There are lots of the "normal" tourist type places to go in South Wales. Listed below are some of these tourist places and then below that are the places that you probably wouldn't know about unless you really searched for them. These are my favorites, but perhaps you have your own suggestions after visiting the area? Send your comments to me. My e-mail address is at the bottom of the page.
If you fancy a good beach then the Gower is the place to go. Have a look at my Gower beach guide.
The popular places:
Cardiff Castle - although it is on the site of a Roman building the modern castle dates from the 19thC. The Bute family built it using the money they earned from their massive coal, shipping, and property earnings. Worth a visit inside if you like lots glitter.
Location - city center of Cardiff.
Entry - a fee is charged for entry to the castle though the grounds are free.
Museum of Welsh Life, St. Fagan's - This open-air museum is situated just to the west of Cardiff in the pretty village of St. Fagan's. The National Museum of Wales took over an old manor house and it's, grounds and has converted it over the years into a fascinating insight of Welsh Life over the years. The focus of the museum are the many old buildings from all over Wales that have been reconstructed within the museum exactly as they stood on their original site. All of the buildings have been furnished and decorated exactly as they would have been at the height of their use. The buildings range from simple glacial boulder cottages to the huge Institute building from Oakdale.
On busy days working craftsmen demonstrate old skills such as blacksmithing, leatherworking, and baking bread the old fashioned way!
At the entrance, there is an indoor museum with old tools, clothing, and photographs. There is also an interesting display of horse-drawn carts.
Location - 4 miles west of Cardiff city center in the village of St. Fagan's. Buses from Cardiff bus station and there is a large car-park.
Entry - entry is now free until further notice, now well worth a visit!!
Castell Coch, another Bute family construction dating from the late 19thC. The typical fairy-tale castle. Another one worth a visit for gilt and glitter. The hill above the castle is well worth a walk with lots of paths and trails, though the local mountain bikers have turned some paths into deep mud so beware.
Location - 4 miles north of the city center near the village of Tongwynlais, next to junction 32, M4.
Entry - a fee is charged for the castle though parking and the hill above the castle are free.
Llancaiach Fawr - this is a brilliant "living" museum just north of Caerphilly. You are taken back in time to the Civil War of 1645. Edward Pritchard owned a great deal of South Wales at this time and the "inhabitants" re-enact life in this 17th-century house. You are taken on a grand tour of the house with the inhabitants of the house describing their life in old English/Welsh. Allow two to three hours.
Location: near Nelson, north of Caerphilly. See their website for detailed directions.
Also, see the Llancaiach Fawr Ghostcam
Southerndown Beach (Dunraven Bay) - the Vale's only large sandy beach outside Barry. At high tide, the beach is totally useless but at other times this is a huge sandy beach. Great for the kids, lots of rock pools and fossils - though keep away from the cliffs as they can fall at any time. If you are into geology then there are some brilliant faults and deformation folds at the far (eastern) end of the beach.
Only swim between the lifeguard flags though I wouldn't recommend it as the water is fairly dirty, though it's mostly churned up sand and mud.
There is also the remains of Dunraven Castle nearby. This was demolished by the Earl of Dunraven about 30 years ago in a fit of pique at
the local council who wouldn't let him develop it. Location - 3 miles southeast of Bridgend.
Check the Tides before you go as there is NO beach at high tide. High tide at Southerndown is a little earlier than at Newport. The tidal range can be around 35 feet so don't get caught out!!
A little way along towards the northwest is Ogmore - a little more popular but with a large car-park. You can walk from Southerndown to Ogmore and back again along the coastal path. A pleasant walk in the sun. Don't swim in the river at Ogmore as the current is lethal - a common drowning spot!
Cardiff Bay - Cardiff Bay has become the place to go in Cardiff. The renovation of the area has revitalized the area. The impact on jobs hasn't been that great but it's become a popular tourist and visitor destination. Worth a visit to see is Harry Ramsden's Fish and Chip restaurant, the Norwegian Church, the amazing Welsh Assembly building and Techniquest which is brilliant to kill half a day with the kids, also worth a visit if you haven't got kids! The bay has also become famous as the location set of the tv programs Doctor Who and Torchwood.
Location - 1 mile from the city center.
For more info and more photos have a look at Cardiff Bay
Barry Beaches- fun, sand and rain - that's it. Check the tides before you go. High tide at Barry is a little earlier than at Newport.
For an alternative view have a look at this website -
National Trust Beaches
Those special places:
Beaupre Castle (pronounced locally as "Bewper") - this is a derelict castle on the road between Cowbridge and St Athan. You park in a small lay-by and walk about a quarter of a mile across fields to the castle. The footpath goes over the remains of cottages that used to lie alongside the castle. The castle is a good example of a country squires house though is slowly falling down at present. Don't bother if you are scared of sheep and cattle.
Location - about halfway between Cowbridge and St. Athan. On the Cowbridge side of "The Herberts" is a small lay-by opposite a private house with imposing gates. Leave your car there and walk along the public footpath alongside the River.
Entry - free through an old sign says that it's shut on Sundays though you can safely ignore that.
Vale of Glamorgan - there are some great walks and drives around the rural Vale.
Drive north or south from Cowbridge and you'll find some great places. Just dive off the main roads and get totally lost. You'll love it!! Then stop for lunch in a village pub. Most of the small villages have a pub and all do lunch. Then go for a small stroll around the village to walk it off. A perfect day!!! For more information check out this great site.
Mynydd Llangatwg and the canal at Llangynidr - this combines some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in South Wales with the delights of the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal at Llangynidyr.
Drive to Beaufort just north of Ebbw Vale. Take the B4560 north. This road rises up to Mynydd Llangatwg with Mynydd Llangynidr to the west. Stop at the top for some excellent views north of the Black Mountains and Llangorse Lake.
Then proceed north to the village of Llangynidr. The Coach and Horses pub is an ideal place for lunch! After lunch, walk westwards out of the village and find the small boatyard on the canal up to a small lane on the left-hand side. There are some really special walks around the canal in both directions. The feeder into the canal just below the lock by the boatyard is very interesting. The feeder brings water into the canal from further up the river. Definitely worth a diversion to examine some old engineering!
tides - this is a rather special beach near the villages of Wick and Broughton (pronounced "Brufton"). There is a walk of about a half a mile from the car park down a beautiful wooded path down to the beach. Don't go if you find a walk over a stony/muddy path a problem (try Southerndown instead). The beach is rocky and sand is only exposed at the low-ish tide. You may find dinosaur footprints in the Liassic Limestone or examples of the fossil Gryphea (Devil's Toenail). Make sure that you don't get cut off around the headlands as the tide comes in. You will not be able to climb the high cliffs.
Location - Monknash is near Wick on the B4265 5 miles south of Bridgend, follow the signs for Broughton and Monknash. You will need a car.
Entry - during the summer park your car in the farmer's field about half a mile after the Plough and Harrow pub. Out of season, you can drive right to the end and park next to a gate on the left side of the road.
Check the tides before you go as there is NO beach at high tide. High tide is a little earlier than at Newport. There is a great danger of being cut off at high tide. The tidal range is up to 35 feet. Don't be fooled. People are constantly being rescued so don't embarrass yourself, or worse, end up floating face down in the Bristol Channel!
Plough and Harrow pub - this is the place to go for a good original country pub. Lots of real-ales and full of locals. A garden as well with swings for the kids. Gets very busy in the summer with nice real log fires in the winter. Don't drink and drive as you will get caught!
Location - Monknash, near Wick, see above.
Entry - as much as you care to spend!!!
Cwm y Buarth, nr. Southerndown Beach- this is a small cove and beach near Southerndown's main beach (see above) Park your car at Southerndown and then walk up past the derelict Dunraven Castle. A steep path then leads down to the beach below. At low tide, you can walk all the way to Monknash Beach though make sure that you don't get cut off by the rising tide.
Location - 3 miles southeast of Bridgend.
Entry - car-parking costs £1.50 or thereabouts for the whole day.
Cowbridge - this small market town is situated about 12 miles west of Cardiff and is well worth a visit, or a stay.