The Welsh language - Llanfairpwllgwyngyl - and other long names!
The history of the Welsh language is a fascinating one, with it being though to be one of the oldest living languages in Europe! 23% of the population today still speak Cymraeg (Welsh) and its lilting tones are simply a delight to listen to!
The Welsh language originates from the Celtic language which arrived in Britain around 600BC and evolved into Brythonic (the basis for Cymraeg). When the Anglo-Saxons invaded around the 12th century, Middle Welsh as it was called then, survived and many Welsh-speaking people can still understand this today.
The language was banned in 1536 by Henry VIII and it began to be suppressed, as people needed to speak English to get jobs. It was revived through political campaigns in the 20th century and in 1992 it was given equal status as English.
Some useful words
Cymru - Wales
Bore da - Good morning
Prynhawn da - Good afternoon
Iechyd da! - Cheers!
Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch - no, that isn't a typo! Famous for being the longest place name in Europe, it translates to "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 Literary Connections of Wales
Wales is home to many wild, rugged and tranquil landscapes, so it is no wonder that they have been a source of inspiration for many Welsh authors and poets including the following;
Perhaps Wales’ most famous poet, Dylan Thomas was born in Swansea in 1914. His popular poetry, such as ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’, as well as his turbulent personal life, penchant for partying, and emotive readings cemented his legend. Although he did leave Wales at times to earn a living in London, the threat of German air-raids on the capital during the war soon drove Thomas and his family back to the Welsh coast. At Llangain, he was inspired to write “Holy Spring” and “Vision and Prayer”. He then moved further north to New Quay, a seaside town on the beautiful Ceredigion Coast. It is said that the landscapes of New Quay inspired ‘Under Milk Wood’, a radio drama which was later adapted for stage and film. Every year Laugharne holds a festival in Thomas’ honour and this small town attracts a range of literary and creative stars, it is a must do for all Dylan Thomas fans and is a good opportunity to combine a walking trip on Wales’ famous Pembrokeshire Coast Path!
Roald Dahl was born in Cardiff in 1916 to Norwegian immigrant parents. He is best known for his children stories, the most famous of which include Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda and The BFG. Dahl was raised and educated in Wales and later at a public school in England. It is said that during his time at boarding school he was incredibly homesick for Wales and wrote to his mother every week. Dahl went on to become a fighter pilot in the RAF during the Second World War and had postings all over the world. During and after his travels, Wales remained close to his heart. As a child, the Dahl family holidayed each Easter in the harbour town of Tenby on the Pembrokeshire Coast. The cabin where they stayed is still in the possession of the Dahl family and is available to rent as a holiday home.
Raymond Williams is the famous author of the novel Border Country, which is a fascinating semi-autobiographical novel about life in Welsh border country, telling a story about the social and historical effects on places and their communities. It is set in the fictional town of Glynmawr but this is based on William's home town of Pandy, which the national trail Offa's Dyke Path runs through. Borders are a big theme of this novel and it would make a fascinating read for anybody who is looking to set off on the Offa's Dyke Path, to give them a bit of an insight into life in this part of Wales.
Every year, Hay-on-Wye on the Offa's Dyke Path is home to the famous Hay Festival or to give it it's official title, The Hay Festival of Literature & Arts. Famous for it's charming bookshops, Hay-on-Wye hosts a multitude of events at this time, hosted in a tented village on the outskirts of town. Visitors can enjoy around 700 speakers and a festival bookshop as well as music events at night. If you are planning to walk the Offa's Dyke Path over this time, we recommend booking asap as the accommodation here gets booked up many months in advance! You can check out details on the festival's official website here - http://www.hayfestival.com/wales/home