Welsh as a second language!
A whl of a wrd!
(A Whale of A Word)
From Bwlchgwyn to Ysbyty Ystwyth, Wales is dotted with towns and villages devoid of those little letters the English language relies upon to make words work.
Of course, we all know that all these names are actually crammed with vowels – just not the ones used in English.
But that’s no help to your average tourist facing a tongue-twisting barrage of letters on road signs.
So here’s a guide to a selection of the most befuddling place names Wales has to offer.
Ynysybwl (Un-niss-uh-bull) You’ll have to take our word for it that there isn’t a sneaky vowel hiding behind that strategically placed branch. Take it from us, Ynysybwl is all consonants (except in Welsh).
Tywyn (tuh-winn) The Gwynedd town of Tywyn boasts a fine coastal location, the terminus of the Talyllyn railway, and is definitely not to be confused with Towyn, in Conwy.
Ysbyty Cynfyn (Uss-butty Cun-vin) So small it doesn’t even have a sign, Ysbyty Cynfyn is little more than a church and two farms on the A4120 near Devil’s Bridge, Ceredigion.
Rhyl (Rill) Probably Wales’ most famous vowel-free place, and, for that matter, probably the easiest to pronounce as well.
Plwmp (like the English word plump, pronounced by somebody from the north) Plwmp is halfway between Aberaeron and Cardigan, and has to be Wales’ most entertaining place to say out loud.
Cwm (Cwm) Wales isn’t short of valleys, so you can only think the founders of this Blaenau Gwent village might have come up with a more original name.
Mwnt (munt, rhyming with a northern English pronunciation of hunt) One of Wales’ best beaches.
Cwmystwyth (Cwm-uss-twith) High in the hills above Aberystwyth lies the village of Cwmystwyth, where silver, lead and zinc has been mined since the Bronze Age.
Cwmtwrch (Cwm-turch) Forget the Isaf bit – that just indicates that this sign if for the lower bit of the gloriously vowel-free village of Cwmtwrch, in the Swansea Valley.
Bryn (Brinn) You can find Bryn by heading over the hill behind Maesteg. Fittingly then, Bryn means hill.
Ysbyty Ystwyth (Uss-butty Uss-twith) A rare two-worded vowel-less village, remote Ysbyty Ystwyth once belonged to the Order of the Knights of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem.
Rhydymwyn (Ree-duh-moin) Just up the A541 from Mold.
Bwlchgwyn (Bull-ch-gwin) Situated just north-east of Wrexham, Bwlchgwyn is barely a stone’s throw from the similarly unvoweled village of Gwynfryn.
Crymych (pronounced Crum-ich, ch as in the Scottish loch) A village of around 400 inhabitants in Pembrokeshire’s beautiful Preseli mountains, Crymych provides a stern test for the uninitiated with two differing pronunciations of the letter Y.
Happy travels around Wales. The Country-side is beautiful, the Welsh are extremely lovely and hospitable. It’s a well worth visit. We can’t say if SIRI will work in Wales, we will have to give a try the next time we travel through!
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Dianne & Mike