Last summer I passed through Wales on my way to England, stopping at the Hay-on-Wye literary festival to meet up with some of my former colleagues from the publishing house where I did my internship. What a welcoming sight the rolling green hills presented while the plane touched down at Cardiff Airport, and how heartening to see the words Croeso y Cymru (“welcome to Wales”) emblazoned on the walls in the arrivals hall! I was so happy to be back then, even if just for a day or two, and even now I often think back to the time when rambling through the beautiful Welsh landscape with just my camera and a packed lunch was my go-to activity on weekends. During my stay in Swansea in 2016, my mother and her partner visited me and together we went on a week-long tour of the south of Wales, passing through Carmarthenshire on our way to Pembrokeshire and back through the Brecon Beacons. As you may have guessed, I took plenty of photos along the way, some of which I want to share here below.
By car is the way to travel in Wales, though it proved rather difficult at times for us who had to get used to driving on the left on those narrow lanes, with hedges blocking the view and local drivers barrelling along at what we saw as a neck-breaking speed. We just missed puffin season on Skomer Island, and so only had the holes they lay their eggs in to admire during our visit there; rain and fog were never that far away, and after a week of eating in pubs we became rather tired of the eternal chips and peas on the side. Still, we did some beautiful hiking in and around the Brecon Beacons, climbed the second-highest mountain in Wales (Pen Y Fan; the highest, Mount Snowdon, I climbed during my first month there), ‘glamped’ in the most adorable wooden ‘pods’ at a YHA, visited some impressive castles and got up close and personal with the local sheep and horse populations. Though the Welsh claim hiraeth as their special characteristic – a word for which there is no English translation, but which is a particular homesickness or melancholy longing the Welsh have for the mountains, the language, the past and the people of Wales – I believe that the foreigner who has fallen in love with Wales can experience the same thing.