South Wales Holiday Guide

South Wales boasts a distinct character formed by its fascinating history, rich culture and stunning natural beauty. Once an industrial coal and iron working heartland, the region today boasts green valleys, peaceful forests and rolling moorlands. To top it all off there are castles, glorious beaches and, the icing on the cake, Cardiff, the capital of Wales.

The core South Wales region consists of Cardiff, the South Wales Valleys, the Vale of Glamorgan, and the borderlands of the Wye Valley and Vale of Usk. Within these there is enough to cater for everyone, from nature lovers keen to explore idyllic scenery to history buffs interested in medieval castles and museums, and culture, shopping and food aficionados will love the great shops, dining and entertainments of Cardiff and the region’s other vibrant towns.

Sightseeing in South Wales

If sightseeing is your bag, you won’t be disappointed by South Wales. In Cardiff, you can learn about Wales’ history at the National Museum of Cardiff, and explore fanciful Cardiff Castle. Alternatively, you may want to tour the iconic Millennium Stadium and admire the modernist slate and steel architecture of the Wales Millennium Centre.

Elsewhere, explorers will love the Wye Valley, with its ancient and medieval landmarks, including the stunning Roman baths at Caerleon, Chepstow Castle and Tintern Abbey.

Or you can delve into Wales’ recent industrial past at the Blaenavon Ironworks and The Big Pit: National Coal Museum in the South Wales Valleys.

Your options for historical sightseeing don’t stop there: you could also venture into the beautiful Vale of Glamorgan to see its fine Ogmore Castle and wander round the gorgeous Dyffryn Gardens, laid out in Edwardian times.

Shopping in South Wales

When it comes to shopping in South Wales, Cardiff tops the list. The city bursts with places selling everything from designer clothes to books, jewellery and local crafts. You can browse flagship stores at the St David’s Shopping Centre, stroll the High Street, or scour the independent shops and gift emporiums stuffed into the city’s Edwardian and Victorian arcades. Other shopping haunts include Abergavenny with its buzzing Victorian market hall, and Hay on Wye’s endlessly enticing bookshops.

Food, Restaurants and Nightlife in South Wales

South Wales’ culinary scene is focused on Welsh produce and comes to life in countless restaurants, cafes, markets and foodie events. Cardiff offers artisan coffee spots, modern Welsh eateries and international restaurants, while elsewhere, you’ll find stylish bistros, tearooms, ancient inns, farm shops and gastro pubs perfect for lunches and evenings out. Food lovers especially will rave about Abergavenny’s popular Food Festival every September.

Outdoor fun in South Wales

South Wales has outdoor pursuits in spades, and not just on its beaches. Families will adore the sandy beaches, seaside towns and adventure centres of Glamorgan, not to mention the walking trails, cycle paths and industrial heritage sites of the South Wales Valleys. Other draw cards include the bracing Brecon Beacons National Park with its Brecon Mountain Railway, fishing on the River Wye, and the almost endless opportunities for sports like mountain biking, kayaking, horse riding and golf right across the region.

Guide to Exploring South Wales


Tucked in the hills of Monmouthshire in south Wales, Abergavenny sits six miles from the English-Welsh border and is known as the ‘Gateway to Wales’. Set beside the Usk River, the picturesque market town edges the beautiful Brecon Beacons National Park, making it ideal for enjoying the great outdoors.

With the Black Mountains providing a stunning backdrop, the town of Abergavenny has much to offer. It is a delightful, traditional centre brimming with shops, pubs and restaurants, historic sites and a wealth of other attractions, including bustling markets and tranquil riverside walks.

St Davids

St Davids is a city in Pembrokeshire, that sits on the Alun River and St Davids Peninsula at the most westerly point of Wales. With around 1,600 people living in the city, it is the smallest city in Britain in terms of both size and population. St Davids received city status in the 16th Century because of its Norman cathedral, but this status was revoked in 1888. In 1995 its city status was restored by Queen Elizabeth II, but in reality it has the feel of a small village.


The second largest city in Wales, Swansea is known for its vibrant energy and welcoming charm. With the university on its doorstep, the city has a large student population which means plenty of choice when it comes to shopping, dining and nightlife. And with the city currently enjoying something of a rebirth through an extensive bout of regeneration – now boasting both a national museum and a new marina, as well as five Green Flag Award-winning parks – Swansea is fast becoming known as “the Brighton of Wales”.


Located as it is on the confluence of the Rivers Usk and Severn, Newport city is truly a product of both its history and its geography. A port since medieval times, it has a rich history of industrial and strategic relevance, and its proud heritage can be enjoyed today with sights such as the Newport Transporter Bridge, Newport Castle, Newport Cathedral and Tredegar House. And yet for all this history of industry, Newport also lies at the heart of an area of outstanding natural beauty. The Forest of Dean and the Wye Valley are both right on the doorstep, whilst the Brecon Beacons are just a short drive away.


If you’re passionate about the great outdoors, then Neath is the place for you. Nestling conveniently between Glamorgan’s Heritage Coast and the Brecon Beacons National Park, Neath is something of a mecca for mountain bikers and hikers alike, uniquely positioned as it is to provide the very best Welsh, and indeed British, coastline, mountain and green valley landscapes. What’s more, with Swansea never more than just a short road-trip away you will also have quick and easy access to the city fast becoming known as “the Brighton of Wales”, where you can let your hair down once you’ve burnt some calories on the mountain trails!


Aberdare is a bustling town in the Cynon Valley, South Wales, and the most populous in the Rhondda Cynon Taf county borough. The town has a history that goes back to the Middle Ages, when it was just a small village in an agricultural zone. The village grew rapidly in the early 19th century thanks to the plentiful presence of coal and iron ore in the region, and the population of the parish grew tenfold in the first half of the century.

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