13 Things Everyone From Wales Has to Explain to Outsiders

Student Work
by Tom Greenough Aug 10, 2015

1. We’ve got beer trains.

You read that right. The Welsh Highland Railway runs an annual beer festival, chugging revelers from village to village — and pub to pub. It’s the reason trains were invented.

2. Don’t bother with Snowdon.

Seriously, it’s always crowded, all because it’s just a bit higher than the other peaks. Come on, size doesn’t matter that much does it? It’s a shame to see streams of people queuing up the mountain when Snowdonia’s hundred other peaks brood in the distance, silently alone.

3. We have some of the world’s best beaches.

We have twice as many Blue Flag beaches as Mexico — fact. And the best are NOT in Pembrokeshire — which is sometimes referred to as ‘little England’ by the rest of Wales (harsh, perhaps), but on the wild western coasts of Anglesey and the Llyn Peninsula.

4. You can surf on a mountain lake.

It’s called Surf Snowdonia and it’s the world’s only inland surf lagoon with 2 metre waves surging through the lush Conwy Valley. No more salty wetsuits.

5. North Walians are called Gogs.

As a Gog myself, I’d never heard this term until moving to Cardiff. It comes from the word ‘gogledd’, which means ‘north’ in Welsh, and is usually said with a hint of ‘otherness.’ We have a name for South Walians, but prefer to say it behind their backs.

6. ‘Cont’ is a term of endearment.

In Caernarfon there is a widely used term that often causes confusion or offence to out of towners. But it’s not what it sounds like. No one is sure where it comes from — some historians speculate it comes from the Roman fort Se-gont-ium (g’s mutate into c’s in Welsh), around which the town was built. In any case, don’t be offended when greeted with “Iawn cont?” (Alright, cont?)

7. Merthyr Tydfil was Britain’s biggest boomtown.

Sleepy Merthyr was once the epicentre of the Europe’s iron industry and was Wales’ largest town, impressing the famous philosopher and social campaigner Thomas Carlyle: “Such unguided, hard-worked, fierce, and miserable-looking sons of Adam I never saw before. Ah me! It is like a vision of Hell, and will never leave me, that of these poor creatures broiling, all in sweat and dirt, amid their furnaces, pits, and rolling mills.” Now its home to department stores and KFC’s. Hmm.

8. Wales is red — Cardiff is blue.

Don’t go to the capital thinking ‘look how well I’m fitting in all dressed in red’. Yes the national team is red as the dragon, but they aren’t the number one team in town, and Cardiff City FC are nicknamed the Bluebirds for a reason. That’s something their Malaysian chairman took a while to understand as he reversed a near apocalyptic decision to change Cardiff’s colours to red because it ‘fit in better with the Asian market’.

9. It’s Allan, not Alan.

There was a news story recently about an English woman who ended up confused in a hospital car park – her daughter had gone into labour and the sign above her door read ‘Allan’, so she rang her mother to say she was in ‘Alan’ ward. Sure enough her mother followed the Allan signs all through the hospital and into the concrete car park. You see, ‘allan’ means ‘exit’ in Welsh.

10. St David’s is a city!

Britain’s smallest, in fact. With a population of just 1,840, it has a beautiful cathedral home to the remains of the Welsh patron saint, St David — as the name might suggest. It’s quaint and a good base to explore Pembrokeshire, but you’ll be struggling for multiplex cinemas.

11. Menai Bridge was the world’s first suspension bridge.

Built by Thomas Telford in 1826, the stunning iron bridge was the first to connect Anglesey to the mainland and is still in use today.

12. The longest name…

It used to be said that the sleepy village of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch had the longest place name in the world, but it turns out the internet disagreed (apparently it’s 4th). The villagers weren’t happy so they founded the official longest single-word domain name. Kismit!

13. John Rowlands, I presume?

In the mid-1850s, North Walian John Rowlands set sail for New Orleans as a cabin boy. There he was adopted by Henry Stanley, a merchant whose name he later took.

He fought on both sides of American Civil War, become a journalist and, in 1869, was sent to Tanzania to look for the legendary missionary David Livingstone — to whom he is said to have proffered the now infamous greeting, “Dr Livingstone, I presume?”

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