales. It is a half hour drive from our self catering cottages.
  • The sand dunes at Merthyr Mawr near Porthcawl rise to over 200ft (60m), making them the second highest in Europe.
  • Wales has three national parks – Snowdonia, Brecon Beacons and Pembrokeshire Coast
  • Wales has five areas of outstanding natural beauty – Clwydian Range, Llyn Peninsula, Wye Valley, Gower Peninsula and the Isle of Anglesey.
  • Between them, Wales’s three National Parks and five ‘Areas of Outstanding Beauty’ cover 23% of the country.
  • The last ever invasion of Britain, led by an ill-equipped French force, took place at Fishguard on the Pembrokeshire coast in 1797.
  • The National Botanic Garden of Wales in the Vale of Tywi near Carmarthen has the world’s largest single-span glasshouse, 213 feet (95m) long by 180 feet (55m) wide.
  • The world’s first radio message was sent on 11 May 1897 by Guglielmo Marconi from Lavernock Point on the Glamorgan coast to Flat Holm island 3 miles away.
  • The South Wales town of Blaenavon is a World Heritage Site – one of only 15 in Britain – on the strength of its outstanding industrial heritage.
  • Chepstow Castle may be the first stone castle in Britain. Dating from 1067, it marks the end of the strongholds made from earth and timber and the dawn of a new era.
  • A Welshman discovered the link between Asian and European languages. Sir William Jones was a Welsh scholar employed by the East India Company. In the late 18th century he discovered that many words in Sanskrit, the language of Hindu holy books, were similar to words in Welsh. The German brothers Grimm and others carried out further research and revealed that most European languages and some Indian ones have a common ancestor known as Indo-European.
  • Welsh gypsies were the last to speak Romani in Europe. In the early 1900’s John Sampson, an expert on Gypsy lore, discovered that a family in Wales still spoke the “deep” or inflected Romani that had died out among the rest of the gypsy groups in Europe. Romani is a dialect of Hindu, for Gypsies originally came to Europe some time in the 13th or 14th century. In Britain, their dark complexion and their strange tongue led them to be called Egyptians or Gypsies.
  • Secure communications are often difficult to achieve in wartime. Cryptography can be used to protect messages, but codes can be broken. Therefore, little-known languages are sometimes encoded, so that even if the code is broken, the message is still in a language few people know. For example, Navajo code talkers were used by the United States military during World War II. Similarly, the Royal Welch Fusiliers, a Welsh regiment serving in Bosnia, used Welsh for emergency communications that needed to be secure. During the 1982 Falklands War between Argentina and the United Kingdom, there were stories of British soldiers speaking Welsh with captured Argentinian soldiers who were descendants of Welsh immigrants to the Chubut Valley in Patagonia. [Source: Wikipedia]
  • English shows surprisingly few signs of direct influence from Welsh, although there are a few Welsh words in its vocabulary. Some are obvious like avon. avalon, coomb, coracle, corgi, cromlech and eisteddfod. Some are much less obvious, like car, gull and penguin.
  • Philology is the study of ancient texts and languages. As a people, the Welsh are renowned for their love of language, as evidenced by the annual Eisteddfod, Europe’s largest traveling cultural festival. Over the years, Wales has produced many notable philologists: John Davies published the first grammar and dictionary of Tahitian. David Jones was the first person to put the Malagasy language of Madagascar into writing. Robert Jones compiled the first comprehensive dictionary of the Cornish language. Dr. David Samuel made the first written record of the Maori language of New Zealand. Bishop John Phillips translated the book of common prayer into Manx.

More Facts and Trivia About Wales

If you are interested in weird and wonderful facts about Wales and the Welsh, then take a look at the excellent Britannia Website to learn more about the following:

  • Welshmen may have settled America before Columbus.
  • Canada was explored and mapped by a Welshman.
  • America may have taken its name from a Welshman.
  • Pennsylvania is not named after William Penn.
  • St. Patrick was not an Irishman.
  • Wales is not represented on the British Flag.
  • A pungent vegetable is the national emblem of Wales.
  • The Welsh language is not Gaelic.
  • The modern Olympics did not begin in Athens.
  • A Welshman invented Lawn Tennis in Wales.
  • Welsh Immigrants began The Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
  • The Prince of Wales is not Welsh.
  • Golf’s Stableford System was invented in Wales.
  • A Welshman was responsible for the mid-19th century US industrial might.
  • The Holy Grail is found in Wales.
  • A Welshman founded The New York Times.
  • A Welsh-American invented the automobile.
  • The world’s biggest second-hand bookshop is in Wales.
  • Thanks to a Welshman hanged for murder, Britain has no Death Penalty.
  • The names of three geological divisions are derived from Wales.
  • Tre’r Ceiri is the largest Iron-Age fort in northwestern Europe.
  • A Welshman translated the first English account of the New World.
  • The world’s longest railroad station name is in Wales.
  • Welshmen invented two important mathematical symbols.
  • Three leading universities owe their founding to Welshmen.
  • Wales is the most important sheep raising area in Europe.
  • The world’s first mail-order shopping began in Newtown, Wales.
  • The last Briton to die in WW I was a Welshman.
  • Welsh gypsies were the last speak Romani in Europe.
  • A Welshman composed the music for the 1998 Academy Awards.
  • A Welshman discovered the link between Asian and European Languages.
  • One of the world’s greatest botanic gardens is taking shape in Wales.
  • The earth’s highest mountain is named after a Welshman.
  • The world’s first wireless transmission took place in Wales.
  • A Welsh amputee conquered Everest.
  • Welshman Overdosed on Valium.
  • Public Enemy Number One was a Welshman.
  • Welsh Prison was Training Ground for IRA.
  • America’s Oldest Ethnic Society is Welsh.
  • Cardiff is Home toWorld’s Largest Retractable-Roof Arena.
  • The “Ugly House” was was built and inhabited in one day.
  • A Welsh coracle crossed the English Channel in 1974.
  • The Mumbles Swansea Railroad was the first to accept paying passengers.
  • A Welshman was the first to transmit and receive radio waves