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The early settlement of Wales occurred during the neolithic period when people gradually migrated from mainland Europe to occupy the west of Britain. Immigration continued over many centuries and these early Welsh settlers became part of the celtic nation that covered a large part of northern europe. During this early period, Wales was not a separate country but simply a celtic speaking region of Brotain that was known by the Romans as Cambria. When the Romans invaded, they occupied and fortified the entire area but contented themselves with simply mining the Welsh lead and gold. There was insufficient land suitable for the Roman form of agriculture and the country with its wild mountainous regions held little interest for the invaders. They only built one settlement which is today's Caerwent.

The Romans withdrew from Wales during the 5th century. At this time, Britain was subject to invasion from other northern European tribes including the Saxons and the Angles who were to settle the rest of England leaving only the extremities of the island - including Wales - to the indiginous Celts.

The next 500 years seems to have been a golden age which saw the introduction of a formal legal system and the establishment of regional territoral rule under a succession of local princes. The Celtic culture was cherished and bards and harpists were much honoured.

When the Norman conquest of England occurred in 1066 invaders turned their attention to Wales. Despite many years of fierce resistant from the Welsh heros such as Gruffydd ap Cynan and Owain Gwynedd the Normans gradually overran and settled the country, building a network of fortified settlements to keep further rebellion in check. Part of the reason for this defeat was the fact that the regional princedoms failed to combine as a fighting nation and so divided, they fell.

Various Welsh leaders made attempts to regain control of their homeland, but none succeeded. The English King Edward I introduced new statutes limiting Welsh law and in 1301 gave his heir the title of Prince of Wales. The Welsh were now officially part of England although they were permitted their own legal system and they certainly followed their own culture.The Welsh hadn't given up however and the rebelled again in 1400, under the leadership of the greatest of all Welsh heroes, Owen Glendower. The English King Henry IV eventually put down the revolt, but not before suffering a number of embarassing military defeats.

A hundred years or so later a Welshman - Henry Tudor became King Henry VII of England. Ironically, it was his son Henry VIII who introduced the two Acts of Union that legally annexed Wales to England.

Nevertheless, the Welsh people retained their own identity. The industrial revolution witnessed a tremendous upsurge in regional economy and prosperity.They embraced socialism returning the first ever Labour Member of Parliament, Keir Hardy, for the Merthyr seat in 1900. The country did not regain legal national recognition until 1955 when at last England officially became known as England and Wales and in 1998 the National Assembly for Wales was formed which returned a degree of autonomous rule to the Welsh people.

From leeks and laver bread, coal mines and seafood its all there in Wales. For the tourist it is a beautiful country. From the mysterious Druid Isle of Anglesey in the North down through the breathtaking mountains of the Snowdonia National Park along the stunning coast of Cardigan Bay to Pembroke and the Gower Peninsular - itself an official area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. In the centre of the country, the Brecon Beacons are another area of outstanding beauty. For the more sedentary tourist, the great Cities of Cardiff and Swansea hold the sophisticated night life. Restaurants and clubs, shops and museums. And don't miss Cardiff's magnificent Millenium Stadium.


Counties within Wales

Blaenau Gwent : Caernarfonshire : Caerphilly : Cardiganshire : Carmarthenshire : Denbighshire : Flintshire : Isle of Anglesey : Merioneth : Monmouthshire : Montgomeryshire : Pembrokeshire : Rhondda Cynon Taff : Torfaen : Vale of Glamorgan

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