Geography of Wales

Geography of Wales

Wales is located on a peninsula in central-west Great Britain. The entire area of Wales is about 20,779 km² (8,023 square miles). It is about 274 km (170 miles) long and 97 km (60 miles) wide. Wales borders England to the east and the sea in the other three directions: the Bristol Channel to the south, St George's Channel to the west, and the Irish Sea to the north. Wales has over 1,200 km (750 miles) of coastline. There are several islands off the Welsh mainland, the largest being Anglesey in the northwest.


Much of Wales's landscape is mountainous, particularly in Snowdonia and the central Cambrian Mountains. The mountains were shaped during the last ice age, the Devensian glaciation. The highest mountains in Wales are in Snowdonia, and include Snowdon ("Yr Wyddfa" in Welsh), which, at 1,085 m (3,560 ft) is the highest peak in Wales. The 14 (or possibly 15) Welsh mountains over 3,000 feet (914 m) high are known collectively as the Welsh 3000s. The Brecon Beacons are in the south and are joined by the Cambrian Mountains in Mid Wales, the latter name being given to the earliest geological period of the Paleozoic era, the Cambrian.

In the mid 19th century, two prominent geologists, Roderick Murchison and Adam Sedgwick used their studies of the geology of Wales to establish certain principles of stratigraphy and palaeontology. After much dispute, the next two periods of the Paleozoic era, the Ordovician and Silurian, were named after ancient Celtic tribes from this area.

Political geography

Border between Wales and England

The modern border between Wales and England is highly arbitrary; it was largely defined by the Laws in Wales Acts 1535-1542, based on mediæval feudal boundaries. It has apparently never been confirmed by referendum or reviewed by any Boundary Commission (except to confirm Monmouthshire as part of Wales in 1968). The boundary line very roughly follows Offa's Dyke from south to north as far as a point about 40 miles from the northern coast, but then swings further east. The boundary separates Knighton from its railway station, virtually cuts off Church Stoke from the rest of Wales, and slices straight through the village of Llanymynech (where a pub actually straddles the line).

Local Government

"See also: Local government in Wales"

Wales is divided into 22 unitary authorities, which are responsible for the provision of all local government services, including education, social work, environment and roads services. Below these in some areas there are community councils, which cover specific areas within a council area. The unitary authority areas are known as the principal areas of Wales. The Queen appoints a Lord Lieutenant to represent her in the eight Preserved counties of Wales.


"See also: List of towns in Wales"

The main population and industrial areas are in South Wales, including the cities of Cardiff, Swansea and Newport and the South Wales Valleys. There are five cities in total in Wales - in addition to the three unitary authorities with City status, the communities of Bangor and St David's also have the status.
*St David's


The Seven Wonders of Wales is a traditional list of seven geographic and cultural landmarks in Wales: Snowdon (the highest mountain), the Gresford bells (the peal of bells in the medieval church of All Saints at Gresford), the Llangollen bridge (built in 1347 over the River Dee), St Winefride's Well (a pilgrimage site at Holywell in Flintshire) the Wrexham steeple (16th century tower of St. Giles Church in Wrexham), the Overton yew trees (ancient yew trees in the churchyard of St Mary's at Overton-on-Dee) and Pistyll Rhaeadr (Wales's tallest waterfall, at 240 ft or 75 m). The wonders are part of the traditional rhyme::"Pistyll Rhaeadr and Wrexham steeple," :"Snowdon's mountain without its people," :"Overton yew trees, St Winefride wells," :"Llangollen bridge and Gresford bells."


*Highest maximum temperature: 35.2°C (95.4°F) at Hawarden Bridge, Flintshire on 2 August 1990.
*Lowest minimum temperature: -23.3°C (-10°F) at Rhayader, Radnorshire on 1 January 1940.
*Bright sunshine: Maximum duration in a month: 354.3 hours at Dale Fort (Dyfed) in July 1955; minimum duration in a month: 2.7 hours at Llwynon (Powys) in January 1962.
*Rainfall: Maximum in a day (09-09 UTC): 211 mm at Rhondda (Gwent) on 11 November 1929.
*Wind: Highest gust recorded at a low-level site: 108 knots (124 m.p.h.) at Rhoose (South Glamorgan) on 28 October 1989. [ Met Office: Welsh climate] ]

On average, Wales is cloudier than England, because of the hilly nature of the terrain and the proximity to the Atlantic. Rainfall in Wales varies widely, with the highest average annual totals in Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons, and the lowest in the east, close to the English border. Throughout Wales, the months from October to January are significantly wetter than those between February and September. Snow is comparatively rare near sea level in Wales, but much more frequent over the hills. The average number of days each year when sleet or snow falls in Wales varies from about 10 or less in some south-western coastal areas to over 40 in Snowdonia.

National Parks

Wales has three designated national parks:
*Brecon Beacons, in the southeast of Wales
*Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, along the Pembrokeshire coast
*Snowdonia National Park in the Snowdonia region of northwest Wales


Wales has many waterfalls, including some of the most striking waterfalls of the United Kingdom. The highest and most famous waterfall in Wales is Pistyll Rhaeadr at 240 ft (75 m). The name of the falls is Welsh for "spring of the waterfall" and is located near the village of Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant. The waterfall is formed by the Afon Disgynfa river, passing over a Silurian cliff. At the end of the falls, the river continues and is known as the Afon Rhaeadr. The falls are counted as one of the Seven Wonders of Wales and are designated as the 1000th Site of Special Scientific Interest by the Countryside Council for Wales, for its importance to Welsh geomorphology. The 19th century English author George Borrow remarked of the waterfall, "I never saw water falling so gracefully, so much like thin, beautiful threads, as here."

Other waterfalls include Aber Falls (Welsh: Rhaeadr Fawr, "big waterfall") at Abergwyngregyn, the Rhaeadr Cynfal falls in Ffestiniog (including Rhaeadr Y Cwm) and Pistyll Blaen Y Cwm in the Marilyn Rhialgwm of the upper Tanat Valley; and in the south, Sgwd Henrhyd near Coelbren, Melincourt falls in Resolven, and several in a small area in the south of the Brecon Beacons National Park.


The largest natural lake in Wales is Llyn Tegid (Bala Lake). Llangorse Lake is second largest.


ee also

*Geology of Wales
*Geography of the United Kingdom
*Geography of England
*Geography of Scotland
*Geography of Ireland

East Wales
Mid Wales



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