Wales, the land of the Celts
Much has changed, mostly for the better, since a British encyclopaedia carried the infamous entry: "For Wales, see England". Cross the border into Wales today and differences are immediately apparent. The country is increasingly politically as well as culturally independent. The road signs are bilingual. Welsh is no longer heard only, or even mainly, in West Wales. The old language is spoken by the professional elite in Cardiff, an ever-more confident capital city with spacious parkland, a fine sports stadium and a world-class opera house. Rugby, not soccer, is the game that captures the popular imagination. Welsh male-voice choirs continue to merit their international renown and in the country's sports stands, as well as its pubs and clubs, people actually sing in tune.
Welsh Hotels and restaurants, once often dire, are improving fast. Chefs use local produce, especially lamb and the meat of Welsh Black cattle, to produce excellent dishes. The cheeses are among the best in Britain. The walks and the beaches are as marvellous as the tourist brochures say they are: along the Lleyn Peninsula, The Gower, the River Wye and the rugged Pembrokeshire Coast. England's medieval King Edward I aimed to subdue the Welsh when he commissioned his still magnificent castles: Harlech, Conwy, Harlech and Beaumaris. Just as impressive are the Italianate fantasy town of Portmeirion designed by Clough Williams-Ellis; the deep disused coal mine ("Big Pit") at Blaenafon, where ex-miners guide visitors around underground; St David's Cathedral; and Dylan Thomas's boathouse at Laughharne. Natural enchantment is provided by hauntingly beautiful national parks: Brecon Beacons, Snowdonia, Pembrokeshire Coast.