On Countryfile this Sunday: South Wales

This week, Matt Baker and John Craven explore this fascinating part of Wales. Here's our guide to the best things to do in the area.

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ACTIVITIES

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Adventures Outdoor Activity Centre

To get your adrenaline pumping in the great outdoors, try this action-packed activity centre. Popular with groups of colleagues or young friends wanting to let their hair down, it’s a great place to try abseiling, quad biking, coasteering or even gorge walking. Many take place at different venues away from it’s Porthcawl base, so you can experience the South Welsh countryside in a totally new and different way.

Dryad Bushcraft

Follow in the footsteps of Ray Mears as you learn to fend for yourself and survive in the wild. Trained instructors will help you learn how to light a fire without matches, create a temporary shelter and identify plants to use as food and medicine on a range of courses, from a one-day taster to a more intense week-long experience. And you couldn’t ask for a better location – your new skills will be gained in the UK’s first ever Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the Gower peninsula.

Bailey Balloons

To truly get away from – and above – it all, relax in the skies and let someone else do the hard work. Sail away in a hot air balloon from sites across South Wales, including Usk, Monmouth and Abergavenny. Look out for the remnants of ancient sites and historic castles, and of course, the beautiful rolling Welsh hills, including Brecon Beacons National Park and Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Mountain biking at Cwmcarn Forest

Once back on land, embrace a physical challenge with two wheels. This track – originally carved out many years ago for coalminers – has enough climbs, descents, twists and turns across its 15.5km to keep you on your toes. Based near Caerphilly, there’ll be plenty of places nearby to relax with drinks or food after your energetic day.

ATTRACTIONS

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Castles

There are a lot of castles in South Wales. This is, of course, due to the shifts in power and border boundaries changing so many times over hundreds of years. Each is a fascinating example of it’s own time period – from the Norman stronghold at Caldicot to the charming Castell Coch, complete with conical towers and pointed fairytale turrets. For more information on the castles of the area, click here.

Caerleon Roman Fortress

This fortress, known as Isca in Roman times, would have been a bustling hive of activity in AD75. Home to the 5,000 soldiers of the second Augustan Legion, it also housed an amphitheatre, bath complex and forum. Perhaps because of its size and importance, it is now a very well-preserved and accessible site for visitors who want to know the part Wales – and the UK – played in the Roman Empire.

Barry Tourist Railway

In 1884, the first tracks were laid down to connect the dock in Barry with the coalfields of South Wales. Today, as much of the line and its steam engines as possible have been preserved, making a great day out for the whole family.  The enthusiasts behind the railway hold regular events including open days, toy fairs and even a transport festival.

NATURE

National Botanical Garden of Wales

This 400-year-old parkland has housed a stunning collection of exotic and native flora since the turn of the millennium. Across a range of themed gardens, such as Welsh country walk and Japanese Garden, be dazzled by the bright colours and beautiful arrangements of the flowers, including meadow rue, rock roses and snowdrops to name just a few. The rich variety of plants creates a number of ideal habitats for wildlife as well, meaning that over 100 types of butterfly and moth, 56 bird species and slow worms, grass snakes, frogs and toads also call this paradise home. 

Brecon Beacons

This iconic range of mountains is made up of six peaks – its encompassing, huge national park, established in 1957, is well worth exploring. Of course, it’d be difficult to take in all 520 square miles, but there’s plenty to choose from including walking routes that take in the dramatic wildlife and scenery, and plenty of historic sites and quaint villages. 

The Gower

One of the first places to be designated an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ in 1956, the Gower Peninsula, just past Swansea, has to be seen to be believed. This stretch of coastline is popular with walkers and outdoor sports enthusiasts for its great beaches and caves, and excellent waves. There’s plenty for history buffs too, as excavations have found human remains and items from the Stone and Bronze ages and the Roman era. 

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