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

The National Eisteddfod is the national festival of Wales, its language and culture. This arts festival is also Wales’ oldest festival; the first Eisteddfod was held at Cardigan Castle in 1176, although it was definitively established as an annual event during the 1860s. The festival visits North and South Wales on alternate years.

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, food, music, arts and crafts, design and architecture.

In 2017 the National Eisteddfod will be held 4-12 August in Bodedern on the Isle of Anglesey, North Wales.

The Welsh language

Small child playing by a Welsh sign advertising an event at the National Eisteddfod of Wales

Sign advertising an event at the National Eisteddfod of Wales

 by Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru

You don't have to be a Welsh speaker to enjoy the Eisteddfod, but you’ll never get a better chance to learn and practice a few phrases from the beautiful Welsh language, so head to Maes D (the Welsh learners tent) and have a chat with one of the friendly experts. Even if you don’t manage to perfect your lilt, the Eisteddfod is the place to see native speakers at their finest, with competitions ranging from acting and presentations to solo singers and large choirs, poetry and prose, all delivered in fluent Welsh. 

Gorsedd of the Bards

Two Gorsedd trumpeters playing the Corn Gwlad horns

Trumpeters playing a fanfare on the Corn Gwlad, National Eisteddfod of Wales

 by Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru

Wales is a country that is proud of its poets, and the National Eisteddfod is the main stage for honouring the best of the best. The Gorsedd of the Bards ceremonies in the main pavilion are unmissable spectacles, and under the leadership of the elected Archdruid the identity of the award-winners across various battles of poetic genius is revealed. The two main poetry prizes up for grabs are the chair and the crown, and the winners are honoured with a Floral Dance performed by local children.

Girls from the Floral Dance lining up to perform

Dancers from the Gorsedd of the Bards' Floral Dance - performed to honour the winning poet

 by Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru

The Gorsedd is made up of ‘bards’, and honours people who have made a substantial contribution to the Welsh language and to Wales. Its main function is to promote the poetry, literature, music and the arts in Wales. Only Welsh speakers can be admitted as members of the Gorsedd, and recent well-known additions include BBC Radio 1 DJ Huw Stephens, world-famous opera singer Sir Bryn Terfel, former paralympic athlete Dame Tanni-Grey Thompson and actor Matthew Rhys.

The first Gorsedd ceremony 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

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. The S4C and BBC Cymru/Wales stands hold daily shows for children, which include appearances by their favourite TV characters, and indeed many of the exhibitors at the Eisteddfod will have child-friendly activities available for the festival’s youngest visitors. 

View of the stage and some audience members at an evening concert at the National Eisteddfod

Evening concert at the National Eisteddfod

 by Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru

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 160,000 visitors, so for genuine Welsh culture come and visit the festival of Wales.