Dundee is a lively, friendly city in a dramatic location at the mouth of the River Tay on Scotland's east coast. Life sciences research, the arts, business, education, hi-tech manufacturing, telecommunications and tourism are Dundee's new found talents. Previously Dundee boasted a premier whaling port and was the centre of the world textile trade. Dundee serves up a unique quality of life with more hours of sunshine, the purest air quality and more green spaces than any other Scottish city.
Even prior to its Victorian heyday, Dundee was a town of considerable importance. It was here in 1309 that Robert the Bruce was proclaimed the lawful King of Scots, and during the Reformation it earned itself a reputation for tolerance, sheltering leading figures such as John Knox. After destruction by the Jacobite Viscount Dundee, the city picked itself up in the 1800s, its train and harbour links making it a major centre for shipbuilding, whaling and the manufacture of jute. This, along with jam and journalism (the three Js which famously defined the city) has all but disappeared, with only local publishing giant D.C. Thomson, publisher of the timelessly popular Beano and Dandy comics, as well as a spread of other comics and newspapers, still playing a meaningful role in the city.
Wales lies west of England and is separated from England by the Cambrian Mountains. It is bordered on the northwest, west, and south by the Irish Sea and on the northeast and east by England. Wales is generally hilly; the Snowdon range in the northern part culminates in Mount Snowdon (3,560 ft, 1,085 m), Wales's highest peak.
As to the rugged mountains of my country, well they form the spine of the land and as such are called the Cambrian Mountains. In ranging those 190 miles from the country of Gwynedd in the north to Glamorgan in the south, there are many prominent peaks which rise from within. None however, can be more so than Snowdon, for it is she that is the highest peak in Wales. With her attendant peaks she forms the Eyrie, the one time 'Home of the Eagles'; from where one can see by looking north, the Island of Mon (Anglesey); the one time garden of Gwynedd, lying at their feet.
Cardiff is the largest city in Wales and became the capital city of Wales in 1955. It is a stylish town which has gained in confidence since the recent establishment of the Welsh Assembly (devolved power for Wales) in the regenerated Cardiff Bay. It also has the best shopping in Wales: pedestrianised Queen Street is the centre, but the Victorian arcades which branch off St. Mary Street are more fascinating. The new St. David's Centre has just opened with its huge central gallery, and its incredible John Lewis store is probably the best department store you will find outside London.
The National Museum and Gallery is a bit of a jewel. A vast collection in a beautiful building, it effectively manages to combine exhibits of both art and science. The "Evolution of Wales" gallery is permanently on display and charts Wales over 4,600 million years using robotics and audio-visual effects (too many rocks, but good dinosaurs). Free admission.
The city skyline is dominated by the Millennium Stadium. One of the best sports stadiums in Britain was built for the 1999 Rugby World Cup. It has a retractable roof which proves handy for keeping the merciless Welsh sun off the athletes and spectators. It is possible to take a stadium tour. If you don't want to leave your computer, try the 360° virtual tour.
Swansea and The Gower
Swansea is Wales's "City by the Sea" - the second-largest city in Wales is situated right on the broad sweep of sand that is Swansea Bay (the beach is within easy walking distance of the city centre). Once a large, industrial port, the city has been cleaned-up and is now making the most of its maritime heritage.
The old South Dock has been converted into a posh, architecturally interesting marina. The marina is now dominated by the 107m Meridian Quay Tower - the tallest building in Wales. Have a meal at the penthouse restaurant with amazing views (Tel. 01792 301155 for reservations).
The £30m National Waterfront Museum has just opened, telling the story of Wales's industrial and maritime heritage. It's an impressive glass and steel modern buiding on the waterfront - and it's free to get in.
The impressive, new £32m Leisure Centre (LC) has just opened. It has a fantastic leisure pool, real state-of-the-art (I know - I've tried it) with all the latest slides including the "Masterblaster" - a long roller-coaster ride which blasts riders uphill on jetted water. It's ideal for the kids on a wet day. It also has the "Surf Rider", the only artificial surfing ride in the UK. I tried it - it's blinking difficult!
Swansea's most famous son is the poet Dylan Thomas, and you can follow his life from his childhood in Swansea to his death in New York in the permanent exhibition at the Dylan Thomas Centre. There you will find unique archive material, original sound recordings (from famous works such as "Under Milk Wood"), and a "spelling wall" with magnetic words taken from Dylan's poems. Free admission.
England & Wales
The UK unit of currency is the pound sterling (£). In London we often call one pound (£1) a "quid" and sometimes a "nicker".
Northern Ireland still uses pounds sterling, while southern Ireland has moved to Euros. Northern Irish pounds ARE legal tender in England but you will rarely see them.
Scottish notes and coins ARE legal tender in England, but some shopkeepers may not be keen to accept them as they don't recognize them. You won't have problems at the tourist attractions in central London, but if you go further afield you may not be able to spend them.
National passports and identity cards are acceptable documents for EU and EEA citizens and national passports and visas are acceptable documents for non-European nationals.