Great Places To Visit Around South Wales
South Wales includes the Welsh capital of Cardiff, as well as some of the United Kingdom's most beautiful views, and regularly rates among the number one area to visit in Wales. Easy to access from England — the cities of Hereford, Gloucester, Bristol and Birmingham are not far away — the region is also a popular holiday destination because of the stunning Brecon Beacons, home to Pen y Fan, the highest mountain south of Snowdonia.
The area also consists of the wonderful South Wales Valleys, an area once well-known for its coal, the Wye Valley, the Vale of Usk, as well as the stunning Glamorgan Heritage Coast. If you just have a day or two within your schedule to see Wales, you couldn't do a lot better than enjoying it exploring the numerous picturesque valleys and small, old mining communities found here, a lot of them made up of unique hotels and inns, museums, and shops. See the best of the region with our listing of the best attractions in South Wales.
Brecon Beacons National Park
One of the most beautiful areas in the whole of the UK, the Brecon Beacons is a place of natural splendour and is sandwiched between 2 mountain ranges, both called the Black Mountains.
The National Park was founded in 1957 and covers 519 square miles. Most of the peaks are more than 1,000 feet high, with some in excess of 2,000 feet. They are formed of red sandstone and it’s said they look like beacons, hence the name (but this may come from the fires lit on the peaks in the Middle Ages as warning beacons).
The capital city of Wales, Cardiff is full of great places to visit. It once had one of the busiest ports in the UK. It is not only the capital of Wales because it houses the Welsh Assembly, but also one of the cultural capitals of the whole of the United Kingdom.
There are so many places to visit around Cardiff, including the National History Museum at St Fagans, you could spend your whole time there and still not see everything you will want to see.
Dan Yr Ogof National Showcaves
Located in the Tawe Valley, just to the north east of Swansea in an area called Abercrave, the Dan yr Ogof caves are one of the natural beauties of Wales. With its dinosaur park and the National Showcaves, this is one of the top tourist attractions and a great day out for the family.
Glamorgan Heritage Coast
A 14 mile stretch of coast running from Porthcawl to Aberthaw, the Glamorgan heritage coast is full of stunning views and scenery. One of the best places to start your exploration of this beautiful part of Wales is at Dunraven, where you will find the Heritage Coast Centre.
There are things like an iron age fort, a lighthouse and much more…
The Vale of Neath
The river that runs through the Vale of Neath is called (funnily enough) the river Neath. It enters the Bristol Channel at Swansea.
The river has cut itself into exposed carbon layers that cut of the coal seams. These were the reason for heavy industry being in the area in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Nowadays it’s more of a tourist area and picturesque area with many walking routes. The highlight is the Aberdulais Falls.
Rhondda Heritage Park
The Rhondda Heritage Park came about after the demise of the coal mines in and around the South Wales area. I see it as a tribute to those that worked hard in the mines and a great monument to that hard work. A museum in all but name, there are tours of the mine and more attractions within the old colliery buildings.
The Wye Valley and Tintern Abbey
The Wye Valley meanders down hugging the Wales / England border down much of the way from Monmouth down to Chepstow and into the River Severn. The Welsh side of the border includes the ruin of Tintern Abbey.
This valley was also where Wordsworth wrote the famous Daffodil poem.
In years gone by, Merthyr Tydfil was one of the most populated areas in Wales and also had a lot of industry. Now it’s still a bustling town, but sadly a lot of the industry and the population has gone. There are some great places to visit locally though, the most well known being the Brecon Mountain Railway.
Big Pit National Coal Museum
This is the first coal mining museum opened in Wales and the first where the visitor could go down and see the mine and how it used to work. The visitor descends and returns via the lift, but there is a safety measure if there is a problem with that lift because Big Pit is a drift mine. This means there is a way to walk in and out on foot too.
Llancaiach Fawr Manor
This 16th Century manor house is a living history museum and is situated in an area that overlooks the Glamorgan Uplands north of Cardiff. The historic gardens are a pleasure to visit too, with many plants that were grown originally in the 1550s still being grown there.
Hay on Wye – The Famous “Book Town”
One of the highlights of any trip around South Wales is a visit to Hay on Wye. It’s known as the Town of Books because it boasts some 20 bookstores in this small Powys Town near the English Border.
Look out for the Hay Literary Festival that is held in late May to early June (10 days) that attracts visitors from all over the world.