‘Now f*** off and stay in England’: The cool reception from Wales

Simon Calder
·3-min read
Welcome break? Aberdyfi, looking out across Cardigan Bay (Simon Calder)
Welcome break? Aberdyfi, looking out across Cardigan Bay (Simon Calder)

“The bold 21st century Wales is here for everyone to discover. There's plenty on offer here.”

Well, that’s what Visit Wales says. With the great cities of the south and many beautiful areas of North Wales on local lockdown, the tourism organisation funded by the government in Cardiff is unsurprisingly directing prospective tourists towards mid-Wales.

The Visit Wales home page features an “Insider’s Guide to Aberystwyth,” promoting “the best places to stay, eat amazing food, shop and chill out”.

In a “Spotlight on Machynlleth”, visitors to the home of the Centre for Alternative Technology are assured: “You’ll meet people who are passionate about art, nature, wholesome food, sustainable living, cycling, and even comedy.”

You might meet some other people, too.

After dozens of visits – alone, with friends or with family – I am as enthusiastic as the tourist board about the wonderful waist of Wales, stretching from Offa’s Dyke to Cardigan Bay.

When ITV’s This Morning invited me on to Monday’s programme to talk about parts of the UK that families could consider for October half-term, I was glad to commend Belfast and Edinburgh as great cities from which to explore Northern Ireland and Scotland respectively.

The most exotic places in England? In my estimation, Brighton and Harrogate, though you may want to heckle.

And goodness, when I nominated Machynlleth, Aberystwyth and all stations to Pwllheli as an autumn break in Wales did people want to heckle.

“Worm!” emailed Kenneth Pedrick of Cardigan. “Why, in God's name, are you sending the English (unbidden by anyone but you) out to the west coast of Wales to infect us with the virus when it's just about the only place in Britain left uninfected, you maggot?”

He was one of the more polite commentators.

Dion Humphreys from Porthmadog wrote: “Absolutely f***ing knob there’s a reason parts of Wales are going in to lockdown, we don’t want you lot bringing more cases to Wales. Now f*** off and stay in England.”

“Absolute scum of a man,” echoed Ffion Elen. “You utter, utter irresponsible idiot. Ceredigion DO NOT want people to visit. How dare you suggest people go on holiday there as it's a low-risk area for Covid. They want to keep it that way!”

In a possibly vain bid to deflect further insults, I have written to Mr Elen, Mr Humphreys and Mr Pedrick to highlight the remarkable alignment between my recommendations and those of the Welsh tourism agency.

I understand the deep concern of any community that is fearful of outsiders spreading this vile virus. Quite rightly, it is for the people of Wales to decide whether, when and which tourists should visit the nation.

The concept of quarantine targeted at visitors from high-risk areas of England, as outlined by the Welsh health minister this week, has merit. But meanwhile there is a tourism economy to support.

“Yes! Bookings can be made now for stays in Wales,” proclaims Visit Wales.

The hundreds of people I inadvertently angered may be glad to hear that I have no further plans to book a stay in Wales.

I intended to inspire travellers to enjoy, responsibly, a part of the UK that is rich in wonders, and hoped their visits would in turn support local businesses.

Anyone who chooses to offer their views in the media must be open to a robust response. I take criticism on the chin and seek to learn from it. Never, though, have I encountered such intense abuse as my well-intentioned remarks triggered this week.

The respondents may count the effect of their combined reaction as a great success. I wish them well.

From the privileged position of someone able to express their views in the media, I simply say: in these difficult times, tourists increasingly cherish the virtues of kindness, tolerance and welcome.

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