Discover why Welsh former international rugby player Sam Warburton describes Wales as a place like no other and why it has stolen his heart.

Wales is a place like no other

Living here, I think I take it for granted how accessible everything is. I’m lucky to have travelled to beautiful countries around the world and never have I experienced anything like home.

I love being able to take an hour drive to the Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) National Park, and in the winter, go walking up Pen-y-Fan. The weather might be relatively mild in Cardiff, but then when you get to Brecon, it’s a winter wonderland, crisp air and snow. It’s beautiful.

Some of my favourite places are in West Wales. I love a weekend trip to Gower and Pembrokeshire. Each time you return you’re shocked again at the beauty — we have some of the most amazing coastline and it’s all within a two-hour drive from where I live. We’re spoiled, really!

The older I get and the more experiences I have, the more special I think Wales is.

Pen y Fan and Corn Du in snow, Brecon Beacons, Powys
Tor Bay,View towards Oxwich, Beach near Penmaen, Gower Peninsula, Swansea County
Pen y Fan and Corn Du in snow, Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons), Powys, and Tor Bay, view towards Oxwich near Penmaen, Gower Peninsula, Swansea County

A world-class stadium

It’s really difficult to put into words how I feel about Principality Stadium. Whenever I walk through those doors, deep emotions come rushing to the surface again.

As a fan, I used to dream about being at the stadium. I was lucky enough to then experience it as a player, standing in front of 75,000 fans.

There’s a complete contrast to the feelings you get in the changing rooms versus the feeling on the pitch.

Sam Warburton at Principality stadium.
Walking onto the pitch at Principality Stadium, Cardiff

The pitch is like a cauldron — cooking up noise, the buzz, electricity and emotion. It’s by far the best stadium in the world for atmosphere. The crowd noise, the heat from the flames and looking up at the three tiers is out of this world.

The changing rooms are so different — you’re away from it all. You can’t hear a thing. It’s always a bit of an odd feeling and then soon you’re walking out of the tunnel and you start to hear the rumble. The double doors open and it’s like walking into a hot oven- it hits you. It’s amazing.

Sam Warburton in the Wales players dressing room at Principality stadium
Two rugby teams walking onto a pitch for a match
Principality Stadium, Cardiff, South Wales

When Wales play, it’s the heartbeat of the country. Everyone gets behind the team

You can’t deny that the stadium is one of the best in the world — it’s the biggest indoor arena in Europe when the roof is closed. That can put pressure on away teams, let me tell you!

Saying that, every player from an away team that has been to the stadium tells me it’s one of their best experiences.

The location is priceless. You can roll out of the stadium into the nightlife, the bars and restaurants of Cardiff and the train station is a stone’s throw away.

I don’t think it gets any better than this for me. I’m a Cardiff boy so it means so much to me - having all of this on my doorstep.

Rugby has shaped me massively into the person that I am today and so many of my amazing experiences have started at the stadium. I feel very lucky.

Wales is where my heart is

As much as I love to travel around Wales, there’s nothing I love more than taking my dog for a walk around my local area, Coed Y Wenallt. Despite only being four miles from Cardiff city centre, it can feel like a different world.

I find my calm there — it’s my private place where I can have some time with my own thoughts, reflect and just relax. I know that when I was playing, it kept me grounded.

When I’m on a walk at Y Wenallt, I love the fact that the woodland overlooks Cardiff. I see the skyline of the Stadium and that is incredible — it’s like having the best of both of my worlds.

I’m extremely proud to be Welsh and most people who know me will know that.

I carry these places in my heart. I’ve travelled around the world but Wales is where my heart is. Wales will always be home.

Sam Warburton at Coed Y Wenallt woods.
Sam Warburton walking his dog in the woods, seen through the leaves of trees
Coed Y Wenallt woods, near Cardiff, South Wales

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