Visit Wales (and Dublin, Ireland) by Mouse
) is part of the UK, abutting England's west midlands. On its east is the Atlantic Ocean and the Irish Sea.
Ireland is not far to the west. Wales developed into a separate country in the 5th century. But relations with England were not peaceful.
There were many clashes between Welsh and English peoples in the border area, known as the Marches where there are no natural barriers
separating the two countries. An English force under King Edward I
conquered the Welsh King Llewelyn
in the 13th century, and built
a series of forts to keep the Welsh in check. Two centuries later Wales was incorporated into England. So, while Scotland and Ireland
both always have had a separate identity from England, Wales has been seen as English for over 600 years. But it would seem that this
has not completely eliminated a bit of an identity problem.
Relations with England have seen long periods of strain since the defeat of Llewelyn and the subsequent incorporation. 800 years later
there still seems to be some latent resentment, which we think we encountered in the following incident: We decided to take the cog
up to the top of Mount Snowdon
in the Snowdonia National Park
. We were waiting behind a barrier with many other people for
our turn to get on the train when we noticed that the first compartment on the first car had been cordoned off, and that people were
being let on the train from the second compartment back. We were standing next to a railroad conductor and, kidding, Ron asked him
if they were waiting for the arrival of the Queen to occupy that first compartment. He turned around and looked at us, and said in
a serious tone, "No! This is Wales. We don't have Queens here!" And then he added, derisively, "Only Princes." The latter reference
was to the fact that the first born English Prince has been known since the incorporation of Wales into England as the Prince of Wales.
The conducter was letting us know that this land is very different from England. And the tone of voice implied that "here" was not
only different, but better--democratic, not monarchistic. We soon saw that the compartment had been reserved for a party celebrating
the birthday of an 98 year old lady in a wheelchair.
Another obvious indicator that the Welsh have strong feelings about
their separate identity is that most signage is both in Welsh and in English, including signs painted on roadbeds.
Welsh is a national language, along with English. You do not see this in Scotland or in Ireland. It is a bit ironic that in
the two countries that always have had a separate identity, English is the only national language, while in Wales which has been part
of England for so long, there are two national languages.
We did not see a great deal of the country. We entered Wales from our stop in Liverpool where we had camped on a farm just across
the Mersey River in Birkenhead. Mountains to the west were pointed out to us as being in Wales. We drove from Birkenhead to Conwy
in the northwest part of Wales. In Conwy
we visited one of the castles built by Edward I and an Elizabethan house. From there we continued
westward to Holyhead
in order to take a fast ferry
for a day trip to Dublin, Ireland
, which we include here. Then we drove southeast
to the Snowdonia National Park and visited Mount Snowdon
. We left Wales driving southeastward to Shrewsbury
, back in England. Physically
the parts of the country we saw, all in its northwest, is very pretty, and except for Mount Snowdon, with shorter, more abrupt and
rockier hills than we saw in Scotland or in England. There were a few slate quarries around the cog railway departure point in Snowdonia.
Wales also had many working coal mines in the southern part of the country until the 1980's.
We regret not having had a chance to visit Cardiff
in the southern part of the country. Perhaps next time.