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Things to do in South Wales

A view of Three Cliffs Bay on a sunny day in the Gower Peninsula in South Wales
Three Cliffs Bay on the Gower Peninsula

The county or area known as South Wales encompasses the two largest cities in Wales, along with the newest city in Wales.

South Wales contains old Counties such as Monmouthshire, historic towns like Chepstow, the beautiful countryside of the southern Wye Valley and beauty spots like the Gower Peninsula.

The Glamorgan Heritage Coast, a World heritage Site, at Blaenavon and the great musical traditions of the Rhondda Valleys make South Wales a rewarding destination.


In Chepstow you will find Chepstow Castle, one of Britain's first stone built strongholds. Just across the road from the castle is Chepstow Museum with displays featuring Chepstow's many past industries. North of the town is Tintern Abbey. Founded in 1131 for the Cistercian monks, it's the best preserved medieval abbey in Wales. It's set in a quiet meadow in a bend of the River Wye.

Ruins of a Norman castle at Chepstow
Norman Castle at Chepstow

To the west is Caldicot Castle and Country Park. The Norman castle is set in over fifty acres of parkland with a children's activity area, pond dipping station, woodland walks and picnic areas. It's a great place for family outings.


Monmouth is the county town of old Monmouthshire. With history dating to Roman times and a mix of architecture through the ages, Monmouth is an interesting place. Among its attractions are Monnow Bridge, the only Norman fortified bridge surviving in Britain.

Silhouette of Mumbles pier and boat house against a bright orange sky at sunrise
Mumbles Pier and Boat House, Swansea

The 11th century Castle, birth place of Henry V, is also home to historic Castle House and the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers Museum - the only regiment to have survived from the Militia.

In Priory Street there is the Nelson Museum & Local History Centre which is well worth visiting.


The historic market town of Abergavenny is surrounded by the mountains Sugar Loaf, Ysgyryd Fawr and Blorenge, which rise over 1, 500 feet. The town, at the gateway to the Brecon Beacons National Park, is also a starting point for the Heads of the Valleys road running westward to the industrial valleys of South Wales.

Abergavenny Museum is set within the ruins of the Norman Castle and tells the story of the town from Prehistoric times to the present day.

Sunset over the wet sand at Dunraven Bay
Dunraven Bay, Glamorgan

A short drive south west is Blaenavon Industrial Landscape World Heritage Site. The main focus of the area is Blaenavon Ironworks, where three blast furnaces were operated with steam power. It became one of the largest ironworks in the world. Today it is the best preserved blast furnace complex of its period and type in the world.

Castles Galore

Nearby is the little known gem White Castle. It's one of a triangle of fortresses built to control a strategic entry point into Wales.

A later Castle can be visited at nearby Raglan. Raglan Castle was not built until 1435. It's the last in a long line of medieval castles.

A view of the ruins of Tintern Abbey
Tintern Abbey

The ruins of yet another Norman castle can be found at the picturesque market town of Usk. The river of the same name flows through the town, making it a popular destination for fishing.

Housed in an ancient malt barn in the town is Usk Rural life Museum, with exhibits reflecting life in rural Wales between 1850 and the end of World War II.


Newport is the newest city in Wales, granted city status in 2002. It's a busy industrial city and seaport on the estuary of the River Usk.

The landmark best known in the area is Newport's Transporter bridge. This aerial ferry is a spectacular sight when illuminated at night. St Woolos cathedral dates back to AD800, but has a modern addition at the east end - a mural and window by John Piper.

Bay with houses and a boat on the sand, Newport, South Wales

North of Newport is Caerleon Amphitheatre Barracks and Baths, the remains of the Roman legionary fortress of Isca.

Dominating its town, the massive 13th century Caerphilly Castle in Caerphilly is the largest castle in Wales. The town is also renowned for its delicious, crumbly Caerphilly cheese which originated there and is still made today.

Climb Caerphilly Mountain for spectacular views of the town and valleys. North of the town is Llancaiach Fawr Manor House, a living museum, where you are shown round by costumed guides re-enacting the life in the manor during the time of the Civil War.

View of the Pierhead Building, Cardiff
Pierhead Building, Cardiff


Cardiff is the capital city of Wales. Once best known as a great seaport, today Cardiff has regenerated its dock land area into an exciting tourist attraction, and many fine new buildings are appearing, such as the home of the Welsh Assembly and the magnificent Millennium Stadium.

Cardiff has many attractions to offer, such as Cardiff Castle, The National Museum Cardiff, Techniquest and Castell Coch.

Mumbles Lighthouse, situated on a large rock, Swansea, South Wales,
Mumbles Lighthouse, Swansea

The Vale of Glamorgan is an area which can be contrasted with the industrial Rhondda valleys in the north. Inland is agricultural, rolling countryside. There are pretty villages and many good walks in the vale. There are attractions to discover such as the Museum of Welsh Life at St. Fagans, one of Europe's biggest open air museums. At St. Nicholas garden lovers should visit Dyffryn Gardens for great inspiratiaon.

Penarth Pier and seafront after a heavy rain storm
Penarth Pier

Heritage Coast

On the Heritage Coast, a few miles from Cardiff is Penarth, complete with an esplanade, an ornate pier, a modern marina and good shopping centre.

Just south of the town is Cosmeston Lakes Country Park and Medieval Village, a fascinating place for all ages to visit. Barry Island is a favourite resort for family holidays with a sandy beach and a pleasure park.

South Wales Tourist Information centres are to be found in the busy market town of Bridgend, also at the coastal resort of Porthcawl.


Swansea is the second largest city in Wales. It lies at the mouth of the River Tawe on the curve of beautiful Swansea Bay. Swansea has a long industrial heritage and was the largest exporter of coal in the world during the 19th century.

Today having undergone a re-generation programme the city is a lively place with many lovely gardens and excellent shopping and dining facilities. It boasts the largest covered market in Wales, a marina and the Wales National Pool - an Olympic size swimming pool.

Attractions in Swansea include Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, The National Waterfront Museum, Swansea Museum, Swansea Castle and the Dylan Thomas Centre.

Sail Bridge, Swansea

Swansea is the gateway to the Gower Peninsula, an area covering approximately sixteen miles by seven miles wide, the first part of Britain to be designated as an 'Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty'.

The landscape of the Gower is unspoiled and diverse, with many caves along the cliffs, a wide diversity of wildlife and many historic features scattered throughout the peninsula.

Days out in South Wales

  • Aberdulais Falls
    Providing a link between the past with the 300 year old waterwheel, and the future with the production of green energy, Aberdulais Falls is also a local beauty spot and offers plenty for families to see and do.
    Aberdulais Falls
  • Abergavenny Museum & Castle
    Abergavenny Museum presents the story of this historic market town from Prehistoric and Roman times right through to the present day.
    Abergavenny Museum & Castle
  • Abertillery and District Museum
    Discover the history and heritage of the Abertillery area at Abertillery and District Museum, the museum has something for everyone, old and young.
    Abertillery and District Museum
  • Afan Forest Park Visitor Centre
    Afan Forest Park is jointly run by Forestry Commission and Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council that covers 13,000 hectres.
    Afan Forest Park Visitor Centre
  • Amgueddfa Pontypool Museum
    At Valley Inheritance Museum displays and audio visuals combine vividly to tell the story of the Torfaen Valley and its people from earliest times to the present day. Llanyrafon Farm Museum aims to illustrate the farming history of the Valley.
    Amgueddfa Pontypool Museum
  • Blaenavon Ironworks
    South Wales's industrial history is recalled at this revealing site, one of Europe's best-preserved 18th century ironworks.
    Blaenavon Ironworks
  • Brecon Mountain Railway
    One of the most popular railways in Wales running in the Brecon Beacons National Park along the full length of the Taf Fechan Reservoir, from Pant to Dol-y-Gaer.
    Brecon Mountain Railway
  • Bryn Bach Country Park
    The Park is set in 340 acres of mixed grass and woodland and has a 36-acre lake as its focal point. It offers something for all.
    Bryn Bach Country Park
  • Caerleon Amphitheatre Barracks and Baths
    The site of the 50-acre (20.3ha) Roman legionary fortress of Isca, the permanent base of the Second Augustan Legion in Britain from about A.D. 75.
    Caerleon Amphitheatre Barracks and Baths
  • Caerphilly Castle
    Caerphilly Castle effortlessly dominates the town of Caerphilly. It sprawls over a huge area (30 acres in all) making it the biggest in Wales.
    Caerphilly Castle
  • Caldicot Castle & Country Park
    Magnificent Welsh border castle set in fifty-five acres of beautiful parkland. Founded by the Normans, developed in royal hands as a stronghold in the Middle Ages.
    Caldicot Castle & Country Park
  • Cardiff Castle
    Located in the heart of the Welsh capital, Cardiff Castle enjoys 2000 years of history. In the 19th Century, the Castle was transformed into a carved and gilded fantasy by eccentric architect William Burges.
    Cardiff Castle
  • Castell Coch
    Castell Coch is a late nineteenth-century fairytale-style castle, built on medieval remains.
    Castell Coch
  • Cefn Coed Colliery Museum
    Cefn Coed Colliery is unique, standing as it does in one of the most beautiful and unspoilt valleys in the South Wales coalfield.
    Cefn Coed Colliery Museum
  • Chepstow Castle
    Chepstow Castle, on its rock above the swirling waters of the River Wye, stands guard over a strategic crossing point into Wales.
    Chepstow Castle
  • Chepstow Museum
    Chepstow Museum reveals the rich and varied past of this ancient town, once an important port and market centre. Wine trade, shipbuilding and salmon fishing are among Chepstow's many industries featured in displays with atmospheric settings.
    Chepstow Museum
  • Cosmeston Lakes Country Park & Medieval Village
    At Cosmeston Lakes Country park you will find over 90ha of lakes, woodlands and meadows open to the public all the year round.
    Cosmeston Lakes Country Park & Medieval Village
  • Craig-y-nos Country Park
    The Craig-y-nos Country Park offers over 40 acres of countryside to enjoy in this beautiful part of the upper Tawe Valley.
    Craig-y-nos Country Park
  • Dyffryn Gardens
    Not just one garden but a series of gardens. These Grade 1 listed gardens are now owned and managed by the Vale of Glamorgan Council and are being restored.
    Dyffryn Gardens
  • Glynn Vivian Art Gallery
    The Glynn Vivian Art Gallery was founded in 1911as a purpose built civic art gallery through the benefaction of Richard Glynn Vivian, fourth son of the copper industrialist family.
    Glynn Vivian Art Gallery
  • Llancaiach Fawr Manor House
    Visitors to Llancaiach Fawr Manor step back in time to the year 1645. They are greeted and shown around by the "servants" of the owner.
    Llancaiach Fawr Manor House
  • Llandaff Cathedral
    The ancient Celtic Cross, which stands near the Chapter House doorway, testifies to the tradition of 1400 years of Christian worship. The earliest parts of the present Cathedral however, date from the twelfth century
    Llandaff Cathedral
  • Margam Country Park
    Set in 850 acres of glorious parklands, Margam Country Park offers beauty, history, wildlife and a wide range of facilities to make it one of the best family days out in Wales.
    Margam Country Park
  • Margam Stones Museum
    At Margam, visitors can see an outstanding collection of early Christian sculpture and inscribed stones from this one corner of the south Wales.
    Margam Stones Museum
  • Model House Craft and Design Centre
    This exciting centre for contemporary craft was opened in 1989 and stands in the Bull Ring which was the market place for Llantrisant.
    Model House Craft and Design Centre
  • National Museum Cardiff
    The National Museum Cardiff is a museum for everyone. Home to spectacular collections from Wales and all over the world.
    National Museum  Cardiff
  • National Showcaves Centre for Wales
    Created 350 Million years ago the National Showcaves Centre for Wales, situated in the Brecon Beacons National Park gives you the opportunity to travel back though time.
    National Showcaves Centre for Wales
  • Neath Museum
    Neath Museum will Close for Refurbishment on 30th September 2006.
    Neath Museum
  • Nelson Museum & Local History Centre
    Horatio Nelson was born in Norfolk, died at sea, and is buried in St Paul's Cathedral - yet Monmouth is home to a magnificent collection of Nelson material.
    Nelson Museum & Local History Centre
  • Old Police Station & Museum
    In the centre of town, and used as a working Police Station from 1881 to its closure in 1974, this listed building still has the original charge room which now houses the local Tourist Information Centre.
    Old Police Station & Museum
  • Oxwich Castle
    This "castle by the sea" stands in a lovely spot on a wooded headland above Oxwich Bay on the Gower Peninsular. It is a castle in name only. Although probably occupying the site of an early fortification.
    Oxwich Castle
  • Raglan Castle
    Handsome Raglan, set amongst green, rolling border country, marks the end of an auspicious line. Largely the creation of the more peaceful, later Middle Ages, it brings to a close the great castle-building episode in Welsh history.
    Raglan Castle
  • St Fagans National History Museum
    St. Fagans: National History Museum is one of Europe's biggest and most exciting open-air museums. Centuries of Wales' tradition, culture, industry and costume are gathered together in a hundred acres of beautiful countryside.
    St Fagans National History Museum
  • Techniquest
    Techniquest is a great day out for all the family, with 120 interactive exhibits, a Planetarium, and Science Theatre.
  • Tintern Abbey
    It's easy to understand why Tintern Abbey was one of the first places in Wales to attract Visitors. Travellers have been flocking to this riverbank in the wooded Wye Valley for hundreds of years to admire Tintern's grace and sublime beauty.
    Tintern Abbey
  • Usk Rural Life Museum
    The Museum portrays life in the Welsh Borders as it was at any time between 1850 and the end of World War II. The contents are housed in a picturesque ancient malt barn and adjoining buildings.
    Usk Rural Life Museum
  • Welsh Hawking Centre
    At the Welsh Hawking Centre you will see over 200 Bird of Prey including Eagles, Owls, Hawks, Falcons and Buzzards.
    Welsh Hawking Centre
  • Weobley Castle
    This unusual historic site has one of the most atmospheric locations in Wales. It stands in a lonely spot on the low-lying northern coast of the Gower peninsular, overlooking an eerie, bleak expanse of saltings and marshland.
    Weobley Castle
  • White Castle
    This little-known historical gem is located deep in Wales's border country, today a tranquil landscape but in medieval times hotly disputed territory. Along with Skenfrith and Grosmont, White Castle was one of a triangle of fortresses.
    White Castle

Places to Visit in South Wales

  • Aberdulais
    Aberdulais is one of the oldest industrial sites in Britain - over four hundred years of industrial activity inspired and powered by its famous waterfall at the confluence of the Dulais and Neath rivers, about three miles from Neath.
  • Barry
    In the late 18 hundreds, Barry (South wales)only had three small villages and a few farms in three parishes - Barry, Merthyr Dyfan and Cadoxton. The population in 1881 was 85 in the village of Barry, and 403 in Cadoxton.
  • Bridgend
    Principal town of the County Borough, and sitting equidistant between Wales' capital city of Cardiff and its second city of Swansea, Bridgend is a bustling shoppers paradise. A county town, rich in Heritage and History where zealous pilgrim
  • Brynamman
    Brynamman (Welsh: Brynaman) sits at the foot of the Black Mountain at the western end of the Brecon Beacons National Park.
  • Caerphilly
    Set in the shadow of Europe's second largest castle, lies the town of Caerphilly. The imposing majesty of this Norman castle dominates the town.
  • Cardiff
    Cardiff is an exciting city to visit, a rich blend of ancient and modern, where the city's fine Victorian and Edwardian architecture is being complemented by some of the most innovative of new developments.
  • Cefn-coed-y-cymmer
    Cefn Coed y cymmer is a small but lively village near Merthyr tydfil very near to the wonderful Brecon beacons it was once part of Brecknock (Powys) but now comes under Mid Glamorgan.
  • Chepstow
    'Something for everyone' is possibly a good phrase to use when describing Chepstow. Well known for it's Norman castle, walled town, and Racecourse. Chepstow utilises these venues to the greatest effect.
  • Cowbridge
    The picturesque, Roman market town of Cowbridge is often refered to as the 'Jewel in the Vale'. Situated in the heart of the Vale of Glamorgan 12 miles west of Cardiff.
  • Cwmbran
    Cwmbran, pronounced Coombe-bran, is in the county of Gwent in South East Wales. The name means valley of the crow in Welsh.
  • Cwmcarn
    Cwmcarn is a Small Village in the South Wales Valleys. It's 9 Miles by road from Junction 28 of the M4.
  • Ebbw Vale
    Ebbw Vale is full of surprises, the road sweeps along the valley with fabulous rolling mountains covered in heather and liberally decorated with tiny waterfalls and rocky outcrops.
    Ebbw Vale
  • Ferndale
    Ferndale, like many other towns in the Rhondda Cynon Taff is a small but very closely knit community where locals are very welcoming and approachable.
  • Glyn Neath
    We have just received a description of Glyn Neath from one of our readers. This description is currently being prepared for publication and will appear on this page within the next few days.
    Glyn Neath
  • Glyncorrwg
    Glyncorrwg in South Wales was once a mining village, with several pits and drift mines within three miles.
  • Llanmadoc
    Llanmadoc, around 16 miles west of Swansea, is a seaside rural village with village green, shop, pub, church and church hall, on the north west tip of Gower Peninsula.
  • Llanthony
    Llanthony valley is an unspoiled mystical valley between Abergavenny and Hereford. A place you always wish to return to time and time again.
  • Loughor
    We have just received a description of Loughor from one of our readers. This description is currently being prepared for publication and will appear on this page within the next few days.
  • Merthyr Tydfil
    Merthyr Tydfil, which is named after saint Tydfil sits on the edge of the Brecon Beacons. It once boasted the largest population in Wales, but since the decline of the coal mines and iron works, the area is now just a small town.
    Merthyr Tydfil
  • Nant-y-moel
    Nant-y-moel is not on the usual tourist trail. There is no gift shop, model village or funfair. There are no queues to get in on a Bank Holiday Monday. In fact, tourists don't seem to come here. But that doesn't mean they shouldn't.
  • Neath
    Neath is a traditional market town in South Wales<, nine miles north east of Swansea.
  • Nelson
    Nelson is a small village in the heart of the Welsh valleys. The surrounding area supports a high farming industry.
  • Newport (Gwent)
    On the banks of the River Usk with its own Cathedral and Castle, Newport has a long and colourful history going back over 2000 years, when Romans from nearby Caerleon put it on the map.
    Newport (Gwent)
  • Penclawdd
    We have just received a description of Penclawdd from one of our readers. This description is currently being prepared for publication and will appear on this page within the next few days.
  • Penrice
    Penrice is a very picturesque, small village set in the heart of the Gower peninsular, near to Oxwich and Three Cliffs beaches. The village comprises a small green surrounded by cottages and St Andrew's church.
  • Pontardulais
    Pontardulais is a typical, welcoming welsh village and although the shops are changing on a regular basis the feeling of a 'community' remains strong.
  • Pontnewynydd
    The Rev Edmund Jones with his wife Mary came to live in Pontnewynydd from Penmaen and in 1740 he founded Ebenezer Chapel.
  • St. Athan
    St. Athan is situated in the rural Vale of Glamorgan. It is close to the small towns of Llantwit Major and Cowbridge. It benefits from two pubs, both comfortable to sit and reflect on life over a drink.
  • Swansea
    Lodged in the spine of a half-moon bay, the maritime city of Swansea nestles in the shadow of seven hills, between roaming parklands and the lapping tides of an inspirational shoreline.
  • Ystradmynach
    Ystrad Mynach is a busy little town in the heart of the Welsh valleys.

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