23 November 2017

Blissful places in Wales to learn the language of heaven

Received wisdom goes that the best way to really get to know a country is to learn its language.  And with Welsh speakers describing their mother tongue as ‘the language of heaven’, why wouldn’t you want to get to know ours? We’ve found some blissful scenery to inspire you to discover our poetic language at five retreats and events in some of the most scenic spots in Wales. Croeso! (that’s ‘you’re welcome’). 

1. Nant Gwrtheryrn 

Nant Gwrtheyrn, Gwynedd, from above looking towards the sea

Nant Gwrtheyrn, Gwynedd by Nant Gwrtheyrn
This Welsh Language and Heritage Centre is perched on the spectacular northern coast of the Llŷn Peninsula, in northwest Wales. On the site of a former quarrying village, the buildings have been repurposed and now provide residential courses for Welsh learners to and truly immerse themselves in the language by practicing speaking, reading and writing. Stone cottages built in 1860 have been transformed into modern 5* Visit Wales-graded accommodation with sea views and Welsh heritage interiors. Just a short walk along the Wales Coast Path, you’ll find a private beach (‘traeth’ in Welsh) and local pub (‘tafarn’ in Welsh), where you can exclaim over the views and practice your drinks order in Cymraeg.

2. Tŷ Newydd

Exterior of Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre

Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre, Snowdonia by Literature Wales / Richard Outram
Tŷ Newydd is the National Writing Centre of Wales, offering residential courses and retreats in both the Welsh and English language. All sorts of genres are covered, including scriptwriting, illustrating, poetry and even yoga under the guidance of professional writers and tutors. The setting is certainly inspirational – the Grade II listed, three-storey Georgian-fronted building was a former home to UK Prime Minister David Lloyd George and is nestled in the countryside village of Llanystumdwy, where more than 70 per cent of the population speak Welsh and use it as their day-to-day language. 

If you want to put pen to paper in one of the most poetic languages in the world, Welsh-language courses at Tŷ Newydd include: Creative Writing for Welsh Learners; Cynganeddu, which studies the ancient craft of strict metre poetry practice in Wales dating back to the fifteenth-century, as well as scriptwriting and editing courses in Welsh. The house boasts six bedrooms and a sociable dining room with original features and, naturally, a library. 

3. The Urdd Centre, Llangrannog 

A group horse riding with sea views in the background.

Horse riding at Llangrannog, Ceredigion by Urdd
If active learning is your bag, then Llangrannog could be your happy place to learn Welsh. The centre is home of the Urdd, the national Welsh language youth movement, and skiing, swimming, bush craft, pony riding, archery and quad biking are just some of the activities on offer at its jaw-dropping beach-side location. Families can take the opportunity to learn Welsh together at one of the centre’s Welsh for the Family weekends, which keep everyone busy with lessons for Welsh learners, loads of high-energy indoor and outdoor activities and even a twmpath (Welsh folk dancing, think a barn dance with bells on- not literal ones) in the evenings. You’ll need to learn the Welsh word ‘morhwch’, (dolphin) too, as Cardigan Bay is home to Britain’s biggest resident population of these amazing sea creatures. Wow! 

4. Aberystwyth University

View of Aberystwyth from above looking towards the pier and Pen Dinas

Aberystwyth, Ceredigion
With its Victorian promenade, seafront and pier, the National Library of Wales and the rugged beauty of Constitution Hill and its cliff railway; Wales’ oldest university town, Aber - as it’s affectionately known - is a special place. Even if you haven’t been lucky enough to study here before, the university offers annual month-long summer courses in Welsh for all levels from beginners through to those who are fluent but would like to practice and improve their accuracy. Accommodation is offered on the university campus for the chance to fully engross yourself in Welsh language and culture in a coastal university town, with restaurants, cafes and culture alive on in the air and in the streets. 

5. The National Eisteddfod of Wales

Looking towards the stage at an evening concert.

Evening concert at the National Eisteddfod by Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru
Forget Glastonbury and Coachella, in Wales we’ve been doing festivals since the year 1176. A celebration of language and culture, the National Eisteddfod is an annual event featuring all things Welsh and travels from north to south and from place to place each summer. With a focus on art, music, writing and performance, the festival attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors and competitors every year and people of all languages and backgrounds can always expect a warm Welsh welcome.

There is a centre for learning Welsh on the Maes (festival site). Head to the Welsh learners’ tent where people from all over the world come together to socialise, compete and practice their Welsh over a cuppa, or ‘paned’, in Welsh. Listen to talks on archaeology, nature, history and sport or try a yoga or dance session through the medium of Welsh. There’s plenty for little learners too, with story sessions and live music throughout the weekend.

Search for accommodation of all kinds near the Eisteddfod site, which comes to our cosmopolitan capital Cardiff in 2018.