Road signs in Wales

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An example of a Welsh-English bilingual sign: the "historic route" sign on the A5

Road signs in Wales follow the same design principles as those in other parts of the United Kingdom. However, all modern road signs feature directions in both the Welsh and English languages with the Welsh first in many principal areas.

Current policy[edit]

The Welsh Government's position on place names as shown on road signs within its jurisdiction is outlined in its Welsh Language Scheme, which, in section 6.9 Traffic signs, states:[1]

"The signs for which we are responsible (mostly motorway and trunk road signs) will be bilingual. Signs which are in English only at the moment will be made bilingual when they are replaced.... When both languages are included on one sign with one language above the other, the order in which the languages appear will follow the practice adopted by the local authority where the sign is located."

The latter proviso applies because local authorities have discretion over the forms used on local highway signs. In the predominantly Welsh-speaking areas of Wales, the Welsh form of the name is usually given first; in other areas, the English name is usually given first.

The guidance also states:[1] "Signs containing place names in England will contain the Welsh and English versions of the name…". This proviso has led to new motorway signs in south Wales displaying the Welsh-language names of London and Bristol (Llundain and Bryste respectively), and in north Wales the Welsh-language name of Chester Caer appears on road signs.

Bilingual signing[edit]

Bilingual road markings in Cardiff, Wales
An example of a "Ble mae'r Gymraeg?" campaign sticker on a telephone box at Llangybi, Gwynedd, which translates as, "Where's the Welsh? New language act."

Bilingual signs in Wales were permitted by special authorisation after 1965. In 1972 the Bowen Committee recommended that they should be provided systematically throughout Wales. Throughout Wales, instructions for drivers appear on the road itself. One of the most common painted instructions is araf - slow.

Controversies and campaigns[edit]

The Welsh-language pressure group Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg have been campaigning for a number of years with the Ble mae'r Gymraeg? (Where's the Welsh?) scheme, which campaigns for all road signs in Wales to display both Welsh and English information on public information signs. The campaign is most noted for its placement of stickers with the group's logo, a dragon's tongue, on signposts that are written only in English.

In an overwhelmingly English-speaking area of Monmouthshire, bilingual village name signs at Rockfield and Cross Ash were removed in 2011 after complaints from local residents.[2]


The requirement for bilingual signs has sometimes led to errors, such as the two languages presenting differing information. In 2006, a bilingual pedestrian sign in Cardiff told pedestrians to "look right" in English, and "edrychwch i'r chwith" ("look left") in Welsh.[3] In 2008, a sign for a goods entrance for a supermarket in Swansea was mistakenly printed with an automatic e-mail response which read "Nid wyf yn y swyddfa ar hyn o bryd. Anfonwch unrhyw waith i'w gyfieithu" which translates as "I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated."[4] A book was published in 2011 based on a Flickr group that shows examples of erroneous Welsh-language signage.[5][6][7][8]


  1. ^ a b The Welsh Government's Welsh Language Scheme 2011—2016, available in Welsh or English
  2. ^ "Rockfield and Cross Ash signs have Welsh names removed". BBC News Online. 1 June 2011. 
  3. ^ "Pedestrian sign's forked tongue". BBC News. 2006-01-16. Retrieved 2010-09-02. 
  4. ^ "E-mail error ends up on road sign". BBC News. 2008-10-31. Retrieved 2010-09-02. 
  5. ^ James, Meleri Wyn (2011), Sgymraeg, Y Lolfa, ISBN 9781847713995 
  6. ^ "Rhestr Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru o'r llyfrau a werthodd orau yn ystod mis Ionawr 2012". BBC Cymru. 2012-01-01. Retrieved 2013-01-11. 
  7. ^ "The funniest, most bizarre and downright inept mistranslations on Wales' highways released in book". WalesOnline. 2008-10-31. Retrieved 2013-01-11. 
  8. ^ Scymraeg group on Flickr

See also[edit]