A few years ago I wrote Quacky's 5 part guide to England. Here are my thoughts on the principality.
My first ever solo holiday back in 1997 was to Wales. It wasn't very far into Wales since the book town of Hay-on-Wye sits right on the border but still you knew you were in a different country when you saw every sign in two languages!
Wales is a sparsely populated country and from what I can gather there is a North/South split. The bulk of the population lives in the south in the Cardiff/Newport sprawl with a another sizeable mass further west in Swansea. The North is "dominated" by Wrexham with every other town being, by English standards small.
For most the gateway is the M4 and the South is dominated by Cardiff/Newport. I have to be honest its not something I can warm to, the South is the valleys and ex mining towns. I can't really say I found these overly attractive. There are fine castles (Caerphilly) but the towns seem run down, this may be very unfair but I find that of Northern Mining towns of England as well. Of course if you move away from the M4 and Cardiff/Newport bit things improve, Chepstow is a nice town and Usk is delightful. Monmouth is another decent town. But to me the beauty of the South is not seen until you sweep past Swansea, South West Wales and its coast is lovely. There are few towns and none of any size. It feels a lot like Cornwall, but probably slightly more pleasant! Cornwall has fabulous coasts but in Pembrokeshire the countryside is lovely as well.
North Wales is different. It has a road, A55, running its length but there are no large urban conurbations dominating the area. It therefore has a more diverse feel, that's not to say that it's town sare universally "nicer" (whatever that means) just that away from the coast it has a spree of decent market towns less dominated by industry. The North is the home of Snowdonia a land of rugged beauty.
The North West feels even more a land apart, Anglessey is an island and the Lleyn Peninsula feels more isolated than Cornwall. Its a place I want to go back to and explore.
If I'm honest I feel more at home in the North than the South.
And then there is mid Wales, the land that time forgot! There are no big towns just a stream of small towns that make me feel like a child in the 1970's! It has a totally different feel to the North and South. There is nothing like it in England.
Oh yes you might compare the Brecon Beacons (absolutely lovely I might add) to areas of England but nowhere in England is as devoid of a population centre. It doesn't strike me as a touristy area - some good walking, wildlife etc but nowhere really for families.
The drive from Carmarthen in the South to Hay-on-Wye is lovely.
My regret is that I know mid-Wales less well than I should, I've visited Hay many times but I often turn East to England. Something I should not do!
I haven't mentioned the language. You occasionally here people speaking in total gibberish (well it is to me!) so what? It's Wales some people speak Welsh!
Last year I had two holidays in Wales, I can pay no higher tribute than saying that I certainly want to go back again soon.
Goes to plan 2011!!