Wales flag


Country: Wales (WelshCymru)

Capital and largest city: Cardiff

Continent: Europe

Official languages: Welsh, English

Religion: Christianity

Patron saint: Saint David (WelshDewi Sant; Latin: Davidus; c. 500 – c. 589)

Motto: Cymru am byth (in Welsh: Wales Forever, or – Long Live Wales)

Status: Country

Government: Devolved parliamentary legislature within a constitutional monarchy

Population: 3 230 490 (2020)

Demonym: Welsh

Currency: Pound sterling (GBP)

Driving side: left

Time zone: UTC (Greenwich Mean Time)

Date format: dd/mm/yyyy

Calling code: +44

Internet TLD: .wales


Neighbouring country: England


Wales on the UK map


Wales (Welsh: Cymru) is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain. It is bordered by England to the east, the Irish Sea to the north and west, and the Bristol Channel to the south. Wales has over 2,700 km of coastline and is largely mountainous, with its higher peaks in the north and central areas, including Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa), its highest summit.


Cardiff Castle, Wales
Cardiff Castle, Wales. Credit: Margaret D.


The English words Wales and Welsh derive from the same Germanic root (singular Walh, plural Walha), which was itself derived from the name of the Gaulish people known to the Romans as Volcae and which came to refer indiscriminately to all non-Germanic peoples. The Old English-speaking Anglo-Saxons came to use the term Wælisc when referring to the Britons in particular, and Wēalas when referring to their lands. The modern names for some Continental European lands (e.g. Wallonia, Wallachia, and Valais) and peoples (e.g. the Vlachs) have a similar etymology.


City Rocks, Llandudno, Wales
City Rocks, Llandudno, Wales. Credit: Diego Torres


Historically, in Britain the words were not restricted to modern Wales or to the Welsh but were used to refer to anything that the Anglo-Saxons associated with the Britons, including other non-Germanic territories in Britain (e.g. Cornwall) and places in Anglo-Saxon territory associated with Britons (e.g. Walworth in Country Durham and Walton in West Yorkshire), as well as items associated with non-Germanic Europeans, such as the walnut.


Snowdonia, National Park, Wales
Snowdonia, National Park, Wales. Credit: Joanna12


The modern Welsh name for themselves is Cymry, and Cymru is the Welsh name for Wales. These words (both of which are pronounced [ˈkəm.rɨ]) are descended from the Brythonicword combrogi, meaning 'fellow-countrymen'.


Conway Castle, Llundudno, Wales
Conway Castle, Llundudno, Wales. Credit: iankelsall1


Welsh national identity emerged among the Britons after the Roman withdrawal from Britain in the 5th century, and Wales is regarded as one of the modern Celtic nations. Llywelyn ap Gruffudd's death in 1282 marked the completion of Edward I of England's conquest of Wales, though Owain Glyndwr briefly restored independence to Wales in the early 15th century. The whole of Wales was annexed by England and incorporated within the England legal system under the Laws in Wales Acts 1535 and 1542. Welsh national feeling grew over the century; Plaid Cymru was formed in 1925 and the Welsh Language Society in 1962.


Conwy Castle, Wales
Conwy Castle, Wales. Credit: Public Domain Pictures


The governments of the United Kingdom and of Wales define Wales as a country. The Welsh Government says: 'Wales is not a Principality. Although we are joined with England by land, and we are part of Great Britain, Wales is a country in its own right'. The title Prince of Wales is still conferred on the heir apparent to the British throne. However, the Prince of Wales has no constitutional role in modern Wales.


Castle Lake Vyrnwy, Wales
Castle Lake Vyrnwy, Wales. Credit: Ginger


Treble clef heart

'Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau' is the national anthem of Wales. The title – taken from the first words of the song – means 'Old Land of My Fathers' in Welsh, usually rendered in English as simply 'Land of My Fathers'. The words were written by Evan James and the tune composed by his son, James James, both residents of Pontypridd, Glamorgan, in January 1856. When it was composed it was known as Glan Rhondda (Banks of the Rhondda). The earliest written copy survives and is part of the collections of the National Library of Wales.


Beaumaris Castle, Anglesey, Wales
Beaumaris Castle, Anglesey, Wales. Credit: Ceekay


'Land of My Fathers' was first performed in the vestry of the original Capel Tabor, Maesteg (which later became a working men's club, in either January or February 1856, by Elizabeth John from Pontypridd, and it soon became popular among locals. The popularity of the song increased after the Llangollen festival of 1858.


Pontsycyllte, Aqueduct, Wales
Pontsycyllte, Aqueduct, Wales. Credit: Meatle


The composer James James was a harpist. He used to play his instrument in the public house which he ran, for the purpose of dancing. The song was originally intended to be performed in 6/8 time but had to be slowed down to its present tempo when it began to be sung by large crowds.


Carew Castle, Wales
Carew Castle, Wales. Credit: Diego Torres


Tradition has established 'Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau' as an unofficial Welsh anthem since 1905 when it was first sung by fans at rugby games, although the official anthem at the time was 'God Bless the Prince of Wales'. The new song slowly established itself as the more popular anthem over the next four decades and was sung along with 'God Bless the Prince of Wales' and 'God Save the Queen' before sporting events until 1975 when sports officials decided that 'Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau' should be sung alone.


Hotel Prince of Wales, Wales
Hotel Prince of Wales, Wales. Credit: pixel1


Like other British anthems, it has not been established as a national anthem by law but it has been used as a national anthem at official governmental ceremonies, including the opening of the Welsh Assembly, and at receptions of the British monarchy since the 1970s. It is recognised and used as an anthem at both national and local events in Wales.


Laburnum Arch Flowers, Bodnant Gardens, Wales
Laburnum Arch Flowers, Bodnant Gardens, Wales. Credit: fallonrw


Usually, only the first stanza and chorus are sung in the Welsh language. 'God Save the Queen', the national anthem of the United Kingdom is sometimes played alongside 'Hen Wlad fy Nhadau' during official events with a royal connection.


Waterfall, Wales
Waterfall, Wales. Credit: Diego Torres