Rock star, author, disc jockey and newly minted Visit Wales ambassador Cerys Matthews explains the Year of Legend, what she loves best about her home country and where in Wales you should be heading to next
Congratulations on being made a Visit Wales ambassador! You grew up in Wales, toured the world and lived in the USA – how does Wales compare with the rest of the planet?
Well that’s the beauty of it. Sometimes it takes leaving a place to realise what makes that place unique. It gives you a really good perspective on your own country and it allows you to weigh everything up and appreciate it all anew.
Do you keep Wales close to your heart on your travels?
It’s hard for me to separate my sense of identity from the place I was brought up in. It doesn’t mean I’m not interested in other people’s cultural heritage. This campaign, to remind us not only of the legends of the past in Wales but also what’s going on now, is something I’ve done for the past 20 years – going round the world, touring. People ask where I’m from because of my accent. Believe it or not, people outside of Wales still find it hard to place Wales. So it’s great to be a part of this – I’ve been doing it all my life anyway.
Do you find that when you go back into Wales you can almost review it from a travellers’ perspective?
Winter in Snowdonia (Dreamstime)
Definitely – whether walking up those mountains or seeing Snowdonia, or just driving up through those valleys. The magnificence and magnitude of that landscape; every time you turn it takes your breath away. You also remember small things about Wales as well: the accent, the sing-song and the language. These are things I don’t hear day to day in London. That’s one of the things David, our Patron Saint, said way back in the 5th century. He said, ‘do the small things’, so he predates the Queen’s Christmas message by some six centuries!
Do you have a favourite place in Wales?
It’s really hard to pick! But there’s a song in Wales called ‘Ar Lan y Môr’ (By the seaside) and it’s from Pembrokeshire. It’s where my family are from and where I spent my summers. When I sing that song, because it’s from that region, there’s a verse in it that sings about a flat stone on the seashore, on the rocky beach. If the sun’s out and it’s warmed up that big rock, you can lie there listening to the bird song and letting the sun come through your eyelids. That to me is as close to heaven as you can get.
What’s coming up as part of Wales’ Year of Legend?
There are so many things going on! Recently we celebrated love in a uniquely Welsh style. We have our own patron saint of love, St Dwynwen. She was a hermit on the tiny tidal island of Llanddwyn up in Anglesey – it’s got sand dunes and it’s just you, the sea and the end of the world. We celebrate her on St Dwynwen’s Day, 25 January. There’s a load of festivals going on as well so check the website! They’ve been going on for centuries, I think we were some of the earliest people to celebrate literature and poetry competitions in the pub. There’s my own festival, The Good Life Experience (15-17 Sept), and the No. 6 Festival (7-10 Sept). Oh, and the food festival in Abergavenny, too!
For more information about Wales’ Year of Legend go to www.visitwales.com
Main image: Cerys Matthews