Cadernid Gwynedd
Location map of Gwynedd as a principal area

Modern-day county of Gwynedd

County within Wales
Gwynedd shown within Wales as a preserved county

Preserved county within Wales
Gwynedd shown as a county (in districts) between 1974-96

1974–96 county within Wales
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Country Wales
Preserved countyGwynedd
Established1 April 1996
Admin HQCouncil Offices, Caernarfon
Largest cityBangor
 • Type
Gwynedd arms.png

The Arms of the former Gwynedd County Council
Gwynedd Council
 • Control 
 • MPs
 • MSs
 • Total2,535 km2 (979 sq mi)
 • RankRanked 2nd
 • Total117,400
 • RankRanked 14th
 • Density46/km2 (120/sq mi)
  • RankRanked 20th
 • Ethnicity
99.0% White
Welsh language
 • RankRanked 1st
 • Any skills76.1%
Geocode00NC (ONS)
W06000002 (GSS)
ISO 3166 codeGB-GWN

Gwynedd (English: /ˈɡwɪnɪð/; Welsh: [ˈɡʊɨnɛð]) is a county and preserved county (latter with differing boundaries; includes the Isle of Anglesey) in the north-west of Wales. It shares borders with Powys, Conwy County Borough, Denbighshire, Anglesey over the Menai Strait, and Ceredigion over the River Dyfi. The scenic Llŷn Peninsula and most of Snowdonia National Park are in Gwynedd. Bangor is the home of Bangor University.

As a local government area, it is the second largest in Wales in terms of land area and also one of the most sparsely populated. A majority of the population is Welsh-speaking. Gwynedd also refers to being one of the preserved counties of Wales, covering the two local government areas of Gwynedd and Anglesey. Named after the old Kingdom of Gwynedd, both culturally and historically, Gwynedd can also be used for most of North Wales, such as the area that was policed by the Gwynedd Constabulary. The current area is 2,535 square kilometres (979 square miles), with a population of 121,874 as measured in the 2011 Census.[1]


In the past, historians such as J. E. Lloyd assumed that the Celtic source of the word "Gwynedd" meant "collection of tribes" – the same root as the Irish fine, meaning "tribe".[2] Further, a connection is recognised between the name and the Irish Féni, an early ethnonym for the Irish themselves, related to fían, "company of hunting and fighting men, company of warriors under a leader". Perhaps *u̯en-, u̯enə (strive, hope, wish) is the Indo-European stem. The Irish settled in NW Wales, and in Dyfed, at the end of the Roman era. Venedotia was the Latin form, and in Penmachno there is a memorial stone from c. AD 500 which reads: Cantiori Hic Iacit Venedotis ("Here lies Cantiorix, citizen of Gwynedd").[2] The name was retained by the Brythons when the kingdom of Gwynedd was formed in the 5th century, and it remained until the invasion of Edward I. This historical name was revived when the new county was formed in 1974.


View of Tremadog bay
View of Tremadog bay
Gwynedd as a county from 1974 to 1996 when it included the Island of Anglesey
Gwynedd as a county from 1974 to 1996 when it included the Island of Anglesey

See also: Kingdom of Gwynedd

Gwynedd was an independent kingdom from the end of the Roman period until the 13th century, when it was conquered by England. The modern Gwynedd was one of eight Welsh counties created on 1 April 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972. It covered the entirety of the historic counties of Anglesey and Caernarfonshire, and all of Merionethshire apart from Edeirnion Rural District (which went to Clwyd); and also a few parishes of Denbighshire: Llanrwst, Llansanffraid Glan Conwy, Eglwysbach, Llanddoged, Llanrwst and Tir Ifan.

The county was divided into five districts: Aberconwy, Arfon, Dwyfor, Meirionnydd and Anglesey.

The Local Government (Wales) Act 1994 abolished the 1974 county (and the five districts) on 1 April 1996, and its area was divided: the Isle of Anglesey became an independent unitary authority, and Aberconwy (which included the former Denbighshire parishes) passed to the new Conwy County Borough. The remainder of the county was constituted as a principal area, with the name Caernarfonshire and Merionethshire, as it covers most of the areas of those two historic counties. As one of its first actions, the Council renamed itself Gwynedd on 2 April 1996. The present Gwynedd local government area is governed by Gwynedd Council. As a unitary authority, the modern entity no longer has any districts, but Arfon, Dwyfor and Meirionnydd remain as area committees.

The pre-1996 boundaries were retained as a preserved county for a few purposes such as the Lieutenancy. In 2003, the boundary with Clwyd was adjusted to match the modern local government boundary, so that the preserved county now covers the two local government areas of Gwynedd and Anglesey. Conwy county borough is now entirely within Clwyd.

A Gwynedd Constabulary was formed in 1950 by the merger of the Anglesey, Caernarfonshire and Merionethshire forces. A further amalgamation took place in the 1960s when Gwynedd Constabulary was merged with the Flintshire and Denbighshire county forces, retaining the name Gwynedd. In one proposal for local government reform in Wales, Gwynedd had been proposed as a name for a local authority covering all of north Wales, but the scheme as enacted divided this area between Gwynedd and Clwyd. To prevent confusion, the Gwynedd Constabulary was therefore renamed the North Wales Police.

The Snowdonia National Park was formed in 1951. After the 1974 local authority reorganisation, the park fell entirely within the boundaries of Gwynedd, and was run as a department of Gwynedd County Council. After the 1996 local government reorganisation, part of the park fell under Conwy County Borough, and the park's administration separated from the Gwynedd council. Gwynedd Council still appoints nine of the eighteen members of the Snowdonia National Park Authority; Conwy County Borough Council appoints three; and the Welsh Government appoints the remaining six.


The county has a mixed economy. An important part of the economy is based on tourism: many visitors are attracted by the many beaches and the mountains. A significant part of the county lies within the Snowdonia National Park, which extends from the north coast down to the district of Meirionnydd in the south. But tourism provides seasonal employment and thus there is a shortage of jobs in the winter.

Agriculture is less important than in the past, especially in terms of the number of people who earn their living on the land, but it remains an important element of the economy.

The most important of the traditional industries is the slate industry, but these days only a small percentage of workers earn their living in the slate quarries.

Industries which have developed more recently include TV and sound studios: the record company Sain has its HQ in the county.

The education sector is also very important for the local economy, including Bangor University and Further Education colleges, Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor and Coleg Menai, both now part of Grŵp Llandrillo Menai.

Welsh speakers

The proportion of respondents in the 2011 census who said they could speak Welsh.
The proportion of respondents in the 2011 census who said they could speak Welsh.

Gwynedd has the highest proportion of people in Wales who can speak Welsh. According to the 2011 Census, 65.4% aged three and over stated that they could speak Welsh.[3] It is estimated that 83% of the county's Welsh-speakers are fluent, the highest percentage of all counties in Wales.[4] The highest percentages of Welsh speakers in Gwynedd are within the 5–15 age group, with 92.3% of those people stating that they could speak Welsh.[4]

The proportion of Welsh speakers in Gwynedd declined between 1991 and 2001,[5] from 72.1% to 68.7%, even though the proportion of Welsh speakers in Wales as a whole increased during that decade to 20.5%.[5] The Annual Population Survey estimates that as of 30 June 2022, 76.3% of those in Gwynedd who are three-years-old and above can speak Welsh.

There has been considerable inwards migration to Gwynedd, particularly from England. According to the 2011 census, 66.8% were born in Wales whilst 27.4% were born in England.[6] According to the 2021 census, 66.6% were born in Wales whilst 27.1% were born in England.[3]

Notable people

T. E. Lawrence, 1918
Bryn Terfel, 2013
Bryn Terfel, 2013

See also


  1. ^ "Custom report - Nomis - Official Labour Market Statistics".
  2. ^ a b Bedwyr Lewis Jones. Enwau (Llyfrau Llafar Gwlad) (Llanrwst, Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, 1991), p. 5–6.
  3. ^ a b "Welsh speakers by local authority and broader age groups, 2001 and 2011 census". StatsWales. Welsh Government. Archived from the original on 10 February 2018. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
  4. ^ a b "Anglesey & Gwynedd Joint Local Development Plan Topic Paper 10: Welsh Language & Culture" (PDF). Gwynedd County Council. Gwynedd County Council. February 2015. Retrieved 21 November 2011.
  5. ^ a b Census shows Welsh language rise. 14 February 2003. Retrieved 12 April 2007.
  6. ^ "Custom report - Nomis - Official Census and Labour Market Statistics". Retrieved 4 November 2022.

Coordinates: 52°50′N 3°55′W / 52.833°N 3.917°W / 52.833; -3.917