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Cardiff, Coast and Valleys of South Wales

Cardiff Harbour courtesy Visit Wales Cardiff, located on the banks of the River Taff, is the capital and largest city (320,000+ inhabitants) of Wales. It's a busy commercial, maritime and university city.

Cardiff Castle courtesy Visit Wales During Victorian times it was the biggest coal-exporting city in the world. Cardiff's most famous citizen was the wealthy second Marquess of Bute, who, in 1839, built Cardiff's docks to export the coal mined from his father's valley lands.

Cardiff Castle interior courtesy Visit Wales He amassed a fortune, which the third Marquess took advantage of to build the eye-stunning Cardiff Castle on medieval foundations within a Norman wall. He enlisted William Burges as his architect and built the castle with every conceivable decoration possible in its interior.

Cardiff Castle Norman Keep by Barbara Ballard The castle is located in the city centre within the site used by both the Romans and the Normans for defensive purposes. The 12-sided Norman keep still sits on top of a small hill today, providing views over Cardiff.

Cardiff city hall courtesy Visit Wales Cardiff National Museum and Art Gallery courtesy Visit Wales Cardiff's Civic Centre, enriched with white Portland stone buildings, is northeast of the castle. Cathays Park, part of the Centre, has gardens, trees and green spaces. The City Hall (look for the dragon on the domed rooftop), Law Courts and Welsh National War Memorial are in the park, but it's the National Museum and Gallery that is of most interest to visit. It tells the story of the evolution of Wales from the land's beginning and houses a large collection of 18th century porcelain. There are art galleries of European work, including Impressionist paintings and sculpture. Natural history and archaeological exhibits are part of the museum displays.

Welsh Folk Museum by Barbara Ballard Welsh Folk Museum stone pigsty by Barbara Ballard The Museum of Welsh Life, 4 miles from the city centre at St Fagans, is a 100-acre (40.5ha) open air museum of reconstructed buildings gathered from all over Wales. They vary from St Fagan's Castle, a late 16th century manor house, to an original pigsty. An indoor museum on the site houses farming implements, costumes and artifacts of daily living from the middle ages to today. There's a library and photo archives.

Rest Bay on Glamorgan Heritage Coast courtesy Glamorgan Heritage Coast Tourism Thatched cottages coutesy Visit Wales The Glamorgan Heritage Coast is a 14 mile (22.5km) stretch of protected coast running from Aberthaw to Porthcawl. The area is characterized by the Merthyr Mawr dune lands (some of the largest in Europe), sandy beaches and high cliffs. Merthyr Mawr is said to have the prettiest thatched cottages in all of Wales.

Barry Island, Whitmore Bay courtesy Darius Khan Geograph Britain and Ireland Porthcawl is a traditional seaside resort with sandy beaches and a Victorian/Edwardian street with a promenade. Barry Island (not really an island but a peninsula) is another popular seaside holiday spot for families with its large amusement park. The Heritage Coast Visitor Centre is located at Southerdown.

Celtic crosses at Llantwit Major courtesy Visit Wales Llantwit Major, an attractive town with medieval streets, is home to the cathedral-like church of St Illtud. It's really two churches linked with a tower. The 13th century part has a wall painting of St Christopher, and the 15th century part is a reconstruction of Norman origin. It contains a number of effigies and early Christian stones and crosses.

Rhondda Heritage Park courtesy Visit Wales Big Pit underground mine courtesy Visit Wales The Valleys of South Wales consist of the mountainous landscape to the north of Newport, Cardiff and Swansea. The area's once beautiful green hills are scarred with its industrial past when they yielded millions of tons of coal and iron during Victorian times. Former miners' cottages terrace the hillsides, and old industrial sites are now museums and heritage parks. Rhondda Heritage Park at Trehafod and Big Pit at Blaenafon (located at the head of the Afon Llwyd Valley) are two to visit. The Rhondda lets visitors experience the life and times of miners over the past 150 years. It's part of the Rhondda Heritage Trail that leads to over 20 sites of industrial, cultural and scenic importance.

Caerphilly Castle leaning tower by Barbara Ballard The Valley area is home to an impressive 13th century castle, Caerphilly in the village of the same name. It boasts massive remains and is justly famous for its leaning tower. Surrounded by a moat and lakes, the concentric castle was built as a threat to the Welsh. It contains both an inner and outer ward.

Llancaiach Fawr courtesy Visit Wales Llancaiach Fawr Manor is a living history museum. On stepping through the door, "17th century" guides will greet you and tell you all about the life of the times.

Cardiff, Coast and Valleys of South Wales Attractions

For opening times and full details of attractions see the Attractions section of our website.

Afan Forest Park and Countryside Centre
Six miles north-east of Port Talbot, on A4107
Exit 40 of the M4
Tel. 0 639 850 564

Barry Castle
Off A4226, on west side of town of Barry, Glamorgan

Beaupre Castle
Off A4222, two miles south-east of Cowbridge, south Glamorgan

Bellevue Park
Newport, Glamorgan; on the M4

Blaenavon Ironworks
Cardiff, Coast and Valleys of South Wales

Big Pit (National Coal Museum of Wales)
Big Pit, Pwll Mawr, Blaenavon
Tel: 0 1496 790 311
Web: Big Pit

Caerau Castle Ringwork
Off the A48 near Cardiff, Glamorgan

Caerphilly Castle
Caerphilly, Glamorgan; on the A469
Tel. 0 1222 883 143
For more on Wales castles see our article Castle Country

Caerphilly Stone Fort
On the A468

Caerwent Roman Town
11 miles south of Newport; signposted off A48

Candleston Castle
Minor road off A48; near village of Merthyr Mawr
3 miles south-west of Bridgend Glamorgan

Cardiff Castle
Castle Street, downtown Cardiff
Tel. 029 20 878 100
Web: Cardiff Castle

Cardiff Story Museum
Old library building, The Hayes, Cardiff
Main entrance on Trinity St
Tel. 029 2078 8334
Web: Cardiff Story Museum

Cardiff Roman Fort
On the A48

Carn Bugail prehistoric site
Near village of Den, by Merthyr Tydfil, Cardiff, A470/A465

Castell Coch
Tongwynlais, near Cardiff; signposted off the A470
Tel. 029 20 810 101

Church of St John
Cardiff city centre, off the M4

Coity Castle
Two miles northeast of Bridgend, Glamorgan, Off the A4061

Cosmeston Lakes Country Park & Medieval Village
Penarth, South Glamorgan; off B4267
Tel. 029 2070 1678

Cwmcarn Forest Drive and Visitor Centre
Signed from the M4 exit 28; approach from A467

Doctor Who Experience
Porth Teigr, Cardiff Bay
Tel. 0 844 801 3663
Web: Dr Who Experience

Dyffryn House and Gardens
St Nicholas, near Cardiff, Vale of Glamorgan, on the A48
Tel. 0 2920 593 328

Ewenny Priory and Church
Ewenny, on the B4524
South of Bridgend, Glamorgan; 20 miles west of Cardiff
Web: Ewenny Priory Church

Gelligaer Military Station
On the B4254 at Gelligaer; 14 miles north of Cardiff

Gelligaer Standing Stone
Near Merthyr Tydfil and Deri

Gethin Woodland Park
Accessed from roundabout south of Merthyr Tydfil on A470 to Cardiff; Rhondda area

Hensol Woods
Near St Donats church; reach from Cowbridge on A4222 Llantrsant road, turning right at Ystradowen

Holy Trinity Church
Marcross, off the B4265 near Llantwit Major

Llancaiach Fawr Living History Museum
Nelson, Caerphilly
Off the B4254, south of Merthyr Tydfil
Tel. 0 1443 412 248

Llandaff Cathedral
Llandaff, off the A48 in greater Cardiff

Llanilid Castle
Two miles east of Pencoed, Glamorgan
Near M4, exit 35

Llantrisant Castle
Llantrisant, Glamorgan, on A449

Margam Abbey
On the A48/M40 near Port Talbot, Glamorgan

Morlais Castle
Two miles north of Merthyr Tydfil A465/A4102/A4060), Mid- Glamorgan

Mynydd Y Gelli (Rhondda Stonehenge)
Near Tonypandy, Glamorgan, off A4058/A4119

National Museum of Wales
Cathays Park, Cardiff
Tel. 029 2039 7951

Newcastle Castle
On banks of Ogmore River, on the A4063; town centre of Bridgend, Mid Glamorgan

Newport Castle
On southern edge of Newport
Via A48, A468, M4, A4042

Ogmore Castle
2.5 miles southwest of Bridgend, mid Glamorgan; on the B4524

Old Police Station & Museum
John Street, Porthcawl; mid Glamorgan; on the A4229
Tel. 0 1656 786 639 or 0 1656 782 211

Penmark Castle
Off A4226 at Penmark, South Glamorgan

Penpych Woodland Park
Follow signs to Treherbert, then Blaencwm, Rhondda area

Penydarren Roman Fort
Tregenna Hotel, Park Terrace, Merthyr Tydfil
On the A464/A4060

Rhondda Heritage Park
Lewis Merthyr Colliery, Coed Cae Rd
Trehafod, near Pontypridd; in the Rhondda Valley, off the A4058
Tel. 0 1443 682 036

Runston Chapel
A48 to Crick, then minor road

Sirhowy Valley Country Park
Access from exit 28 of M4; signed off A467

St Augustine Church
Penarth, south of Cardiff
Vale of Glamorgan; on the A4160

St Cadoc’s Church
Llancarfan, Vale of Glamorgan (15 miles from Cardiff)

St Cattwg (St Cadoc) Church
Llanmaes; off the B4265 near Llantwit Major

St Donat’s Castle
Minor road west of Llantwit Major (B4265)
Tel. 0 1446 799 100 or 799 000

St Fagans: National History Museum
Four miles west of Cardiff, off the A4232
Tel. 029 2057 3500
For full details and photos see our article:
St Fagan’s National History Museum

St Illtud Church
Llantwit Major, Vale of Glamorgan; on the B4265
Tel. 0 1446 795 551

St James Church
Wick; on the B4265 near Llantwit Major

St Lythans
Minor road off the A4050
Near the village of St Lythans, Glamorgan

St Mary Church
Llandaff; six miles west of Cardiff

St Mary Magadelene
Monknash; off the B4265 near Llantwit Major

St Michael's Church
Llanmihangel; off the B4270 near Llantwit Major

St Quentin’s Castle
Llanblethian, one mile southwest of Cowbridge (A48)
Tel. 0 1443 336 000 (info line)
For photos and more details see our article St Quentin Castle

St Senwyr
Llansannor, on minor road near Cowbridge(A48), Vale of Glamorgan

St Woolos Cathedral (St Gwynllyw’s)
Newport, off the M4, on Stow Hill

Stuart Street, Cardiff
Tel. 029 20 475 475
Web: Techniquest

By St Nicholas on A48, South Glamorgan

Tredegar Hillfort (the Gaer)

Turner House Gallery
Five miles south of Cardiff city centre on Plymouth Road, Penarth, A4160
Tel. 029 2070 8870

Winding House Museum
Cross St, New Tredegar
Tel. 0 1443 822 666
Web: Winding House Museum

Photo of Barry Island, Whitmore Bay courtesy Darius Khan, Geograph Britain and Ireland

Other photos courtesy of Visit Wales and by Barbara Ballard

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