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If you are not a Welsh native, then you may not know about the historic divide between North Wales and South Wales.

Despite being a tiny country compared to the rest of the UK, North Wales and South Wales find themselves going head to head in many ways. If you are seeking a guide to the best of what Wales has to offer, what better and more traditional way is there than pitting North and South against each other?

North Wales is home to the most beautiful and dramatic landscapes, offering plenty of opportunity for outdoor pursuits, whilst South Wales is the perfect escape for that picturesque coastal getaway.

What other ways do North Wales and South Wales differ? Read on to discover the best of North Wales v South Wales…   


1. Welsh Castles
2. Welsh Beaches
3. Welsh Mountains
4. Welsh Towns and Villages
5. Celebrities
6. Welsh Language


1. North Wales vs South Wales – Castles

How many castles are there in Wales?

Wales showcases over 600 castles across the country, with more per square mile than anywhere else in the world. Over a 100 of these are still standing in superb condition, offering great family days out to discover Wales’ history, with many castles built by Welsh royal dynasties and others built by the Normans following their invasion in 1066.

If you find yourself visiting North Wales or South Wales any time soon, then we have a hand-picked selection of castles to visit in Wales for you to browse.

Best Castles in North Wales

conwy castle

The North is home to a number of castles which were once either grand stately homes or used as defensive platforms in the invasion of Wales.

Across North Wales, you will find many castles in differing states of preservation, including some of the most well-preserved in Europe.

During your visit to this part of the country, be sure to visit our selection of the best castles to visit in North Wales, beginning with Conwy Castle. Visit this magnificent fortress, which towers over the quintessential North Wales town of Conwy, that was built in four years between 1283 and 1287.

Clamber the spiral staircase and stroll along the walls or explore Edward I’s King’s Chambers, which was built by Master James of St George for an estimated cost of £15,000.

Another of King Edward I’s castles is Harlech Castle, which boasts a coastal position. This commanding castle of North Wales was used to watch over Snowdonia National Park, as well as containing the Welsh.

Another castle to visit in North Wales is Powis Castle. Throughout the years this castle has seen continual occupation, allowing it to be one of the best preserved and renewed castles in Wales. Whilst here, you can explore the collection of art and historical items from Europe, India and the Orient, as well as spending time in the award-winning garden.

Best Castles in South Wales

cardiff castle

Much like North Wales, South Wales boasts a magnitude of castles and ruins, filled with a legacy from the Norman conquest in the 12th century.

By exploring these South Wales castles, you can expect to gain an insight into Wales’ past, as well as an opportunity to enjoy some of the country’s finest landscapes.

Considered one of the best medieval castles in Western Europe, Caerphilly Castle is an impressive building and the second largest castle in Britain, after Windsor.

This famous castle was completed by Gilbert de Clare who built the castle to control of Glamorgan. The design of this castle in South Wales sees a concentric ring of walls and an extensive ring of water defences, serving as a testament to the Anglo-Norman domination of the area of South Wales.

The next South Wales castle which is well worth a visit is Cardiff Castle. Originally a Roman fort, this castle which rests in the capital city of Cardiff was transformed in the 11th century by a Victorian man into a Gothic revival mansion.

Explore this 2000-year-old Gothic masterpiece which boats fairy-tale apartments with opulent interiors which are sure to impress.


2. North Wales vs South Wales – Beaches

How many beaches are there in Wales?

Wales was the first country in the world to have a footpath which clings to the entire coastline of the country, meaning that you guaranteed to find a large number of beaches along the way.

Upon this 870-mile route, you will in fact find more than 150 beaches in Wales. Below we have selected our top beaches in North Wales and South Wales, so you don’t have to look much further to find your ultimate seaside getaway.

Best beaches in North Wales

newborough beach

With a large stretch of coastline, you will be spoilt for choice by beaches in North Wales that await you. Many are backed by the Snowdonia National Park and offer the opportunity to enjoy the golden sands with spectacular views to admire during your beach day.

Considered one of the best beaches in North Wales, is Newborough Beach which rests on the Isle of Anglesey.

Spend a summer’s day lazing on the sands of this Blue Flag beach or enjoy a gentle stroll to Llanddwyn Island, which was once home to Santes Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers. Here, you will find secluded coves, as well as sand and shingle beaches for a quieter North Wales beach experience.

Colwyn Bay is also one of North Wales’ top beaches, playing host to a generous stretch of golden sands and a Victorian promenade, which stretches over three miles which is longer than Rio’s Copacabana.

If you plan on visiting the resort town of Llandudno, you will find a selection of two beaches to choose from, comprising of North Shore and West Shore. Walk along the long pier of North Shore which is situated between the Great Orme and Little Orme, or spend time at the sand-duned beach of West Shore.

Best beaches in South Wales

south wales beach

Beaches in South Wales offer plenty of space for you and your loved ones to spend summer days, whether it be walking along the coastline, sunbathing or partaking in a range of watersports.

If you are visiting the Vale of Glamorgan or making a trip to the city of Cardiff, be sure to spend the day at Barry Island which has welcomed visitors since 1870s.

Famous for its feature in BBC’s Gavin and Stacey, Barry Island plays host to a selection of cafés and eateries, vibrant beach huts and the Pleasure Park offers a range of thrilling rides for all to enjoy.

A more tranquil beach in South Wales to consider visiting is Whitesands Bay. This glorious beach is overlooked by the hill of Carn Llidi and offers views towards St Davids Head, promising a relaxing spot for a day out in Wales.

Alternatively, for those feeling active you could walk along one of the best coastal paths in South Wales to soak up the scenery of this part of Wales further.


3. North Wales vs South Wales – Mountains

How many mountains are there in Wales?

By definition, a mountain in Wales is natural landscapes with a high point reaching above sea-level by 30m. This means that there are an impressive 137 mountains dotted across the country, each one promising spectacular views and an exciting adventure.

Take a look at our selection of mountains to climb in North Wales v South Wales below.

North Wales Mountains

snowdonia

North Wales is home to Wales and England’s largest mountain peak, Snowdon.

This mountain is popular with tourists and with good reason too. This recognisable landmark stands tall over the village of Llanberis and on clear days can offer views of Anglesey, Pembrokeshire and Ireland.

With six routes up to this peak, you are sure to find the one suitable for you. Choose between the Llanberis path, Pyg Track, Miners’ Track, Watkin Path, Rhyd-Ddu Path or the Snowdon Ranger Path.

The perk of having the most visited mountain in the UK is that the limelight is taken away from the other North Wales mountains, which are well worth a visit.

Such mountains include Tryfan, Glyder Fach and Cader Idris. Easier routes within North Wales include Moel Famau, which is the highest point of the Clwydian Hills, and the Great Orme, a small natural area with superb sea views.

South Wales Mountains

pen y fan

South Wales plays host to the wonder that is the Brecon Beacons National Park, boasting miles of green open spaces with opportunities for adventurous walks.

The Brecon Beacons is filled with a variety of altitudes which offer a plethora of differing landscapes with an array of walking opportunities.

The highest mountain of South Wales, Pen y Fan stands at 886m and is owned by the National Trust who manage the footpaths. Whilst on your way to the Pen y Fan peak you will be delighted to find plateaus of grass and heather, as well as endearing waterfalls and woodland landscapes.

For a quieter mountain in South Wales, be sure to explore The Sugar Loaf Mountain which provides a backdrop to the market town of Abergavenny.

This iconic mountain is one of the highest peaks of the Black Mountains, standing at 593m high and offers panoramic views of South Wales and the Brecon Beacons.


4. North Wales vs South Wales – Towns and Villages

From North Wales to South Wales and everywhere in between, there are plenty of places to visit in Wales. Wales has coastal towns, countryside villages and bustling cities, offering something to suit all tastes.

Best places to visit in North Wales

portmeirion

The landscape of North Wales serves up an excellent mixture of destinations to visit, from traditional seaside resorts to quaint towns tucked away in the countryside.

For a taste of Italy, head to the coastal village of Portmeirion. This fairy tale village sits just outside of the Snowdonia National Park and was designed by architect Clough Williams-Ellis.

Explore the heritage of this private peninsula, its coastal surroundings and endearing sub-tropical gardens. Relax at the Mermaid Spa, dine at the award-winning Art Deco restaurant or enjoy a taste of authentic Italian-style gelato during your visit to this North Wales destination.

Abersoch is without a doubt one of the best places to visit in North Wales and sees people returning year after year. This North Wales town is popular due to its glorious beach and internationally-recognised sailing waters, making a great destination for watersport enthusiasts.

Acting as a gateway to Snowdonia is the enchanting village of Betws-y-Coed. Brimming with history, the village was founded around a monastery and grew with the development of the lead mining industry. Today, this North Wales destination is a flourishing hub with walkers, climbers and mountain bikers with so much rugged, yet beautiful landscapes to explore within the surrounding area.

Llangollen is a small town in Denbighshire and is a popular tourist destination in North Wales. Despite its popularity, Llangollen remains a delight place to visit at any time of the year and welcomes thousands of visitors each summer for the International Musical Eisteddfod.

Meander the town centre where you will find a superb range of shops and eateries, as well as opportunities to explore the ruins of Castell Dinas Bran and enjoy a leisurely ride along the Llangollen Canal via horse drawn boat trip.

Best places to visit in South Wales

penarth

Beyond the bright city lights of Cardiff lies a collection of towns and villages – each one boasting a unique character to visit whilst in South Wales.

Found just 5 miles away from the centre of Cardiff is the pretty Victorian seaside town of Penarth, which was once a major coal port and terminal for the Bristol Channel. Known as the ‘Garden by the Sea’, Penarth plays host to an elegant pier and lush parks, offering plenty of things to do. Alternatively, head into the centre where you will find an enticing shopping opportunities and fine dining eateries.

St Davids has a population of around 1,800 so you may have assumed that it is a town or village, however in fact it is the UK’s smallest city. Named after the patron saint of Wales, St. Davids is rich with history and boasts plenty of outdoor adventure for all. Visit this South Wales city to partake in coasteering, sea kayaking, climbing and surfing, or choose to walk the dramatic Pembrokeshire Coastal path.

Our next place to visit in South Wales is the iconic seaside town of Tenby, which can be found resting between the Pembrokeshire hills and Carmarthan Bay. Discover the pastel-hues of Georgian houses which overlook the harbour and the glorious stretch of sand, promising a traditional Welsh seaside destination.

This South Wales destination also plays host to a labyrinth of cobbled streets and alleyways, where you will be spoilt for choice by the traditional pubs, fine dining restaurants and quaint gift shops that are waiting to be explored.

For another place to go whilst in South Wales, be sure to make a stop off at The Mumbles, a seaside retreat, situated just west of Swansea. Once upon a time, this town was poet Dylan Thomas’ favourite haunt due to its glorious coastline. Today however, Mumbles has been reshaped into cosmopolitan town, boasting a vibrant collection of independent eateries and shops.


5. North Wales vs South Wales – Celebrities

From pop stars to sport stars, innovators in science to entrepreneurs, Wales is home to plenty of famous people. We all know that Tom Jones is a Welsh hero, but plenty of other faces from Wales have shaped history and are recognised from across the globe. If you are from Wales then you may already know that these famous people are from Wales, however some of the names below may surprise you.

Famous people from North Wales

Catfish and the bottlemen

North Wales is home to one or two famous residents that you may have heard of. Van McCann, lead singer of Catfish and the Bottlemen comes from the seaside town of Llandudno, whilst a short drive away is Prestatyn which is birthplace of former Countdown co-host Carol Vorderman.

2009’s Brits British Breakthrough, Best British Album and Best Female Solo, Duffy is from North Wales’ only city Bangor, whilst national treasure Dawn French comes from Holyhead on the Isle of Anglesey.

Other famous Welsh people include North Wales sport stars such as footballer Robbie Savage and manager Mark Hughes who are both from Wrexham, as well as rugby star George North, who is from Anglesey.

Famous people from South Wales

Shirley Bassey

A couple of household names and some of the nation’s most influential A-Listers come from South Wales. Such famous faces from Wales include Rob Brydon, who was born in Swansea and co-writer of Gavin and Stacey, Ruth Jones, who is from the South Wales town of Bridgend.

South Wales knows no shortage of Welsh singing talent and Shirley Bassey who is from Tiger Bay, Cardiff and Charlotte Church who is from Llandaff, Cardiff is evidence of this.

Other on screen stars from South Wales include Catherine Zeta Jones who is from Swansea who is known for her roles in ‘The Mask of Zorro’, ‘Chicago’ and ‘Ocean’s Twelve’.


6. North Wales vs South Wales – Language

How many people speak Welsh?

According to a 2018 survey by Office of National Statistics (ONS), 874,700 are able to speak the Welsh language, which is up from 726,600 in 2008. Welsh is natively spoken in Wales, however a few speak it in England and in Y Wladfa, a Welsh colony in Argentina.

But did you know that not everyone speaks the same Welsh? The Welsh language can have many different styles, forms and words that people use across the country. And the differences between the north and the south are striking.

What are the differences between the North Walian and South Walian languages?

Despite being the same country, North Wales and South Wales can have different words for the same meaning. For example…

Now – In North Wales, ‘now’ is ‘Rwan‘, while in South Wales, it’s ‘Nwar

Milk – In North Wales, ‘milk’ is ‘Llefrith‘, while in South Wales, it’s ‘Llaeth

Boy – In North Wales, ‘boy’ is ‘Hogyn‘, while in South Wales, it’s ‘Bachgen

Cake – In North Wales, ‘cake’ is ‘Cacen‘, while in South Wales, it’s ‘Teisen


Can you decide which region has the best castles, beaches, mountains, towns or villages, famous people or language? If you have a best of Wales winner, take a look at our North Wales cottages and our South Wales cottages and secure your next holiday to your favourite Welsh destination. Be sure to share your best of Wales photos with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. 


Image Credits: Batiste Safont(CC BY-SA 4.0); Daniel Kruczynski(CC BY-SA 2.0)

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