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WHAT’S IN A NAME? IN WALES, QUITE A BIT

South Stack Lighthouse, Holyhead, Wales

Learning Some of the Local Phrases Can Be as Adventurous as the Glorious Countryside

For a relatively small country, Wales packs a significant amount of beauty and history into its borders. Even the Welsh language – or maybe, especially the Welsh language – packs a lot of meaning into singular words and simple phrases. Welsh is the oldest language still used in Europe, a Gaelic/Brythonic dialect influenced by Irish, Breton and even Latin to form one decidedly complex vernacular. One famously lengthy word, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, is loosely translated 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”, referring to two neighboring villages in Anglesey and leaving no directional room for doubt. Helpfully, the locals have a phonetic reference for visitors: llan-vire-pooll-gwin-gill-gore-ger-ih-queern-drorb-ooll-llandy-silio-gore-gore-goch, which still takes a bit of tongue-twisting practice.

Insider tip: To help you along your Welsh way, some common phrases to practice include:

“Good day” – Dydd da (pronounced dith dah)
“Good afternoon” – Prynhawn da (pronounced prihnown dah)
“Please” – Os gwelwch yn dda (pronounced os goo-ell-oock uhn tha)
“Thank you very much” – Diolch yn fawr (pronounced dee-olch uhn vaoor)

Even Holyhead, a charming town on the northwestern coast of Wales (about 13 miles from Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch) with a seemingly straightforward name, is oddly pronounced Hollyhead. It’s the midway point between Liverpool and Dublin and gateway to classic Welsh destinations like lovely Betws-y-Coed and the Ffestiniog Railway from Porthamog. Holyhead also happens to be a highlight of Crystal’s 2021 and 2023 British Isles and Ireland itineraries.

The sprawling landscapes between towns is diverse terrain, from towering, grass-covered mountain peaks to picturesque river valleys, cliffs of crashing surf to densely overgrown forests. It’s all meant to be explored and has been for a millennium, as evidenced by the many castles that pepper the hillsides and pre-historic geological sites that have captivated archaeologists. Well-carved trails and paths across the country tell of adventurers that have come before and attest to the fact that the love of outdoor activities still thrives in these hills.

Insider fact: Wales is often called the “castle capital of the world” because of the sheer number of castles built in the relatively tiny country. Of more than 600 original structures, over 100 still stand in some way. Most Welsh castles date back to the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries.

Waterfront, the classic chill of the Irish Sea and Bristol Channel may not draw sun-seekers to the beaches, but Wales’ shorelines are stunning. The Wales Coast Path again reiterates the local love for trekking the great outdoors, stretching the length of the country and inviting one and all to wander the edge of Wales. Whether your visit to the coast of Wales is swept by the classic sea winds or warmed in the summer sun, you’ll find the experience here to be warm and welcoming. Yes, this is the place for a host of outdoor adventures from sea to summit, but it’s also a wonderful place to cozy up at a seaside café and chat with the locals – and maybe learn a phrase or two.

Crystal invites travelers to plan a British Isles voyage featuring a visit to Holyhead with added flexibility as we look ahead to sailing together again.

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