45 Fun Facts About Wales: Not Just Rugby & Rain!
With a long and fascinating heritage, it’s no surprise that there’s an endless list of interesting and fun facts about Wales. A country so full of gorgeous scenery and intriguing twists and turns means that there are plenty of hidden depths to explore.
So, if you’re on the hunt for some interesting and fun facts about Wales, be prepared to unlock a full treasure chest of intrigue as we reveal some of our best Welsh facts.
A Welsh town is twinned with Timbuktu
Once spelt Timbuctoo, Timbuktu has for many years been a metaphor for a ‘remote or extremely distant place’, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. Yet, despite many continuing to think of it as a mythical location, Timbuktu is a real place located in Northern Mali, and it’s twinned with a quaint Welsh town.
The ancient city is twinned with Hay-on-Wye, and surprisingly, the two locations have their fair share of similarities. The Welsh town is known as the second-hand book capital of the world thanks to its countless bookshops and is also home to the literary festival ‘Hay’. Meanwhile, ‘Timbuktu’ is the home of ancient Arabic and African manuscripts.
A chapel was built every 8 days in the 1800s
One of the strangest on our Wales fact sheet, between 1801 and 1851, a chapel was constructed every eight days. Thanks to the tireless construction work, Wales is now able to seat half of the country’s population at any one time.
Some of these buildings are truly beautiful, offering a window into the past. Many continue to hold services today, and the stunning architecture makes them a must-visit for those a fan of historical buildings.
Wales is home to the longest place name
It’s a well-known fun fact about Wales that the country is home to the longest place name in the UK but many don’t know the true meaning behind the title.
Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch is located on the Isle of Anglesey, and is comprised of 58 letters, making it the second-longest in the world after New Zealand’s Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu.
The place name, when translated into English, reads as “St Mary’s Church in the Hollow of the White Hazel near a Rapid Whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio near the Red Cave”.
The most castles per square mile
Another interesting fact about to add to our Wales fact sheet is that the country is home to more castles per square mile than any other location in the world. This means that wherever you go in Wales, you won’t be too far from a vibrant landmark of Welsh heritage. With over 600 castles dotting the landscape, there is one for every 7,500 people.
K, Q, V and Z are not part of the Welsh language
Only 18% of the population know how to speak the Welsh language fluently, which is why many are worried it may be dying out. The dialect offers an engaging insight into the history of the Welsh people.
One of the most surprising facts about the Welsh language is that letters K, Q, V and Z do not appear in the alphabet at all. The disuse of these letters is partly attributed to William Salesbury’s Welsh New Testament, as there were too few ‘K’s in their type cases. Many of these letters are simply replaced by others, for example, ‘C’ for ‘K’ and ‘S’ for ‘Z’.
Birthplace of the National Eisteddfod
The National Eisteddfod, an annual festival celebrating Welsh culture and language, originated in Wales. It’s one of the world’s largest and oldest cultural festivals, featuring music, literature, and performances, predominantly in Welsh.
Wales’ National Symbol – the Leek
The leek is a national symbol of Wales, often worn on St. David’s Day. According to legend, Saint David advised Welsh soldiers to wear leeks on their helmets in a battle against the Saxons to easily distinguish friend from foe.
Fun Facts about Wales and The Welsh Dinosaur
Wales has its own dinosaur, the Dracoraptor hanigani, discovered in 2014. This early Jurassic dinosaur provides significant insights into the evolution of dinosaurs and is a point of pride for Welsh natural history.
Fun Facts about Wales and The Village of Books
In addition to Hay-on-Wye’s literary fame, the town also hosts the famous annual Hay Festival, attracting writers, poets, and thinkers from around the globe, making it a mecca for book lovers.
Snowdonia’s Slate Landscapes
The slate landscapes of Northwest Wales, recognized by UNESCO, played a crucial role in the roofing of 19th-century industrial Britain and hold immense historical and cultural significance.
The Oldest Living Language in Europe
Welsh is considered one of the oldest living languages in Europe, dating back over 4,000 years. Its resilience and revival efforts make it a fascinating subject for linguists and cultural historians.
Fun Facts about Wales and The Inventor of the = Sign
Welsh mathematician Robert Recorde is credited with inventing the equal sign (=) in 1557. His contribution to mathematics is a little-known yet significant part of Wales’ intellectual history.
The Great Glasshouse
The National Botanic Garden of Wales is home to the world’s largest single-span glasshouse. This architectural marvel shelters the most comprehensive collection of Mediterranean climate zone plants in the Northern Hemisphere.
World’s First Suspended-Tube Tunnel
The Conwy Tunnel, opened in 1991, was the first tunnel in the world to be constructed with immersed tube technology. This engineering marvel runs beneath the River Conwy and is a testament to Wales’ contributions to modern infrastructure.
The Red Dragon of Wales
The iconic Welsh flag, featuring a red dragon, has a history shrouded in myth and legend. It’s one of the few flags globally to feature a dragon and symbolizes the strength and bravery of the Welsh people.
Melting Pot of Languages
Besides Welsh, Wales has historically been a melting pot of languages including Norman French, Latin, and English, each influencing the Welsh language and culture in its own way.
The First Million Pound Business Deal
The world’s first recorded business deal worth a million pounds took place in Cardiff in 1907. The deal was for coal, a major industry in Wales at the time, and it signified Cardiff’s status as one of the leading coal-exporting ports in the world.
This transaction marked a significant milestone in the history of global commerce and highlights the importance of Wales in the industrial era.
Wales’ Deepest Cave
The Ogof Ffynnon Ddu, located in the Brecon Beacons, is the deepest cave in the UK. It’s a popular spot for caving enthusiasts and offers a unique underground adventure with its stunning formations and subterranean rivers.
Wales’ Own Gold Mine
The Dolaucothi Gold Mines in Carmarthenshire, operated by the Romans and then until the 20th century, are unique in Britain. Visitors can still explore the ancient Roman and Victorian workings.
The First Country to Have a Footpath Along Its Entire Coastline
The Wales Coast Path, opened in 2012, makes Wales the first country in the world to have a dedicated footpath covering its entire coastline, spanning 870 miles and offering breath taking views and diverse wildlife.
Home of the World’s First Radio Message
Marconi, the Italian inventor, transmitted the world’s first ever wireless radio message from Lavernock Point in South Wales to Flat Holm Island in the Bristol Channel in 1897, marking a pivotal moment in communication history.
Fun Facts about Wales and The Smallest City in the UK
St Davids in Pembrokeshire is the UK’s smallest city in terms of both size and population. Despite its small stature, it’s known for its magnificent cathedral and as a pilgrimage destination.
The First Fair Trade Nation
In 2008, Wales became the world’s first Fair Trade Nation, a testament to its commitment to fair trade principles and sustainable development, encouraging the use of fair trade products throughout the country.
Fun Facts about Wales and The Legend of King Arthur
Wales has a deep connection with the legend of King Arthur. Many Welsh locations are linked to Arthurian legends, including the reputed resting place of Excalibur in Llyn Llydaw, Snowdonia.
Tintern Abbey Inspiration
The ruins of Tintern Abbey in Monmouthshire inspired the famous poet William Wordsworth. Its picturesque and tranquil setting along the River Wye has made it a symbol of the romantic era and a muse for artists and writers.
Fun Facts about Wales and A Record-Breaking Zip Line
Zip World Velocity in Bethesda is the fastest zip line in the world and the longest in Europe. It offers an adrenaline-pumping experience over the stunning landscapes of North Wales where you can reach speeds of up to 125mph!
The Blue Lagoon, Abereiddy
This former slate quarry now flooded by the sea, known as the Blue Lagoon, has become a popular spot for Coasteering. Its striking blue water, surrounded by steep cliffs, offers a unique and adventurous experience.
The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct
A masterpiece of engineering, this aqueduct is the longest and highest in Britain. Built by Thomas Telford and William Jessop, it carries the Llangollen Canal over the River Dee and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Fun Facts about Wales and The Mabinogion
This collection of ancient Welsh tales, some of the earliest prose stories in Britain, provides a fascinating insight into Celtic mythology and medieval Welsh culture, including the famous stories of King Arthur and other legendary figures.
The Welsh Love Spoon Tradition
A unique Welsh tradition, the giving of hand-carved wooden love spoons dates back to the 17th century. Originally crafted by suitors to express their affection, they have become a symbol of Welsh folk art.
Wrexham’s Glyndwr University
This is one of the youngest universities in the UK, gaining its status in 2008. It’s named after Owain Glyndwr, the Welsh prince who led a rebellion against English rule in the early 15th century.
The Green Bridge of Wales
A natural arch formed from limestone, located along the Pembrokeshire coast. It’s one of the most spectacular and photographed natural landmarks in Wales.
Wales’ First Bilingual Road Signs
Wales introduced bilingual English/Welsh road signs in the 1960s, reflecting the country’s commitment to preserving and promoting the Welsh language.
The Brecon Beacons Night Sky
In 2013, the Brecon Beacons National Park was designated as an International Dark Sky Reserve, one of only a handful in the world, offering spectacular views of the night sky free from light pollution.
Fun facts about Wales – The Patron Saint of Lovers is Welsh!
While St. Valentine is widely celebrated, Wales has its own patron saint of lovers, Saint Dwynwen. Celebrated on January 25th, St. Dwynwen’s Day is a traditional Welsh holiday akin to Valentine’s Day.
The story of Dwynwen dates back to the 5th century and involves a tale of lost love and heartfelt wishes. Llanddwyn Island, off the coast of Anglesey, is said to be her final resting place and has become a pilgrimage site for lovers.
The Lost City of Cantre’r Gwaelod
According to Welsh legend, this ancient sunken kingdom off the coast of Wales was said to have been flooded when a well-maiden neglected her duties. It’s a fascinating tale that adds a mythical dimension to the Welsh coast.
The First Welshman to Circumnavigate the Globe
Bartholomew Roberts, also known as Black Bart, was a Welsh pirate who circumnavigated the globe in the early 18th century. Despite his notorious career, his navigation skills and adventures are an intriguing part of Welsh maritime history.
Crib Goch Ridge
This is one of the most challenging and exhilarating ridge walks in Britain, located on Snowdon, Wales’ highest mountain. Not for the faint-hearted, it offers stunning views and a thrilling experience for experienced hikers.
The ‘Welsh Roswell’
In 1974, in the Berwyn Mountains, a mysterious event occurred which some believe was a UFO crash, often referred to as the ‘Welsh Roswell’. While officially explained as a meteorological event, it continues to intrigue UFO enthusiasts and conspiracy theorists.
Llangernyw Yew – One of the Oldest Living Things on Earth
The ancient yew tree in the churchyard of St. Dygain’s Church in Llangernyw is believed to be over 4,000 years old, making it one of the oldest living things on earth.
Fun Facts about Wales and The Hidden Tunnels Under Cardiff
A network of tunnels, some dating back to the 15th century, runs beneath Cardiff. Originally used for transporting goods from Cardiff Castle to the docks, these tunnels are shrouded in mystery and stories.
The Devil’s Bridge and its Myth
Located near Aberystwyth, the Devil’s Bridge is an ancient bridge stacked upon two others. Legend says it was built by the Devil in a deal with an old lady. It’s a story that adds charm and mystery to this architectural wonder.
Fun Facts about Wales and The Welshman Who Discovered the ‘Penguin’
The first recorded use of the word ‘penguin’ comes from Welshman William Perry, who was on an expedition in the South Atlantic in the 16th century. It’s believed the word comes from the Welsh ‘pen’ (head) and ‘gwyn’ (white).
The Oldest Record of the Welsh Language
The oldest known record of the Welsh language is found in the Hen Ogledd, or “Old North”, of Britain. Dating back to the 6th century, these inscriptions provide a glimpse into the early development of the language.
The Welsh ‘Atlantis’ – Borth’s Sunken Forest
The remains of a forest, dating back thousands of years, can be seen at low tide on the beach at Borth. It’s believed this forest gave rise to the legends of a sunken civilization in Wales, adding a layer of history and myth to the Welsh coastline.
So there you have it: 45 fun facts about Wales that prove this little country is not just about sheep and rugby (though it’s pretty impressive in those areas too!). From towns with names longer than a dragon’s tail to a love affair with leeks, Wales is full of surprises.
Whether you came for the castles and stayed for the stories of submerged kingdoms, or arrived in search of a centuries-old yew tree and left with a newfound respect for pirates, we hope these facts have tickled your fancy as much as a Welsh choir hits the high notes.
Remember, the next time someone asks you about Wales, you’ve got enough trivia to keep the conversation going longer than it takes to pronounce Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. Diolch and keep exploring – who knows what other quirky and fun facts about Wales are waiting around the corner!
Nick, your trusted guide to Wales travel and exploration, shares a deep passion for this enchanting land. With years of exploration, Nick offers expert insights into the best of Wales. Join him on a journey through its captivating history, culture, and hidden gems, as he inspires you to create unforgettable Wales travel experiences.