Wales — A Mystical Land
Wales, part of the United Kingdom, is located on the western shores of Britain and features areas of outstanding natural beauty.
It is a relatively small country in comparison to its neighbour, England. The capital, Cardiff, and the bulk of the population are situated on the coastal plain and valleys of South Wales, whilst West and North Wales are mainly unspoilt rural and mountainous terrain. Wales contains three of Britain's most famous National Parks
- The Brecon Beacons National Park in South Wales
- The Snowdonia National Park in North Wales; and Britain's only marine nature reserve
- The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park in West Wales.
Within an hour's drive of Cardiff, beaches, mountains and secluded woodlands offer excellent opportunities for outdoor pursuits.
Wales is a semi-autonomous region within the United Kingdom. Recent devolution has created a National Assembly for Wales based in Cardiff, removing many administrative and executive functions previously controlled through Parliament in London. Devolution has helped develop Wales' and Cardiff's profiles internationally, and especially within Europe. In 1998, when Britain hosted the European Summit, Cardiff was chosen as the main venue, receiving heads of state and delegates from the EU's fifteen member countries, reflecting its increasing national and international reputation as a progressive and ambitious young capital.
In recent years Wales has benefited from the UK Government's regional policies which have encouraged a wide range of companies to move or to expand their operations in Wales. Traditional industries such as coal-mining and steel-making have now been almost completely replaced by manufacturing and service sectors. Much of this change in emphasis has been achieved by inward investment from companies from the USA, Europe and the Far East, particularly Japan and Korea, providing jobs for over 25% of the labour force. Major international corporations that have located successful operations in South Wales include: Ford; Northern Telecom; Panasonic; and Sony. The key growth sectors of Wales' modern economy are: electronics; automotive components; food processing; healthcare; and financial and professional services.
The major characteristic of the British weather is changeability. There are four distinct seasons: Winter can get very cold and you will often need to wear warm clothing, including hats and gloves as the temperatures can get as low as -5 degrees at night. Spring starts around March and the weather can be very changeable, raining and cold one minute, and sunny and bright the next. The weather improves in the Summer, which starts in June; you will be able to wear shorts and t-shirts and should be careful not to get sunburnt. The temperature can reach about 27 degrees. Our students arrive in late September when it is usually still sunny but starting to get a little cooler. Students from very hot countries usually take a little time to get used to the weather, so if you are one of them please bring warm clothing.
The cultural heritage of Wales is a fascinating one. Welsh is the oldest living language in Europe and is an important part of Wales' heritage. A sizeable and growing proportion of the population speak Welsh, though visitors are always able to converse in the majority language, English. Although a multicultural community now, great store is placed upon the ancient Celtic cultural traditions of singing, humour and informal hospitality - visitors are made to feel welcome quickly. The country's cultural profile has never been higher than at present. Welsh icons include: Tom Jones; Anthony Hopkins; Catherine Zeta Jones; Ryan Giggs; Shirley Bassey and Rhys Ifans.