In partnership with Southern Wales
Are you looking for a fun filled weekend in the UK? Are you searching for beautiful landscapes, fun attractions that are all Vanlife friendly? Look no further as Southern Wales has it all! Read on to find out where to go and what to do in South Wales.
I started my adventure with a visit to the newly opened Phenoix Zip line, found at Zip World Tower in Aberdare. I stepped out of the van to see rolling green valleys and luscious peaked mountain tops as far as the eye could see. Zip World Tower is a thrill seekers’ haven. The site boasts the world’s fastest seated zip line, which is highly accessible. A minibus takes you to the top of Rhigos mountain and the zip line takes you back down to the visitors centre in no time at all. Due to its unique location in the old Tower Colliery, you are privy to the most spectacular views of the Brecon Beacons as you glide over the Llyn Fawr reservoir, soaring along at a thrill seeking 70mph. The course itself is split into two sections the first is over the res, and the second section has a top speed of 50 mph, as it is a shorter run and over a dense pine forest, both equally a pure adrenaline rush as you are fully exposed to all the elements suspended in mid air.
The beautiful site is locally staffed and run under the lease of the Zip World company, which has 5 sites nationally spread out across Wales. For me I am usually a little auspicious of free hanging heights, however, the harnesses and various checks all made me feel very safe. The experienced and energetic staff reassure you as they count in Welsh before sending you down the lines and over the valley. For me this was a must have experience to get my heart pumping. I loved soaring like a bird over the tree tops and I would highly recommend this experience for adults and children alike. There are height and weight restrictions, so please check ahead. All tickets can be found online at Zip World Tower’s website, for further information please click here.
Zip World Tower also offers photography packages, which allow you to have your special moments recorded and emailed directly to you on the same day. From here you can have pictures of the whole flight experience recorded from a body camera. I would recommend giving yourself two hours for the whole experience, then top it off by making a stop off at the Cegin Glo Bar and Bistro before you leave. The beautiful bar building is found next to the zip lines. From here you can enjoy an array of barista hot drinks and delicious foods, including an array of vegan and specialist options, all whilst watching people coming down the lines. You can also sit at the many tables outside if you have a dog with you and enjoy the panoramic mountain views as you enjoy a coffee.
A must see second stop is the locally run Penderyn Brecon Beacon Distillery, a short 15-minute drive away you will see the modern building just off the main road. The site also offers charging points for electric vehicles. Whether you are a Whisky newbie like myself or an aficionado of tastings, I would highly recommend the £11 tour of the factory to understand the process of creating malt whisky and the sheer labour of love that goes into every bottle. The site is thanks to the tapping of a natural well that sits underneath and the entrepreneurial spirit of a selected team, created what we see and know of the brand today. A wonderful success story, which can be toasted to at the two free tastings at the end of the tour. If you are like myself and driving, feel free instead take two sample bottles which can be enjoyed later on. The tours run in the afternoon, just make sure to call or book ahead using their website which can be found here.
A scenic short drive further south will bring y the Rhinogs Viewpoint, make sure to stop off at the viewpoint to soak in the stunning views there or at the Hende’r Mynydd Car Park. Heading towards Bwlch, if you fancy stretching your legs in this region which has a plethora of beautiful walks. There is a multitude of hikes which boast magnificent views and a diversity of mountain landscapes, like the Sky to Sea path near Nant -Y-Moel over the Bwlch Mountain, or take the A4093 to Llangeinor which is a conservation area to explore the local wildlife and fauna of the area.
I stopped off to see the Pen Pych Waterfall for some impressive views of the pine filled mountain slopes en route up to the fall. The trails have a range of difficulties and levels with both upper and lower trails. The well benched upper trail leads up to a 349-meter waterfall and there is accessible parking from the Pen Pych Valley Car park. Click here to follow the walking route I hiked.
After immersing myself in nature I wanted to explore some of the local towns and villages and headed further down the valley to the charming town of Treorchy. The high street has been developed and has bags of character from it’s multi flagged shops lining the high streets to it’s Welsh cobbled cute houses. There was an array of shopping available here and some quaint places to visit including the interesting history like Blackmill.
Wild camping is illegal in Southern Wales, and in an area of such outstanding beauty. I opted to check into a camping site called OurWelsh Caravan and Camping. A laid back campsite with welcoming hot showers, friendly staff who gave us lots of advice and recommendations for the local area which was handy to explore locally. You can also find them on instagram on @ourwelsh. I choose the Llangeinor Arms for dinner, whose resplendent 360 views of the Welsh valley from their glass conservatory were such a joy to experience for a sunset dinner of high-quality dining and great service. The menu was diverse and boasted locally farmed produce and had lots of vegetarian and vegan options.
After an overnight camping stop in Bridgend. I head South to Rest Bay in Porthcawl to enjoy the beach and spectate some of the British Longboard 2022 Champions being held that weekend. Surf, bodyboard and wetsuit hire can all be had from the Visitors Centre, which also has outdoor showers and a fantastic restaurant with a balcony view over the sandy bay. At high tide, you can watch the surfers play in the waves whilst enjoying some tasty light bites and in the afternoon they have a takeaway cafe run from downstairs for coffees, burgers and ice creams.
Rest Bay itself is a playground for kite surfing, surfing and paddleboarding, there is also a beautiful promenade, from which you can cycle or walk down to view the pebble strewn beaches and coves which hug this craggy coastline.
Away from the Seafronts, you can explore the Merthyr Mawr Nature Reserve. On route try to stop off at the famous swing bridge, I would also suggest a stop off at the Merthyr Mawr village itself to see the peacocks roaming around the thatched cottages. Head down the single track lanes to the forest’s main park to see the ruins of Candleston Castle which is just off the main visitor’s car park. Then take a saunter in the sand over some of Europe’s largest coastal dunes including the famous Big Dipper.
Further down the coast, you’ll find the dynamic Dunraven Bay part of the Southern Down in the Vale of Glamorgan, which is famous for it’s fossil hunting and a fabulous day out for any geology enthusiasts. The large bedrock beaches here are full of fossils and fertile rock pools. Finally, a must see for it’s cinematic cliffs and dramatic scenery is the stunning views from Nash Point.
The majestic lighthouse is somewhat of a hidden gem of the coastline, as it harbours some amazing views of the rugged rocks. Families and dogs are welcome to come and roam the coastal cliff paths here all year round. There are two main car parks and a little cafe, which hosts some private toilets for customers.
Southern Wales has some truly spectacular sites and is well worth a visit, even if it is for a whirlwind weekend of adventure or for a longer holiday. For myself, I know I have fallen in love with this wonderful section of Wales and will be heading back again in July to explore more soon. For further information please go and visit @SouthernWales for further travel ideas or visit their Welsh site at @DargandeCymru on Instagram.