South Wales offers limitless opportunities for outdoor pursuits, be it trekking the mountains and tramping the coast path, mountain biking in the Valleys, riding cross country in the Black Mountains, or coasteering and kayaking the coastline.Norm Longley, author of South Wales: the Bradt Guide
In many ways, South Wales is a microcosm of the country as a whole, embracing imperious red sandstone mountains, deeply incised valleys and a long, craggy coastline punctuated with enchanting coastal resorts and some of Europe’s finest beaches. Throw in a slew of theatrically sited castles and comely wayside villages – many with an ancient church – and it’s clear to see why this region packs a mighty punch.
Working your way east to west – arriving from England as it were – first stop is Monmouthshire, a verdant landscape of rolling countryside peppered with many an old Marcher fortress. A major stop on anyone’s list should be Cardiff, the nation’s vibrant, youthful capital, a city that’s almost unrecognisable from even just a couple of decades ago.
Extending like thick veins up towards the Brecon Beacons are the Valleys, once the powerhouse of the Industrial Revolution and perhaps the most instantly recognisable landscape in all of Wales. Factor in some wonderful industrial heritage, outstanding hillwalking and mountain biking, and the Valleys deserve to be far more visited than they are. South of here, the Vale of Glamorgan is also all too often bypassed, but that would be to miss out on a lovely stretch of coastline richly textured by history and nature.
Carmarthenshire, too, remains something of an unknown quantity for many, but as home to some of Britain’s finest gardens and castles, it’s worthy of extended exploration. The highest-profile region in Wales is Pembrokeshire, in part because it possesses the most popular section of the entire Wales Coast Path but primarily because of its outstanding synthesis of stunning beaches and coves, and a multiplicity of endearing coastal resorts.
The Brecon Beacons is not far behind in the popularity stakes, its tangle of well-worn paths furrowed across four geographically distinct mountain ranges variously endowed with chiselled peaks, glacial lakes and waterfalls.
All of these areas offer limitless opportunities for outdoor pursuits, be it trekking the mountains and tramping the coast path, mountain biking in the Valleys, riding cross country in the Black Mountains, or coasteering and kayaking the coastline.
Where to visit
Introducing South Wales