The National Eisteddfod – a wonderful week at the festival of Wales

The National Eisteddfod is the national festival of Wales, its language and culture. Its origins date back to the 12th century, although it was definitively established as an annual event during the 1860s. Even then, a powerful storm almost put paid to one of the early events, but organisers voiced their determination to see it succeed after thousands of people showed up to celebrate the best in Welsh writing, music and performing.

Annually the National Eisteddfod takes place for eight days at the start of August, and the central festival field is a vibrant one, teeming with stands, stalls and shops, music, arts and crafts, design and architecture.

The pink pavilion

The Pink Pavillion in 2007, Mold, North Wales Borderlands

The Pink Pavilion in 2007, Mold, North Wales Borderlands

 by Leslie Platt

A special pink pavilion will be home to a multitude of hotly-contested competitions, pitting the country’s creative best against each other in a bid to win the judges’ approval and stroll off with a prize. The festival travels to a different part of the country each year, but although it’s always different, it never loses its most intrinsic theme: the Welsh language.

The Welsh language

Coffee advert at National Eisteddfod 2012

Coffee advert, National Eisteddfod 2012, Vale Of Glamorgan

 by Wales On View

You’ll never get a better chance to learn and practise a few phrases from the beautiful Welsh language, so head to the central learning centre and have a drink with one of the friendly experts. Even if you don’t manage to perfect your lilt, this is the place to see native speakers at their finest, with competitions ranging from sketches and presentations to group singsongs, love letters and prose, all delivered in fluent Welsh. 

Another singularly unmissable spectacle is the Gorsedd Ceremony. A ritualistic occasion with druidic origins, this get-together of bards takes place three times during the course of the Eisteddfod, complete with colourful outfits, plenty of chanting and the unveiling of the award-winners across various battles of poetic genius.

The Eisteddfod originally took place in London’s Primrose Hill in 1792 as a concerted attempt to emphasise the Welsh origins of Celtic culture and heritage. Centuries later, the procession remains as impassioned as it was back then – visit any festival in the world and you’ll never see anything quite like this.

Something for the kids

Children in a procession at the Gorsedd Ceremony, National Eisteddfod 2008

Gorsedd Ceremony, National Eisteddfod 2008, Cardiff

The Science and Technology Pavilion is always a popular draw for the kids, ablaze with experiments, demonstrations and fun and games with a keen eye on taking learning out of the classroom in style. And the dance, music and performance tents carry on well into the evening, fuelled by visiting chefs from some of the finest food and drink producers in the land.

Each year the National Eisteddfod attracts around 150,000 visitors, so for genuine Welsh culture come and visit the festival of Wales.