Visit Southern Wales

Visit Southern Wales Blog

Discover Rhondda Cynon Taf

Lluest-wen ReservoirNestled at the heart of the Southern Wales is perhaps the most famous valley in the world. Once upon a time, the Rhondda Valley produced the coal that powered the world.

How times change, the pits and heaps have long gone to be replaced by glorious countryside and great mountain top views.

There are still reminders of the area's past, not least at the Rhondda Heritage Park, where in the company of an ex miner you embark on an Underground Experience Tour. Find out what life was like for the men (and indeed boys) who worked in the mines.

Up above the valley, the views from the mountain tops are spectacular. There are many walks and routes to follow, not least from the Dare Valley Country Park. Who knows, they might lead to historic sites or hidden waterfalls.

The valley actually stretches all the way up to the Brecon Beacons.  And it is here, in the foothills of the mountains that you will find the tiny village of Penderyn, home to the only whisky distillery in Wales.

They started production here in 2000 and the first bottle was released on St David's Day in 2004. It was the first whisky to be (legally!) produced in Wales since the 19th century. The distillery is situated on a natural spring and it uses this water, to produce the whisky.

The visitor centre opened in 2008 and gives visitors a tour explaining how the distilling process works. Even better, at the end of the tour you get the chance to sample the whisky (or vodka, gin or cream liquor that they also produce).

For more information on this region of Southern Wales, please visit the website.

History and Handlebars

You'd be forgiven for thinking that Caerphilly is all about the castle.

To be fair, covering 120,000 m2 Caerphilly Castle does tend to dominate the town.  It was built by Norman invaders but it was an attack during the 17th century that left the castle with its most striking feature - a leaning tower, which at 10 degrees has more of a tilt than its more famous counterpart in Pisa.

When you've finished exploring it there is a lot more to do in this corner of Southern Wales.  A journey of 8 miles and almost 400 years brings you to Llancaiach Fawr Manor and the year 1645.  You'll meet the servants of the manor who are busy looking after the house for the master, Colonel Pritchard.   They'll regale you with tales of what life is like for them amidst the turmoil of the civil war which rages around them.

What you need with so much history in an area is a museum to bring it all together.  Well, luckily for Caerphilly there's the Winding House.  As the name suggests, the building housed the winding mechanism for the local colliery (in fact you can still see the engine in action on special days throughout the year).  Today the museum is home exhibitions and artefacts charting the area's past.

Back in the 21st century and over in the next valley is Cwmcarn Forest's Mynydd, quite possibly the biggest, hardest, most technical downhill mountain biking track in the country.  It also has terrific views over South Wales, not that you'll be able to take them in as you hurtle down the side of the mountain.  There are also a number of other tracks at the centre if you're not quite up to the big one or if you're after something a little more sedate you can enjoy the beautiful 7 mile long forest drive.

To find our more about Caerphilly, please visit the website

Wonders of Wye

Tintern AbbeyThe Wye Valley and Vale of Usk is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and it's not difficult to see why. 

The rolling countryside is a magnet for walkers with some well-known and popular trails including the Offa's Dyke Path.  It is also where the Wales Coast Path begins (or ends, depending on which way around you're going).  In fact, Offa's Dyke and the coast path join up so that you can complete a whole circuit of Wales if you really want to!

The plenty of historic attractions too.  There are castles galore including the first one to be built at Chepstow and the last one too at Raglan.  One of the most impressive monuments is Tintern Abbey standing proudly on the banks of the River Wye. 

Why not combine walking with history by doing the Three Castles Walk which is a 20 mile triangular walk taking in White Castle, Skenfirth Castle and Grosmont Castle.

The area also has a reputation for excellent food.  There are plenty of top class restaurants or cosy country pubs to choose from whilst Abergavenny's Angel Hotel is renowned for its Afternoon Teas - well worth indulging.  Don't miss the Abergavenny Food Festival each September which is an excellent chance to see (and of course taste) the best of the area's produce.

For more information on the area please visit the website

Historic Newport

Don't be fooled by the name.  Whilst it has plenty of modern features, NEWport has an abundance of historic attractions.

In fact, you can trace the area's history all the way back to Roman times.  Just to the north of Newport City Centre lies Caerleon.  A pretty, quiet town today, but 2000 years ago it was one of the furthest outposts of the might Roman Empire. 

And you don't have to look far to find traces of its past.  The remains of the amphitheatre, once the site of blood thirsty "entertainment" and the barracks, once home to 5000 soldiers are prominent, whilst the baths and National Roman Legion Museum are also well worth a visit.

Elsewhere, the area's history encompasses a medieval ship discovered beneath the mud of the River Usk, a 17th century mansion, once home to some rather eccentric aristocrats, and one of only eight Transporter Bridges still operating anywhere in the world.

It's not all about the history though.  The area does contemporary too.  It boasts some of the best and most luxurious hotels and resorts in the Southern Wales region. 

For instance, the Celtic Manor can be found here - you can stay in one of their five star bedrooms, enjoy a sumptuous meal in one of the restaurants, relax and unwind in the spa or enjoy a round of golf on one of their three courses - just like some of the world's best golfers did when the Ryder Cup was hosted here in 2010.

To find out more about visiting Newport, click on the link

What's Your Perfect Day?

It's all very well me writing this blog and telling you about all about the wonderful things you can do in and around Bridgend and Porthcawl.  After all that's my job.  But what do locals love about their area?

Well, our friends at BridgendBites have invited people to film their "Perfect Day" videos.

And what a range of videos they've come up with - golf, shopping, horse riding, mountain biking, quad biking, surfing.  Even fashion designer David Emanuel has got in on the act, reminiscing about how he spent his "Perfect Day" growing up in the area.

So take a look at all the videos by clicking here and let us know what would make your "Perfect Day"

Gwent Gems

GuardianBlaenau Gwent…or head of the Gwent valleys if you want to know what it means.  Being at the top of these valleys, it comes as no surprise that the area has a number of lofty claims to fame.

It has the highest town in Wales - Brynmawr, standing at 380 metres above sea level.  It is also home to the highest golf course in Wales, with the West Mon course standing at 457 metres.  It also has one of the tallest sculptures in Wales - Six Bell's Guardian memorial towering 20 metres over the village below.

As well as all these giant geographical landmarks, it also an area that celebrates political giants.  Tredegar was the home town to Aneurin Bevan, founder of the NHS.  In fact, the place where he first cut his teeth in politics, Bedwellty House is now open to the public.  Together with the surrounding parkland, it is now one of the most popular attractions in the area.

Other attractions in the area include the Festival Park shopping village and Parc Bryn Bach, a acres of green space, morrland and lake - ideal for all sort of outdoor pursuits.

Click the links to take a look at what else Blaenau Gwent and the surrounding Valleys can offer.

Penderyn Distillery Tours

Penderyn DistilleryDid you know Wales produces its own whisky? It might not be as well known as its Scottish or Irish counterparts, but that is changing.

Penderyn Whisky (which takes its name from the village in the Brecon Beacons National Park where the distillery is based) started production in 2000 and the first bottle was released on St David's Day in 2004. It was the first whisky to be (legally!) produced in Wales since the 19th century. The distillery is situated on a natural spring and it uses this water, to produce the whisky.

The visitor centre opened in 2008 and gives visitors a tour explaining how the distilling process works. Even better, at the end of the tour you get the chance to sample the whisky (or vodka, gin or cream liquor that they also produce).

And if you're really into your whisky, why not try the Penderyn Distillery Master Class tour. This includes a detailed tour of the distillery, an in-depth look at how the whisky is made and also an expert tasting session.

For more details take a look at their website - www.welsh-whisky.co.uk

Iechyd da!

Tour de Cymru

Event - Tour of Britain
Location - The Tumble, Abergavenny
Date - 9 September 2014
For more information visit the website

Fresh from hosting the British National Road Race Championships in June, top class cycling returns to Abergavenny this September as the town hosts the finish of the 3rd stage of the 2014 Tour of Britain.

The race has finished in Caerphilly for the past three years and has seen tens of thousands of people flock to the town and nearby Caerphilly Mountain to catch a glimpse of the action and create a superb party atmosphere.

The fans are sure to be out in force this year as well, with the riders taking on a route that will see them start out in the Mid Wales town of Newtown. 

The peleton will continue south with the road taking them through Knighton, Builth Wells and Brecon and over some tough climbs in the Brecon Beacons National Park.  The action will then culminate with a climb to the top of the Tumble Mountain above Abergavenny, a route that could suit local favourite Geraint Thomas.

The cyclists taking part will be confirmed nearer the time, but previous participants have included former world champions Thor Hushovd and Mark Cavendish, current Giro d'Italia champion Nairo Quintana  and ex-Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins.

Seniors Get in the Swing

Event - Seniors Open Golf
Location - Royal Porthcawl Golf Club

Date - 24-27 July 2014
For more information visit the website

The biggest sporting event of the year in South East Wales is almost upon us.  Golf's senior British Open gets underway at the Royal Porthcawl golf course next Thursday.  It will be the first time that Wales hosts a major championship.

Some of the sport's legendary figures are due to take part including Bernhard Langer, Tom Watson, Fred Couples, Ian Woosnam and Colin Montgomerie.  They'll all be competing to follow in the footsteps of 2013 champion, Mark Wiebe, and claim first prize in what promises to be an exciting weekend of top golf action.

For more information on the tournament, including how to secure tickets, please visit the website.

Survival of the Fittest

Event - Celts Survival Run
Location - Kenfig National Nature Reserve, Porthcawl
Date - 23 August 2014
For more information visit the website

This is most definitely not a gentle fun run.  It's not even a marathon with a few gentle challenges thrown in along the way.  Oh, no. This is the Celts Survival Run - an International Extreme Endurance Event.

At 50km long the course would be tough enough on its own, but this is not a straight forward race.  As well as running that extreme distance, competitors will be expected to overcome a series of brutal obstacles.

The route takes the competitors through the stunning scenery of the Kenfig National Nature Reserve and along the South Wales coast to the huge Merthyr Mawr sand dunes before finishing at Ogmore Castle, not that the runners will have a chance to appreciate their surroundings.

The race will put competitors in true survival mode and challenges along the route may include carrying, climbing, throwing, digging, building and swimming.  Not many people will finish the course; fewer still will have completed all the obstacles along the way.

Most of the challenges will not be revealed until the day of the race, so competitors will have to be ready for anything.

Are you tough enough to give it a go?

(Please note, this is an extremely tough and dangerous race.  It is only for very fit and very experienced ultra-marathon runners.  If that's not you, then do not enter)