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Written by Bryan Dearsley Updated May 20, We may earn a commission from affiliate links. South Wales incorporates the Welsh capital of Cardiff, along with some of the country's loveliest scenery. Little surprise, then, that this beautiful region consistently ranks as one of the top places to visit in the UK. Easily accessible from England - the city of Bristol is just a short drive away - the region is also a popular holiday destination thanks to the spectacular Brecon Beacons, home to Pen y Fan, the highest mountain south of Snowdonia.
If you only have a day or two in your UK travel itinerary to see Wales, you couldn't do much better than spending it exploring the many picturesque valleys and small old mining communities found here. You'll discover extremely friendly people and attractive towns and villages bursting with traditional Welsh culture, many of them home to unique hotels and inns, museums, and shops.
Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues. Cardiff Bay. The capital of Wales is undoubtedly one of the most attractive cities in the UK. Which is why Cardiff Caerdydd is a must-visit destination when exploring South Wales, and makes a great base from which to venture forth on exciting day trips and adventures.
In addition to the famous and well-preserved Cardiff Castlethe city is also well-known for its large harbor area, now home to numerous fine cultural opportunities. Once one of the busiest ports in the UK, much of Cardiff Bay has been extensively redeveloped and now comprises close to 2, acres of luxury housing and commercial buildings, including a rich mix of offices, restaurants, and shops.
There are also numerous entertainment and cultural facilities, too, including a theater and science center Techniquest. Topping this list are state-of-the-art sports amenities. These include a man-made white water rafting center, and numerous parks, along with a nature preserve. Cardiff is also a very popular shopping destination, with tourists flocking here to explore its many well-preserved Victorian-era shopping arcades. Accommodation: Where to Stay in Cardiff. Brecon Beacons National Park.
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The Brecon Beacons - less than an hour's drive north of Cardiff - is widely considered one of the most beautiful parts of Wales if not Britain. This stunning region boasts an extremely diverse landscape, which features native deciduous trees along with North American conifers and broad swaths of moorland.
The best way to sample this naturally beautiful region is to plan a visit to Brecon Beacons National Park. Founded in and famous for its wild ponies, this square-miles borders the Black Mountains to the west, and to the east, another mountain range, also called the Black Mountains. Most of the park's peaks are more than 1, feet high, while many reach in excess of 2, feet, and are formed from red sandstone.
It's said they look like beacons, hence their name though it may also derive from the fires lit on the peaks as warning als during the Middle Ages. One of the most popular things to do here is hiking, with many of the best trails also doubling as biking routes. You'll also find an array of accommodation options, from quaint bed-and-breakfasts and hotels to camping and even "glamping.
Official site: www. Brecon Beacons National Park also contains a of lovely waterfalls, and a day could easily be spent simply wandering the park to visit them. The most famous of the park's four largest waterfalls is the foot-high Henryd Falls at Coelbren, the highest in Wales. An easy walking trail spans the stream leading to the pool at the bottom of the falls and makes for a fun hike. Another waterfall worth visiting in "Waterfall Country" is Blaen-y-Glyn. Fed by the River Caerfanell and Nant Bwrefwr, it's accessible by a of hiking trails.
Finally, be sure to also visit Sgwd yr Eira. This picturesque falls is popular for the narrow pathway that actually takes you behind the cascade of water as it plummets into the pool at its base. A popular hike if you can spare a few hours is the fun Four Falls walk.
This scenic adventure can take three to four hours, depending on your pace - and picnic stops. Dan yr Ogof and the Showcase Caves. Another must-see natural attraction in South Wales is Dan yr Ogof. Located in the upper part of the Tawe Valley, Dan yr Ogof is full of stalagmites and stalactites, as well as many magnificent passages and chambers.
All told, this spectacular network of caves stretches over 10 miles, with some of the most accessible areas floodlit.
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Also worth seeing are the ancient stone circles. For those traveling with kids, there's also a fun dinosaur park, which is home to an impressive collection of over life-size replica dinosaurs. Camping and self-catering accommodations are also available for those wanting to prolong their visit. Also worth checking out is the Cotebrook Shire Horse Centre. Set on 50 acres, this authentic Victorian farm features both local and exotic species, an indoor playground, a campground, and many examples of the famous Shire horses that once worked the country's many farms.
Cliffs at Dunraven Bay. Extending from Porthcawl to Aberthaw, the Glamorgan Heritage Coast is a mile-long stretch of spectacular scenery. It's easy to get to from Cardiff and has become increasingly popular among hikers and cyclists. A good place to start exploring is at the Glamorgan Heritage Coast Centre in Dunraven Park located at the western most point of the coastline.
In addition to its interesting displays relating to the area's history, flora, and fauna - including interactive educational games for kids - you're just steps away from the spectacular cliffs and limestone formations of Dunraven Bay. Other attractions include Nash Pointnotable for its beautiful views, ancient Iron Age fortification, and lighthouse, plus easy-to-spot fossils, as well as the rocky beaches of Aberthaw, a popular spot for wildlife viewing, fishing, and surfing.
Also worth a visit, the beach at Cwm Col-huw is a picture-perfect spot for a picnic or birdwatching in the nearby nature reserve. Carreg Cennen Castle. After visiting spectacular Carreg Cennen Castle, it's easy to see why the site was chosen for a fortress. Towering over a great crag almost feet above the River Cennen, the castle offers outstanding sightseeing views over Brecon Beacons National Park and the surrounding countryside. Famously painted by Turner, one of Britain's most well-known landscape artists, it's one of only a handful of privately owned castles in Wales.
Today, the ruins of Carreg Cennen are fun to explore. So, too, are the property's cave and hiking trails. Afterwards, explore the authentic Welsh hill farm, enjoy refreshments in the tearoom, and pick up some souvenirs in the gift shop. The Vale of Neath.
The River Neath, which enters the Bristol Channel at Swansea, has carved itself into the exposed carbon layers at a depth of about 1, feet. In doing so, it cut off the coal seams that in the 18th and 19th century lead to the development of heavy industry here. These days, it's all about tourism in this picturesque area, which boasts a of pleasant walking trails.
Highlights include Aberdulais Fallsan impressive example of how water can provide the energy needed for industrial purposes and which allows visitors a close-up look at Europe's largest electricity generating waterwheel. Also nearby is Neath Abbey.
This Cistercian abbey was founded by Richard de Granville in and later converted into an Elizabethan mansion. The market town of Neath is also worth a visit, and is home to the ruins of Neath Castle, an impressive Norman structure built in the 12th century. Rhondda's surviving colliery buildings have been converted into a fascinating heritage center, Rhondda Heritage Park.
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Billed as the Welsh Mining Experience, here visitors can travel through time in an elevator to "Pit Bottom" down one of the original mine shafts. There's also a recreation of the working Lewis Merthyr Colliery of the s and a multi-media exhibit about the history of coal mining in the area. Exciting Black Gold Experience Underground Tours are led by former colliery workers the mine closed inas did most of the more than 53 working collieries in the area. Above ground, a replica village street showcases the lifestyles of area residents who depended upon coal extraction for their livelihoods.
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For those wanting to stay on-site, the Heritage Park Hotel offers reasonably priced accommodations and is a particularly fun option during special events and occasions, such as Halloween and Christmas. Also worth a visit is Caffe Bracchi, an on-site restaurant offering a variety of food and beverage options. Tintern Abbey. While not solely a Welsh area - it extends northwards from Monmouthshire into neighboring England - the Wye Valley is an area of outstanding natural beauty and a worthwhile stop for visitors to South Wales. Here, you'll be rewarded with a chance to explore some of the prettiest, and certainly most striking, landscapes in the UK.
Stretching some 45 miles along a lower section of the River Wye, the most scenic parts of the valley are a mix of spectacular limestone gorges and thick forests. Here, you'll find a rich bounty of wildlife, including falcons and hawks, making it a popular area for bird-watching.
The human element is important here, too. Notable man-made additions to this beautiful rural setting include Tintern Abbeya 12th-century abbey located in the quaint village of Tintern. This well-preserved religious site has been the subject of many poems, perhaps most famously William Wordsworth's Tintern Abbeywidely regarded as some of the Romantic poet's best writing. For those wanting to learn more about the abbey's strong connection to the arts - as well as its long, rich history - the on-site visitor center is worth a stop.
Just 23 miles north of Cardiff, the town of Merthyr Tydfil is a great place from which to begin exploring the Brecon Beacons National Park.