Geography of Wales
Small country - big views
For a small country we have a varied and dramatic landscape. It is only 274 km (170 miles) from north to south and 97 km (60 miles) east to west
There are nearly three million of us living here. The main population and industrial areas are in south Wales, where you’ll find Cardiff, our capital city. The Wrexham area in north east Wales is also quite densely populated.
Here in Wales you’re never far from a mountain or the sea - so it’s no wonder walkers, cyclists, surfers and sailors love to come and visit.
To the east we have England - leaving us with three other sides of sea, which explains over 1,200km (750 miles) of coastline. Gower, Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Cardigan Bay all have wonderful, clean beaches and some surprising marine life.
Visitors to our shores include dolphins, porpoises, basking sharks, Atlantic grey seals and leatherback turtles. Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion are seen as an area of international importance for bottle nosed dolphins, and New Quay in Cardigan Bay has the only summer residence of bottle nosed dolphins in the UK.
The Gower Peninsula was the first area in the whole of the UK to be designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in 1956.
There are also several islands off the Welsh mainland, the largest being Ynys Môn (Anglesey) in the northwest.
Shaped by the last Ice Age, some 10,000 years ago, our landscape is mountainous, particularly in north and mid Wales.
The highest mountains are in the dark and craggy Snowdonia range in the north, and include Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa), which, at 1085 m (3,560 ft) is the highest peak in Wales.
As you travel south you will notice the landscape becomes much softer, though the hills remain of course. In mid Wales we have the Cambrian Mountains and moving further south The Brecon Beacons (highest point Pen-y-Fan 886m (2,907ft).
South Wales, where the industrial revolution really took hold, has a very different feel from the rest of Wales, which is generally more rural. Here you will find the steep-sided valleys once home to our coal mines, carved up by rivers like the Rhondda, Taff, Rhymney and Cynon.