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8 Reasons Wales Rocks!

Saturday 1 March is St David's day, the Welsh national day. Wales has an original language, an original people, and an original spirit. And their cheese is pretty killer too. Wales is about to be put even more firmly on the map, when Newport hosts the 2014 NATO Summit in September. Check out all the amazing things Wales has to offer!

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Wales is one of the most unique areas of the United Kingdom. A land of beautiful scenery, great culture and accomplished people, it's an amazing destination for visitors from all over the world.

1. Home of Grilled Cheese!!!!!

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The Welsh are particularly skilled in the craft of cheese-making. In fact, the Welsh love their cheese so much that back in the eigth century, Welsh ruler Hywel Dda declared that in a divorce, all cheeses washed in brine went to the wife, and all hung cheeses went the husband. Seems fair.

Monday, January 24th has been declared “UK National Welsh Rarebit Day.” What exactly is Welsh Rarebit, you ask? No, it’s not under-cooked rabbit--it’s simply a piece of crispy toast smothered with a homemade cheese spread baked to brown and bubbling perfection. That's right! Along with everything else, you can thank the Welsh for grilled cheese! Yum!

2. Doctor Who: Dematerializing throughout Wales since 1960

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From the 1960s to the present day, landscapes throughout Wales have been the sound stage for Doctor Who. The BBC offers an interactive map of Wales that shows how each location was used. The Doctor likes the great Welsh indoors, too: the show’s filming studio is in Cardiff Bay. Really dedicated Whovians can check out the Doctor Who Experience, a guided tour of sites where the show is filmed. Where in Wales will the twelfth Doctor go when he materializes this December? Who knows? (Geddit?)

3. Toga! Toga! Toga!

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There are three major universities in Cardiff and the surrounding area, with a collective student body of over 65,000 undergraduates. Cardiff is not only a great place to study (and eat grilled cheese)—it's also one of the least expensive major cities in the UK, making it a great place for post-grads to live. And an even better recruiting ground for major employers, especially in the creative industries that are growing alongside Cardiff's rising local art.

4. Tom Jones: Not Unusual in Wales

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Welsh men and women have made their mark across the globe in everything from film to politics to literature. Catherine Zeta-Jones, Anthony Hopkins, Christian Bale, Michael Sheen, and Rhys Ifans are just some of the Welsh-born actors who have starred in critically-acclaimed movies. And you can thank a Welshman for this scintillating post, and indeed everything else you love online, because Donald Watts Davies is considered the "father of the Internet.”

Duffy won the 2009 Grammy Award for her album Rockferry, which includes the smash hit "Mercy.” Sir Tom Jones has been creating music for over fifty years, and can always be counted on to explain all the reasons She’s A Lady. Dame Shirley Bassey has been wooing, soothing, and scintillating audiences since the 1950s, and proved at last year’s 85th Academy Awards that she's still got what it takes to thrill. Goldfingerrrrrrrrr!!!

5. Rugby

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Rugby is the national sport of Wales, which ranks as a tier-1 nation according to the International Rugby Board (IRB). Cardiff's Millennium Stadium provides an iconic, state-of-the art home for Welsh rugby that hosted the opening ceremony of last year's Rugby League World Cup. According to the IRB, there are almost 80,000 competitive players across Wales, which just goes to show how important Rugby is in Welsh culture. Up the Red Dragons!!

6. History and Myth

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Wales's recorded history begins way back with the Romans, but Welsh people traditionally trace their history back even further. Wales is also believed to have been ruled by King Arthur, creating many myths that are still alive and well today. By 1215, Llywelyn Fawr (Llywelyn the Great) had united most of Wales under his rule, calling himself the Prince of Wales.

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In 1282, English King Edward I began colonizing Wales. According to legend, Edward I brought several Welsh leaders to Caernarfon castle, where he asked them if they would serve a king who did not speak English. Thinking that Edward meant one of their own, they happily agreed. Edward then revealed his newborn son (who, being a baby and all, was unable to speak any language) as the leader they'd just "agreed" to. By 1301, the future Edward II was officially titled the Prince of Wales. The title stuck for future heirs apparent to the British monarchy. Prince Charles is the current Prince of Wales, and his sons William and Harry often use Wales as their surname.

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Medieval rulers left a legacy in Wales in the form of over 600 castles. That’s more castles per square mile than any other country in the world! They include Cardiff Castle, Caernarfon Castle, Caerphilly Castle, and Conwy Castle. Of course, the people being subjugated by the occupants of these castles didn't see them in quite the same picturesque light we do today.

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During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Wales industrialized and became a hub for copper, coal and slate mining. David Lloyd George became the first Welsh Prime Minister of the UK in 1916 and led the UK through World War I. The 20th century also saw a swelling of national pride in Wales—in 1997 the Welsh voted to create the National Assembly for Wales, allowing Wales to become a distinct constitutional entity in the UK for the first time in over 450 years.

Y Ddraig Goch- The Welsh Dragon

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No one is entirely certain where Y Ddraig Goch, the red dragon, came from, but many believe it originates from Roman battle insignia. The first Tudor King, Henry VII, was the first to put the red dragon on his coat of arms, but it wasn’t until 1959 that the current Queen commanded that the red dragon be placed on the Welsh national flag. Today, Y Ddraig Goch is a recognised national symbol for Wales.

7. Cardiff!

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Cardiff is the capital of Wales and among the largest metro areas in the UK, home to over a million people. Its financial, business, sport and creative industries sectors are on the rise, making Cardiff a top destination for investment and tourism. It even has its very own castle!

8. Yr Iaith Gymraeg- The Welsh Language

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“Croeso i Gymru!” may be the very first thing you hear or read when you arrive in Wales. The Welsh language, or “yr iaith Gymraeg”, is the oldest language spoken in Britain. About one in five Welsh people speak at least some Welsh, and you can try it out for yourself!

However, you may want to wait until you’re more advanced before attempting to pronounce the name of this place. It means “The Church of St Mary in the hollow of the white hazel near the rapid whirlpool and the church of St. Tysilio near a red cave.” (Phew.) There’s also a fun song to help you with your pronunciation.