Welsh Cymru, western peninsula and political division (principality)
of Great Britain (1991 pop. 2,798,200), 8,016 sq mi (20,761 sq km),
west of England; politically united with England since 1536. The
capital is Cardiff. Wales is bounded by the Irish Sea (N), by the
Bristol Channel (S), by the English counties of Cheshire, Hereford
and Worcester, and Gloucestershire (E), and by Cardigan Bay and
St. George's Channel (W). Across the Menai Strait is the former
Welsh island county of Anglesey.
The Cambrian Mts. cover most of Wales, with high points at Snowdon
(3,560 ft/1,085 m), Plynlimon (2,468 ft/752 m), and Cader Idris
(2,970 ft/905 m). The eastern rivers-the Dee, Severn, and Wye-drain
into England. The Usk flows through Monmouthshire into the Bristol
Channel. The Towy, Teifi, Taff, Dovey, and Conway rivers lie completely
in Wales. The eastern boundary, drawn in 1536, united England and
Wales politically but disregarded cultural and linguistic distribution.
Welsh-speaking areas were added to England's Herefordshire, Shropshire,
and Gloucestershire; the language survived in Herefordshire until
the 18th cent. and survives to a small extent in Shropshire today.
Wales has maintained a distinctive culture despite its long union
with England. Wales comprises eight counties: Clwyd, Dyfed, Gwent,
Gwynedd, Mid Glamorgan, Powys, South Glamorgan, and West Glamorgan.
In the 1990s about 25% of the population spoke Welsh, although in
certain regions the percentage was much higher. The Univ. of Wales
was created in 1893 by royal charter; it is the collective name
of four constituent colleges-three of them created before the incorporation-at
Aberystwyth (1872), Cardiff (1883), Bangor (1884), and Swansea (1920);
the national school of medicine is also in the system.