As Wales celebrates its Year of Adventure in 2016, these 16 things that can be done in the destination:
Learn Welsh: Welsh is a Celtic language, and one of the oldest languages in Europe, spoken by an estimated 560,000 people in Wales. The language can be learned at Nant Gwrtheyrn, a heritage centre on North Wales’ Llˆyn Peninsula.
Visit a castle: There are more than 600 castles in Wales; more per square mile than anywhere else in the world. For fairy tale turrets, one can head north of Cardiff to 19th-century Castell Coch. Historic Harlech Castle in Cardigan Bay, Mid Wales, saw the longest siege in British history from 1461-1468, while in North Wales, visitors can see a one-tonne slate bed that was made for Queen Victoria at opulent neo-Norman Penrhyn Castle.
Trampoline in a slate mine: At Bounce Below, visitors can unleash their inner child on giant trampolines, walkways, slides and tunnels made of netting in a 176-year old disused cavern.
Experiment with seaweed: Laverbread, made from seaweed found clinging to rocks, is a crucial component of ‘the full Welsh breakfast’, along with bacon and cockles. Visitors can try the Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company’s ‘Welshman’s Caviar’, a dried version that they serve in burgers at beachside shack, Café Môr in south-west Wales.
Be dazzled by beauty: The UK’s first designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) was the Gower Peninsula in south-west Wales, which marks 60 years as an AONB in 2016. One can visit Rhossili Beach.
Make an appointment with the Doctor: The Doctor Who Experience at Cardiff Bay, a stone’s throw from BBC studios where the series is filmed, takes visitors on an interactive journey through 50 years of adventures in space and time, virtually accompanied by Peter Capaldi as the Time Lord. Visitors can also book to see the genuine TARDIS used in filming.
Walk this Wales: The first country to offer a dedicated footpath around its coastline, the Wales Coast Path is 870 miles of varied landscape. The Pembrokeshire Coast Path in south-west Wales is particularly picturesque. One can spot dolphins from the Ceredigion sections in Mid Wales.
Pray for rain: Waterfall Country in the Brecon Beacons is especially fun following a downpour. Don’t miss Sgwd Henrhyd, which featured in The Dark Knight Rises as the entrance to the Batcave; walk behind a curtain of water and hear the roar as it thunders down.
Don’t sleep; birdwatch: Just off the coast of Pembrokeshire, west Wales, Skomer Island is unlike anywhere on earth. Visitors can tay there in July and hear the night-time symphony of thousands of Manx shearwater birds returning to the island after hunting. In autumn, the Atlantic grey seals make their way home to give birth.
Catch some waves inland: The first of its kind, Surf Snowdonia is an inland lagoon, set in the Conwy Valley in North Wales. Visitors can enjoy surfing whether they are beginners or professionals.
Listen to Welshmen: Wales started the trend of singing an anthem before a sporting match – doing so first in 1905 when Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (Land of My Fathers) was sung at rugby games. The Welsh male voice choir tradition holds strong and there are concerts all over the country throughout the year. Stay at Llangoed Hall (www.llangoedhall.co.uk), Mid Wales, over Christmas and be treated to carols by the local Male Voice Choir.
Race a horse: In 1980, Britain’s smallest town, Llanwrtyd Wells in Mid Wales, decided to stage its first Man vs. Horse contest. Now well known for its regular staging of wacky events and the biennial World Alternative Games (www.worldalternativegames.co.uk), visit in 2016 to take part in Wife Carrying, Bog Snorkelling, Stiletto Racing and more!
Cwtch in a cupboard: Cwtch is one of Wales’ favourite words, roughly equivalent to a cuddle (i.e. ‘give us a cwtch’) and also meaning a cupboard or cubbyhole. Which is why it’s doubly fun that you can ‘cwtch in a cwtch’ at Wonderfully Wild’s glamourous lodges (www.wonderfullywild.co.uk) in gorgeous Anglesey, north Wales. Sleeping up to six across three bedrooms, the lodges all feature a cosy cupboard in which a double bed is neatly installed!
Go to the best book, food, music and Elvis festival: Wales celebrates writers and literature at the Hay Festival, Mid Wales; food at the Abergavenny Food Festival, Mid Wales; and music and dancing in Portmeirion, north Wales, at Festival No. 6. The Elvis Festival in Porthcawl, south Wales, an annual celebration of The King of Rock N’ Roll, is said to be the biggest of its kind in the world.
Tick off 200 listed buildings: Conwy in north Wales is one of the best preserved medieval fortified towns in the whole of Britain, with more than 200 listed buildings that date from the 14th to the 18th centuries including the Conwy Castle. It is also home to Britain’s smallest house, which measures 10 feet x 6 feet.
Pronounce this: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch on Anglesey, north Wales, boasts the longest place name in Europe and the second longest in the world. It means ‘Saint Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio of the red cave’, but most people call it Llanfairpwll. The longer form is an early example of a publicity stunt – it was invented in the 1860s and has been drawing in visitors ever since.