Castle capital of the world

Castle capital of the world

Wales also has lush, wooded national parks, dramatic coastlines and charming villages.

Of the three countries that make up the island of Britain, Wales is probably the least familiar to visitors. Scotland is known for its castles and lochs and England has its bustling cities and popular Lake District.

But there is no reason why this should be so. Wales has plenty of greenery and scenery as well, from viridescent, wooded national parks to dramatic coastlines and brooding castles to charming villages.

It offers all that Britain can offer - with an added exotic touch. The written Welsh language has a suspicion of vowels and one is greeted by seemingly improbable signs everywhere. Wales in Welsh, for example, is spelt Cymru and pronounced "kumree".

Everyone speaks English, however, so visitors will enjoy that frisson of something foreign and yet have no problems getting around.

On a trip organised by national tourism agency VisitBritain, we skip the major cities of Cardiff and Swansea and venture deep into the Welsh countryside in a trusty van.

The most direct way of experiencing the countryside is to simply immerse yourself in it. The Brecon Beacons National Park (www.breconbeacons.org) in South Wales is lush and green and peaceful - and a magnet for walkers, climbers, fishermen, canoeists, horse-riders and bird-watchers.

At its heart is the welcoming Gliffaes Country House Hotel (www.gliffaeshotel.com). It is possible to get our fill of nature just pottering around the grounds of the handsome house.

There is even a walk on the estate to take in the almost 40 varieties of trees, including redwoods, oaks, cedars and maples. In autumn, bursts of red add a dash of dazzle to the landscape.

It is a land that I can almost believe is alive with magic, particularly when gazing upon the 4.27m free-standing stone in the middle of a field in the Glanusk estate.

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