Cymru or Wales, the compact country to the west of England, packs a surprising punch given its size! With an incredible history, striking coastline, spectacular islands, and dramatic mountain ranges, Wales is the poster child for ‘good things come in small packages’. The land of myths and legends, including King Arthur and Camelot, the Lady of the Lake, the pirate Black Bart, and Wales’s answer to Robin Hood, Twm Siôn Cati, there is so much to discover on a Wales Tour with us! Book one of our small group tours online or contact one of our friendly Travel Specialists today.
Wales Facts & Tips
Did you know?
- The English name ‘Wales’ actually derives from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning ‘foreigners’, specifically those foreigners who were under the influence of the Roman Empire; in Welsh, Wales is ‘Cymru’
- About a quarter of the stunning landscapes here are protected by one of three National Parks or one of five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
- Snowdon, in Snowdonia, is the highest mountain in Wales and England
- There are approximately 4 times as many sheep as humans in Wales
- One of the longest place names in the world, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwll-llantysiliogogogoch can be found here, meaning ‘The Church of St Mary in the hollow of the white hazel near the rapid whirlpool and the church of St Tysilio near a red cave’, and it is often shortened to Llanfairpwll or Llanfair PG
- The Royal Mint at Llantrisant makes five billion coins a year for 60 countries
- There are over 620 castles in Wales, more castles per square mile than anywhere else in the world!
- Mt Everest was named after the 19th century Welsh surveyor Colonel Sir George Everest
Welsh Rarebit Day is celebrated on September 3
Visas & Passports
Australian passport holders travelling to the United Kingdom, including England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, do not need a visa at this time.
We require that your passport is valid for travel for at least six months from the date you are planning to return to Australia. Your passport must be valid to travel internationally and must be machine-readable. You also need to carry a valid return ticket on you.
Whether travelling on an Australian passport or the passport of another country, all travellers require visas for a number of countries, and it is your responsibility to secure what may be required before departing Australia. You can consult with your travel agent, but it is also recommended that you check the foreign embassy website for your respective destination as it can also provide you with useful information.
The Australian High Commission in the United Kingdom is responsible for Wales:
London, WC2B 4LA
Ph. +44 (0)20 7379 4334
Fax. +44 (0)20 7240 5333
The official currency of Wales is the Pound Stirling (GBP or £). Notes come in denominations of £5, 10, 20, and 50.
Advise your bank of your travel plans so that they can make a note of it, otherwise they may cancel your credit card as a safety measure due to the overseas transactions. Also make a note of the 24-hour emergency contact number of the bank or building society which issued your credit card in the unlikely event that your card is lost or stolen.
Whenever possible use ATMs when the banks are open (Mon – Fri) so that if a machine ‘eats’ your card you can then deal with it straight away. It is always advisable to carry a supply of cash in addition to your credit card.
If you don’t have Pound Stirling with you on arrival, we advise you to exchange some money into the local currency at the airport even if the exchange rate is not the best, this way you’ll have money to get a drink, snack or give a tip during those first few hours of arrival. Your guide will be able to advise you on the best places to exchange money.
Small change is also useful for paying for toilets while on tour which is customary in many places outside of Australia.
- The price of a cappuccino in Cardiff is approximately £3
- The price of an inexpensive lunch is approximately £14
- The price of dinner in a moderate restaurant is approximately £30
- The price of a beer in a local pub is approximately £3.50 - 4
Traditionally, Welsh recipes were passed down from generation to generation orally, so there are very few written records, mostly as those with the skills and inclination to write down the recipes were the Upper Class and they tended to conform more to the English style of cuisine. What is now seen a traditional Welsh cuisine typically originated with the lower classes and peasant folk, and featured mostly meat, vegetables (notably cabbage and leek), dairy products and grains.
The national dish of Wales is Cawl, a meat-based broth, originally bacon but usually lamb or beef these days, with vegetables, and leftovers were topped up with fresh vegetables for another day or two, before being turned into a stew. These days, Cawl is often served with oatmeal dumplings, or currant dumplings known as trollies.
The world’s poshest cheese on toast, Welsh Rarebit, was at one time known as Welsh Rabbit, although no one knows why as rabbit has never been an ingredient! A mixture of strong cheddar cheese, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, beer, butter and flour are heated and poured over thick slices of toasted bread, then grilled until golden brown and bubbling. The best-known cheese in Wales is Caerphilly, however there are many other delicious options to choose from.
Other dishes to look out for are laverbread (made from seaweed and no bread at all, it is also known as Welsh Caviar), Welsh Cakes (or Crempogs, they are small, round spiced fruit cakes, almost a cross between an English muffin and a scone), Bara Brith (a cake traditionally flavoured with tea, dried fruit and spices), Oggie (a lamb and leek pasty that is similar but larger, and some 600 years older than, the Cornish Pasty!), and Glamorgan Sausages (a vegetarian ‘sausage’ made with cheese, leeks, breadcrumbs, eggs, and seasonings).
Important: When dining at buffets (i.e. breakfast) please refrain from taking food away with you to ‘save’ for later! If you feel that you’ll need snacks between meals, pack some dried fruit, nuts, muesli bars etc.
If you have specific food allergies and/or preferences, we highly recommend you take every precaution before your tour, including carrying a small card with your food allergy listed in each language of every country you are travelling to show to table staff when ordering. Whilst we take all dietary requirements seriously, due to the serious nature of potential allergic reactions, it is your responsibility to be as prepared as possible.
In general, the weather in Wales is fairly moderate, but unpredictable! The summer months of June to August average temperatures in the high teens/low 20’s, and winter temperatures average in the single digits (°C). Rain is quite common year-round and experiencing ‘four seasons in one day’ is almost guaranteed when travelling, especially when in the upland areas of Snowdonia or Brecon Beacons.
Want to get out and explore on your own?
Wales is well connected to the rest of the United Kingdom, Ireland, and mainland Europe by air, road, sea, and rail. Within Wales there are regular bus and rail links, including connections to England and Scotland. Taxis and minicabs are usually only available within cities, and it is best to stick to reputable licenced minicabs. Travel between cities is best done via rail or coach.
When catching taxis, have small change on you and choose one with a meter, if it doesn’t have one then negotiate the price before getting in. Also, ask your guide or hotel staff the names of reputable taxi/minicab companies.
So, you’d love to bring home a special souvenir from Wales…
Carved wooden love spoons were traditionally given to your sweetheart as a love token. The history of these spoons dates back to the 1700’s when young suitors would carve an intricately detailed spoon out of a single piece of wood for their love interest. There are hidden meanings behind many of the traditional designs, depending on who the recipient of the love spoon is.
Welsh gold was chosen by both Prince William and Prince Harry for their wedding rings, and you too can buy a beautiful piece of gold jewellery to remember your time in Wales. If authentic Welsh Gold is above your budget (and considering that the only gold-producing mine in Wales closed in the late 1980’s, the pricing has increased significantly since then), there are more affordable options in gold, or other metals/materials, using traditional Welsh and Celtic designs.
For one of the more unusual souvenirs, take home some Laverbread, the gelatinous vitamin-rich seaweed paste known as bara lawr or ‘poor man’s caviar’ that is often served at breakfast with bacon and cockles, or rolled in oatmeal and fried.
Given that sheep outnumber humans in Wales by a ratio of 4:1, woollen products are in abundance. From tweed to tapestry, scarves to socks, blankets to bags, clothing to cushions, the style and colour options are numerous with something to suit all tastes.
Slate has been an important part of Welsh history, and a large part of the economy, for so many years. From coasters to clocks to cheeseboards to chess sets, there are a variety of options to choose from, and in all sizes so there should hopefully be something that won’t exceed your luggage weight limit!
- Never call a Welsh person English! They are part of Great Britain, so calling them British is technically correct, but they will take offense if called English.
- There has been a long history of conflict between the Welsh and English, it is best not to bring it up or discuss politics
- A service charge (usually 10-12.5%) is usually added to restaurant bills, when it hasn’t already been included in the pricing on the menu.
Celebrations & Public Holidays
The Welsh are very proud of their history and culture, and creativity is at the heart of pretty much everything they do. This is evident in their festivals, celebrating everything including their unique language, Saints, religion, the Welsh Rarebit and other foods (including honey, cheese, and plums), the seasons, comedy, music, and love, to name but a few.
The year starts with Calennig on January 1st, where children knock on doors and sing festive rhymes in exchange for small gifts. St Dwynwen’s Day is held on 25 January, the Welsh answer to Valentine’s Day, and it is celebrated in a similar fashion with cards and gifts given to loved ones. On March 1st every year, children dress up in traditional outfits, daffodils and leeks are everywhere, and street parades are held nation-wide for St David’s Day, Wales’ National Day celebrating the patron saint of Wales.
In early August, the week-long National Eisteddfod is held to celebrate Welsh literature, music, and performance. Each year, it is held in a different part of the country, and it is the largest and oldest celebration of Welsh culture and language, with a history dating back to 1176. There is also the week-long Green Man Festival in the Brecon Beacons, an independent music and arts festival showcasing alternative, indie, folk, and rock music. Also in August, the World Alternative Games are held in Llanwrtyd Wells, the home of the World Bog Snorkeling Championships. First held in 2012 as a counterpoint to the London Olympics, it is the ultimate unusual sport event, with about 35 different sports including a Man vs Horse Marathon, Wife Carrying Championships, French Cheese Rolling, and Worm Charming, to name a few!
The Porthcawl Elvis Festival, held in September, is one of the largest Elvis-themed festivals in the world. BYO blue suede shoes and white jumpsuit to get all shook up in the fun and frivolity! The year ends with the ancient Welsh custom of the roaming Mari Lwyd (Grey Mare), a ghost horse (essentially a horse skull on a pole) covered with bells and ribbons parading through the streets visiting each house to exchange wassails or rude rhymes with the homeowners. If the Mari ‘wins’, she and her entourage are allowed to enter the house, which is said to bring good luck for the coming year.
Other national public holidays to be aware of include:
- New Year's Day
- St David’s Day (March 1st)
- Good Friday
- Easter Monday
- May Bank Holiday
- Spring Bank Holiday
- Summer Bank Holiday
- Christmas Day
- Boxing Day
Becoming the capital of Wales in 1955, Cardiff is Wales’ largest city, but is actually one of the smallest and newest capital cities of Europe. It’s known as the City of Castles, with the most famed being the beautiful Cardiff Castle located in the city’s centre. Cardiff is also home to the world’s oldest record shop, Cardiff Bay and the Norwegian Church where author Roald Dahl was christened! And if you’re a television fan, Cardiff was also the main filming location of Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes. Photo by Nick Fewings.
Snowdonia National Park
The stunning mountain ranges of Snowdonia and the highest peak of Snowdon (3,560 ft) give Snowdonia National Park its name! Boasting nine mountain ranges and 15 peaks spanning 3,000 ft, this terrain covers over 50% of the national park. Featuring an extensive network of hiking trails, beautiful beaches, scenic valleys, quaint villages and picturesque lakes; this national park is the largest in Wales. If hiking to the top of Snowdon doesn’t take your fancy, then fret not; the 125-year-old Snowdon Mountain Railway will take you along the 5-mile journey from the village of Llanberis to the Summit (weather and seasonally dependent). Here you can visit the highest visitor centre in the UK and maybe even view Ireland! Photo by Josie Jean.
A charming market town on the outskirts of the Brecon Beacons National Park; Llandovery is the perfect base for exploring the Brecon Beacons and the spectacular surrounding mountains, waterfalls, and woodlands. Its name is derived from the Welsh ‘Llanymddyfri’, meaning ‘church among the waters’, due to Llandovery’s location between the three rivers of Tywi, Bran and Gwydderig. The ruins of the 12th century Llandovery Castle overlook the town, along with a statue of Llwelyn ap Gruffydd Fychan, who led Henry IV and his troops astray for weeks to prevent the capture of the Welsh Prince, Owain Glyndwer, in 1401. Photo by Albie Niedojadlo.
How many days do you need in Wales?
The decision is up to you! If you are planning on discovering the intriguing historical sights and striking coastlines in Wales, paired with visiting other European countries, then 2 to 5 days should be plenty!
Are there tours in Wales?
Yes there are! At Bunnik Tours, we offer a small group tour to England, Scotland and Wales, where you will experience rich histories, natural landscapes, ancient architecture and delicious cuisines. In Wales, we’ll spend a day in Cardiff, where you can experience mediaeval castles and even the fairytale Castell Coch. The next stop is Llandovery, a small market town where you can experience true natural beauty due to its spectacular mountains, waterfalls and woodlands. Our last stop is venturing through the Snowdonia National Park, featuring hiking trails, beaches and scenic valleys.
How do you get around in Wales?
If you book a Wales tour with Bunnik Tours, transport won't be an issue! Our Wales tour packages include pre-planned transport, so you can go from destination to destination without the hassle of doing your own research. Our all inclusive tours also include accommodation, many meals and tipping.
What is the best time to visit Wales?
The best time to book your trip to Wales is during the end of spring in May, the summer months, from June to August and during autumn, from September to October. The weather during this time is warm and sunny, perfect for outdoor activities. Although Wales tends to experience some rain and cool breezes, so don't forget to bring your jacket!
How can I tour Wales as a responsible traveller?
At Bunnik Tours, we believe in responsible travel and sustainable tourism. For more information, visit our Sustainable Tourism hub.
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