Former Welsh rugby union legend, Shane Williams, talks about his career, the places of his heart and what Wales means to him.

There’s no place like home

I’ve lived in Wales all my life, in the Amman Valley. Even though it’s home, I still count it as one of my favourite places to go in Wales. I enjoy the fact that it’s peaceful and quiet – you have the Black Mountains on one side and the Betws Mountains on the other. When you look around, you’re deep in the valley and there’s something quite special about that for me.

Shane Williams cycling in the Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons, Powys
Shane Williams cycling in the Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons, Powys
Shane Williams cycling in the Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons, Powys

I suppose I love it because I grew up with so much to do at home. I go out on the bike and cycle over to Llangadog or Llandovery and because there’s very little traffic at, it feels so safe, which makes enjoying the views even easier. And if that’s not enough, I live twenty minutes away from the sea- whether it be Swansea or the Mumbles. As a kid I used to go down there for a nice ice cream- whatever the weather. I still visit the coast often with my family. I think it’s easy to take for granted but I love having it on my doorstep.

Wales, our rich culture and of course Welsh rugby – it’s almost the stuff of myth and legend. I’m a very proud Welshman (as you can tell!) and for me, there’s no place like home, that’s for certain.

Image of Three Cliffs Bay taken from dunes looking out at the Three cliffs and the sea
Three Cliffs Bay, Gower Peninsula, Swansea, South Wales

As pretty as a picture

I’ve travelled a lot and certainly seen some of the most picturesque places in the world and I’d say Wales is definitely up there.

There’s always somewhere to go on a road trip or bike ride with the family. I love packing a picnic and just hitting the road to find a spot in a national park surrounded by miles and miles of greenery. You can be alone and not see another person for hours, yet still feel so safe and welcome.

There are so many things to do, but sometimes it’s just the peace and quiet I love the most. Going for a walk and taking some time for myself, the beauty is that there’s plenty of places to explore.

One of my favourite places to visit recently is Tenby. I’ve been lucky enough to have completed a couple of Ironman competitions there and I’ve come to know the area really well. It’s such a pretty fishing town, with one of the cleanest beaches in the world. Even though I’m a regular there now, I still think it’s like walking onto the scene of a postcard. It’s beautiful.

Shane Williams in a wetsuit running into the sea in training for Ironman Wales triathlon on Tenby's North beach
Shane Williams running along  Tenby's North beach in training for Ironman Wales triathlon
Shane Williams in training for Ironman Wales triathlon on Tenby's North beach

Wales and the world

One of the things that struck me was that, it doesn’t matter where you go in the world, you’ll meet someone with a connection to Wales. They may not have travelled themselves, but they’ll know a town name or a brand that’s produced here.

When I was in Japan, I’d take small bottles of Penderyn Whiskey with me for people to try. I wanted to help people understand Wales and our culture… and to my surprise, some of the locals had already heard of it! It just goes to show that for a small country, we punch way above our weight.

The thing that people always comment on is how friendly and welcoming they find Wales. I love that. I like to think that we’re relaxed but love a good bit of hospitality! It’s exactly like exploring Wales- you can be in the middle of nowhere for ultimate tranquillity or try some adrenaline-filled activity all in the same place. There’s not many other countries I’ve visited across the world with that on offer…

Shane Williams cycling in the Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons, Powys
Shane Williams cycling in the Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons, Powys

Related stories