Discover the Welsh language

Closely related to Cornish, the native language of the English county Cornwall, and to Breton, the native language of Brittany, north western France, Welsh – or Cymraeg to its speakers – dates back to the 6th century, making it one of Europe’s oldest living languages. It evolved from the Celtic language spoken by the ancient Britons and was handed down through the generations until the 19th century, when the industrial revolution brought about an alarming erosion of the Welsh language.

Since then the battle to save Cymraeg has been inextricably linked with Wales’s national identity, and much has been done to promote its usage. At the uppermost level, political parties have been founded (Plaid Cymru began in 1925 with a primary mandate of promoting the language) and acts of parliament have been passed, but the future of the Welsh language has also been embraced by its people. A passion for keeping it alive has led to everything from adopting bilingual road signs to the Welsh television channel S4C.

Today Welsh is not the dead language many would have you believe (and indeed many feared it would become). Welsh is now growing again and, according to a survey by the Welsh Language Board, is spoken by 21% of the Welsh population, 62% of whom speak it on a daily basis.

Although many places in Wales now have English names, the Welsh language still appears in numerous village and town names and, although all the locals speak English, understanding a smattering of Welsh will help visitors understand the heritage of where they are visiting. Undoubtedly the most famous place name is the tongue-twistingLlanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, which in English is translated as the fantastically descriptive “St Mary’s church in the hollow of the white hazel near to the rapid whirlpool of Llantysilio of the red cave”.

Even the most basic knowledge of Welsh will inform a visit to this proud and heritage-rich country, so why not make a start with these simple phrases:

Hello Shw mae (“shoo my”)
Goodbye Hwyl (“hooil”)
Welcome Croeso (“croy so”)
Thank you Diolch (“dee-olck”)

 

Source: Discover Wales: The Living Language

 

Also, read about the 641 castles in Wales.

 

 

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Visit Wales and its 641 castles – a mixture of gothic, medieval, and Victorian styles

With its rolling hills and numerous royal conquests, there’s no place where history comes alive in such a lush setting as it does in Wales. Everywhere you look, the evidence of kings, queens, conflict and empire call to you. There are more than 600 castles – 641 to be precise – so even without trying you’ll come across a few. Even the country’s young capital has one – right in the heart of the city. Cardiff Castle mixes medieval and Victorian gothic architectural styles to thrilling effect.

These proud battlements are a historical legacy that is testament to a tumultuous past, and to the indomitable spirit of the fighting Welsh – these castles were built for a reason.

When the Romans withdrew, the separate Welsh kingdoms were left to squabble and spar for centuries until the Normans landed in the 11th century. But the Welsh proved unwilling subjects even then. It was not until Edward I – the famous subduer of William “Braveheart” Wallace – launched his war of subjugation two centuries later that Wales finally fell to England’s boot.

Edward consolidated his victory with the impressive castles you can still visit today. Most are in excellent repair, with walls as solid now as when their first stones went in the ground.

Beaumaris – the biggest castle Edward built and a truly imposing military fortress. It is located on the island of Anglesey, separated from mainland Wales by the Menai Strait, which is home to Prince William in his duties as a Royal Air Force search-and-rescue pilot.

William is most intimately connected to the most majestic of the Unesco castles, the stunningly preserved Caernarfon Castle. This is where his father, Prince Charles, was invested as the Prince of Wales – and where, one day, William is likely to follow suit.

 

Keep reading: The Guardian – Discover the proud history of Wales

 

 

Continue reading Visit Wales and its 641 castles – a mixture of gothic, medieval, and Victorian styles