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10 Reasons to Visit South Wales

By adriana - March 7, 2014

There is plenty of beauty to explore in South Wales

There is plenty of beauty to explore in South Wales

Castles, ruins, history and, of course, food; today Adriana shares 10 reasons you should visit southern Wales.

“Wales? What is there to do in Wales?” friends asked when we told them we were about to go. As it turns out Wales is a great destination especially if you are outdoorsy and enjoy history.

For accommodation, we booked one of the two cottages offered by Brechfa Forest Barns, near Brechfa Forest, in the heart of the stunning Carmarthenshire countryside, in South Wales. Nikki and Jason (the owners) have transformed their barn into two beautiful mountain retreats. They offer all the modern amenities in a very cozy setting.  The cottages are perfect for families, nature lovers, dog owners (they accept any number of dogs as long as everything is kept clean) and cyclists.

Brechfa Forest Barns, in the Carmarthenshire countryside.

Brechfa Forest Barns, in the Carmarthenshire countryside.

Their sister business, MudTrek, is an award winning company offering fully catered mountain biking adventures, guided by Jason, for both experienced and inexperienced cyclists.

From our experience, Jason and Nikki raised the bar when it comes to hospitality and making us feel welcome and right at home. I highly recommend them.

The Dylan Thomas Boathouse tearoom

The Dylan Thomas Boathouse tearoom

1. The Dylan Thomas Boathouse – The first thing I wanted to visit, in Wales, was the Dylan Thomas Boathouse. It’s a lovely house where the poet, writer, and broadcaster Dylan Thomas lived the last four years of his tragically short life. The upstairs exhibit is not extensive and it includes a 24-minute film about Dylan Thomas. Downstairs there is a lovely tearoom offering great tea and snacks. The shop sells books and other small mementos. The paintings around the house are also for sale. The Boathouse terrace offers wonderful views of the Taf estuary and beyond – a haven for egrets, lapwings, herons, oystercatchers, seals and otters.

Carreg Cennen Castle

Carreg Cennen Castle, near Swansea.

2. Carreg Cennen Castle – One of the most spectacular Welsh ruins, Carreg Cennen Castle is located north of Swansea. The setting is unbelievable – rolling green hills, with sheep grazing everywhere. It’s a beautiful and tranquil sight.

The stunning view from Carreg Cennen Castle

The stunning view from Carreg Cennen Castle

The view from Carreg Cennen Castle takes your breath away. I could have stayed there forever. It’s so peaceful with not a soul around. Even though it’s winter, the hills are very green. The castle is open every day of the year and the entrance fee is minimal.

Laugharne Castle

Laugharne Castle

3. Laugharne Castle – Other notable ruins, worth visiting in South Wales, include Laugharne Castle, which was probably founded in the early 12th century as an earth and timber fortification. It was later adapted to provide stylish living accommodation. Within walking distance from the Dylan Thomas Boathouse, it makes for a great day trip.

Llansteffan Castle

Llansteffan Castle

4. Llansteffan Castle – Another beautiful ruin is Llansteffan Castle, which stands at the end of what may seem to be a never-ending pathway to the top of the heavens. Do not be daunted by the unsure footing or the grade of the path, for the castle is certainly worth the effort. While the castle originated in the early 12th century, built by the Normans, earlier civilizations also recognized the strategic value of building on the hilltop.

Cardiff Castle

Cardiff Castle

The Keep at Cardif Castle

The Keep at Cardiff Castle

Cardiff Castle's stunning interior

Cardiff Castle’s stunning interior

5. Cardiff Castle – As long as we are talking castles, one must not forget to visit Cardiff. Located in the heart of the capital city is Cardiff Castle, a truly remarkable site, with a history that spans over 2000 years. Roman soldiers slept here, noble knights held court here, and the Bute family, with extraordinary wealth and vision, transformed the castle into a romantic Victorian fantasy.

The stunning St. Davids Cathedral

The stunning St. Davids Cathedral

Inside St. Davids Cathedral

Inside St. Davids Cathedral

6. St. Davids Cathedral – Wales has something to offer for everybody. If you are like me and love to visit old churches and cathedrals then St. Davids Cathedral is the place for you. Located in the town of St. Davids, the smallest town in Britain, this 6th century marvel is beautiful and holds a rich past; raided by Vikings and visited and owned by kings. The entire area around St. Davids is peaceful. Everywhere you turn, you are surrounded by lush green.

National Botanic Garden of Wales

National Botanic Garden of Wales

7. National Botanic Garden of Wales – If nature is what you seek, apart from the countless nature walks you can do around Brechfa Forest Barns, visit the National Botanic Garden of Wales. To our surprise, January is free to enter and, even though it’s cold and not much is growing outside, the indoor area is beautiful and colorful. You can observe flora form around the world including South Africa, Australia, USA, and Chile.

Pentre Ifan dolmen

Pentre Ifan dolmen

8. Pentre Ifan – For history buffs, South Wales offers a plethora of ancient sites like Pentre Ifan. Dating from approximately 3,500 B.C. it was possibly used as a communal burial site. It is the largest and best-preserved Neolithic dolmen in Wales. It’s free to visit and open at all hours. Just push the little gate and enter.

Caerleon Amphitheatre

Caerleon Amphitheatre

9. Caerleon Roman Ruins – South Wales is also home to the largest Roman settlement in Britain. The remains of some 75 amphitheatres have been located in widely scattered areas of the Roman Empire. The amphitheatre in Caerleon is the best-preserved example in Britain. The remains at Caerleon provide a vivid picture of life in second-century Roman Britain. Caerleon has the finest remains of Roman barrack buildings in Europe.

Caerleon Roman Ruins and The National Roman Legion Museum

Caerleon Roman Ruins and The National Roman Legion Museum

The National Roman Legion Museum houses a superb display of artifacts found in the region, as well as having demonstration rooms and a reconstruction of legionaries’ quarters.  Visiting the entire Roman site including the museum is free of charge.

10. Traditional Welsh food – I always want to try the traditional food in each country we visit. In Wales, two of the traditional dishes we tried were faggots and cawl.

Traditional Welsh Faggots

Traditional Welsh Faggots

Faggots are a traditional dish in the UK, especially south and mid Wales and the Midlands of England. A faggot is traditionally made from pig’s heart, liver, and fatty belly meat or bacon minced together, with herbs added for flavoring. Faggots originated as a traditional cheap food of ordinary country people in Western England. I enjoyed it but it’s definitely a meal I would not have all the time due to its richness.

Tasting Cawl at Cardiff Castle cafe

Tasting Cawl at Cardiff Castle cafe

Cawl is made with lamb and locally grown vegetables served with a crusty bread roll and locally produced cheese. It’s a delicious and hearty meal.

Wales is a wonderful country, worth visiting. The vastness of green, rolling hills, the forests, the ancient ruins and castles, are begging to be explored.

Love castles, palaces, and ruins like in this article? Us too! Don’t miss the full listing of Castles we’ve visited in Europe and beyond. Looking for more of our favourite hotels in Belgium and beyond? Visit our Hotel Reviews page to find out where we’ve been sleeping.

Adriana
I live in Germany with my husband and two children. I have a big passion for travel and photography. I am most happy when I travel, when I discover new cultures, see new places and try new foods. We have travelled to twenty-five countries and almost two hundred cities. See some of the photos taken during our adventures at Life in A Suitcase and follow on Google+.
Adriana
@NerdTravels he looks friendly :) - 2 hours ago

8 comments

  1. Comment by Geoff H

    Geoff H March 7, 2014 at 20:20

    Hi Adriana. A great article! I’d like to add a Reason 11: I’d recommend a visit to Pembrey Country Park. It’s on the coast, with a huge expanse of beach, near Bury Port in South Wales and is set in 500 acres of woodland which used to be a munitions factory. All the factory huts have long gone, but a few of the storage bunkers can still be seen. Also a section of the railway that used to run around the site has been restored for pleasure rides. The internal road system has also been retained allowing both on-road and off-road cycling. There are lots of other activites including a dry-ski slope and one of the best toboggan rides around. A great day out for the whole family. More info here: http://www.discovercarmarthenshire.com/parks/index.html

    Geoff
    (I have no connection with the park, other than as a happy visitor)

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison March 8, 2014 at 10:09

      Thanks Geoff! This looks fantastic. Andrew and I will definitely have to get ourselves back over that way again soon!

    • Comment by Adriana

      Adriana March 9, 2014 at 17:09

      Very beautiful and worth visiting indeed. In fact there are so many more things to see. I cannot wait to go back.

  2. Comment by Nikki Channon

    Nikki Channon March 8, 2014 at 12:35

    Thank you again Adi for writing this incredible piece about our business Brechfa Forest Barns and the amazing places you visited during your stay. I would whole-heartedly agree with Geoff H regarding Pembrey Country Park – in fact, we are off there right now so that our 3 Beagles can romp on the incredible beach :)

    • Comment by Adriana

      Adriana March 9, 2014 at 17:06

      My pleasure :)

  3. Comment by Rhodri Thomas

    Rhodri Thomas March 31, 2014 at 11:08

    Dear Adriana,
    As chairman of the Welsh Society of Brussels I would just like to send a word of thanks for such an enthusiastic report on the delights of visiting our home country. You have certainly picked out some of my favourite sites to visit. I am very glad that you enjoyed your stay there and hope many others follow your lead after reading this article.
    Rhodri

    • Comment by Adriana

      Adriana March 31, 2014 at 13:19

      Thank you very much for the appreciation. I really enjoyed visiting Wales and I am very happy to share the experience with the world. Wales is stunning and out of the entire UK, I find it to be the most affordable and as a budget traveler I can really appreciate the fact that so many interesting sights are free of charge.

  4. Comment by Welbru

    Welbru March 31, 2014 at 23:47

    Very nice article. For those who like history I would also recommend St Fagan’s outdoor museum, Big Pit old coal mine museum and Llancaiach Fawr, a manor kept in the style of the Civil War. The museums are free of charge.

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