The uplands are girdled on the seaward side by a series of steep-sided coastal plateaus ranging in elevation from about 100 to 700 feet (30 to 210 metres).Many of them have been pounded by the sea into spectacular steplike cliffs.

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Although Wales was shaken by the decline of its industrial mainstay, coal mining, by the end of the 20th century the country had developed a diversified economy, particularly in the cities of Cardiff and Swansea, while the countryside, once reliant on small farming, drew many retirees from England.

Tourism became an economic staple, with visitors—including many descendants of Welsh expatriates—drawn to Wales’s stately parks and castles as well as to cultural events highlighting the country’s celebrated musical and literary traditions.

In the face of constant change, Wales continues to seek both greater independence and a distinct place in an integrated Europe.

Wales is bounded by the Dee estuary and Liverpool Bay to the north, the Irish Sea to the west, the Severn estuary and the Bristol Channel to the south, and England to the east.

Protruding from that backbone are two main mountain areas—the Brecon Beacons in the south, rising to 2,906 feet (886 metres) at Pen y Fan, and Snowdonia in the northwest, reaching 3,560 feet (1,085 metres) at Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales.

Snowdonia’s magnificent scenery is accentuated by stark and rugged rock formations, many of volcanic origin, whereas the Beacons generally have softer outlines.

The heartland, which coincides partly with the counties Powys, Denbighshire, and Gwynedd, extends from the Brecon Beacons in the south to Snowdonia in the north and includes the two national parks based on those mountain areas.

To the north and northwest lie the coastal lowlands, together with the Lleyn Peninsula (Penrhyn Llŷn) in Gwynedd and the island of Anglesey.

There is no markedly wet or dry season; roughly 4 inches (88 mm) of precipitation are recorded in April, whereas 6 inches (142 mm) are typical in January.