The best things to do in South Wales  holiday cottages

The best things to do in South Wales

Kate Atkin 22 February 2023

With caves to explore, mountains to climb and golden coastlines to wander, South Wales has a lot to offer every type of traveller.

Walkers can tackle the trails of the Beacon Beacons National Park, surfers can ride the waves along the Gower Peninsula, and shoppers can indulge in retail therapy in the capital city of Cardiff.

From family-friendly activities to romantic days out, we’ve chosen some of the best things to do in South Wales to help you get the most out of your next staycation. And if you need somewhere to base your adventures, click the button below to browse our full collection of cottages in South Wales.

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Best things to do in South Wales for families

Enjoy a fun-filled family day out in South Wales at one of these top things to do.

The National Showcaves Centre for Wales

Kids exploring a dark cave

If you’re wondering what to do in South Wales with kids, then we highly recommend adding The National Showcaves Centre for Wales to your holiday itinerary.

Here, you can delve deep underground and explore some of the most magnificent caves in Wales, including Dan yr Ogof which is brimming with extraordinary stalagmites and stalactites. More fun can be found above ground too, with a dinosaur park, an Iron Age village and a Shire Horse Centre to keep all ages entertained.


Price: Adults £18.50, children (3-16) £15.00, under 2s free

Location: Abercraf, Swansea (SA9 1GJ)

Facilities: Café, shop, WCs, dogs welcome on a lead in the Showcaves, but not in the farm park or Shire Horse Centre

Stay nearby: Penrock, Penycae | Sleeps 4 + 2 dogs

Caerphilly Castle

Montage of internal and external views of Caerphilly Castle

Inspiring tales of formidable kings, brave knights and beautiful princesses, castles in South Wales offer enchanting days out for imaginative minds! So where better to start than at the biggest castle of them all?

Surrounded by a moat with an enormous gatehouse, Caerphilly Castle is a mighty fortress, famous for its curious leaning tower. With an abundance of family-friendly events throughout the year, it’s no wonder this is one of the best things to do with kids in South Wales.


Price: Varies throughout the year (Cadw members free), please see website

Location: Castle St, Caerphilly (CF83 1JD)

Facilities: Shop, café, WCs, baby-changing facilities, dogs welcome on leads on ground-floor levels

Stay nearby: Milly, Newport | Sleeps 2 + 1 dog

Brecon Mountain Railway

Steam train on the Brecon Mountain Railway

One of the most magical ways to experience the epic scenery of the Bannau Brycheiniog / Brecon Beacons National Park is via a memorable journey onboard one of the vintage carriages of the Brecon Mountain Railway.

As you chug through emerald-green valleys in this little steam locomotive, travelling along the full length of the Taf Fechan Reservoir, you’ll get to admire some of the most dramatic mountains in South Wales. Sure to put a smile on the faces of young and old alike, this is one of the top things to do in South Wales for families.


Price: Varies throughout the year, please see the website

Location: Pontsticill Rd, Pant (CF48 2DD)

Facilities: WCs and tearooms at Pant and Pontsticill Stations, a gift shop at Pant Station, dogs welcome on the trains for a small fee

Stay nearby: Roundhouse Farm – Henrietta, Nantyglo | Sleeps 4 + 1 dog

Best things to do in South Wales for couples

Getaway together for a memorable day out in South Wales. 

National Botanic Gardens of Wales

Views of the National Botanic Gardens of Wales

Boasting a kaleidoscope of colour with more than 8,000 plants from all over the world, the National Botanic Gardens of Wales is one of the most beautiful South Wales attractions to visit as a couple.

Set amongst its inspiring range of themed gardens, you can explore the largest single-span glasshouse in the world, home to a mesmerising display of Mediterranean flora. You can also watch one of the flying displays at the British Bird of Prey Centre, or enjoy a hot and steamy wander among the butterflies of the Tropical House.


Price: Adults £13.75, children (5-16) £6.75, families from £26.50, under 5s free 

Location: Middleton Hall, Llanarthne (SA32 8HN)

Facilities: Shop, gallery, restaurant, café, WCs, dogs welcome in certain areas on Mondays and Fridays (see website)

Stay nearby: Beacons Hot Tub Retreat, Llandyfan | Sleeps 2 + 3 dogs

Hensol Castle Distillery

Workshop in the gin distillery

Set within the atmospheric cellar of a 17th-century fortress, you’ll find one of the most romantic things to do in South Wales for couples. Hensol Castle Distillery is a perfect day out for gin connoisseurs, boasting a craft spirit distillery and a fantastic gin school.

You and your partner will learn about the origins of gin, the wonders of botanicals and the distilling process, before crafting your own unique bottle of the delicious spirit to take home with you – a wonderful memento of your holiday.


Price: Varies, depending on which tour/workshop you choose, please see website

Location: Hensol, Pontyclun (CF72 8JX)

Facilities: Shop, afternoon tea available for an additional cost, WCs, car parking

Stay nearby: The Limes – Cowbridge, Cowbridge | Sleeps 2

Tintern Abbey

Tintern Abbey on a bright day

One of the greatest monastic ruins in Wales, Tintern Abbey enjoys a spectacular setting in the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This well-preserved Gothic masterpiece was founded in 1131 and today, it stands in roofless splendour with the soaring arches of its nave still drawing in countless artists and writers to capture its haunting beauty on paper.

Amble around the ruins and visit the on-site museum to learn more about the history of the abbey and the Cistercian order of monks who once called it home.


Price: Adults £8.30, children (5-17) £5.80, seniors £7.70, family £27.40, under 5s and Cadw members free 

Location: Tintern (NP16 6SE)

Facilities: Shop, refreshments, picnic tables, WCs, baby-changing facilities, dogs welcome on leads on ground-floor levels

Stay nearby: Maybury, Chepstow | Sleeps 2

Things to do in South Wales with dogs

Enjoy these top things to do in South Wales for the whole pack! 

Tredegar House

The lake at Tredegar House

If you’re looking for things to do in South Wales with dogs, then Tredegar House is sure to set your canine companion’s tail wagging. This captivating 17th-century manor is set within 90 acres of gardens and parkland, which you and your dog can explore together.

Admire the blooms of the formal gardens, play ball on the lawns, and treat your pal to some biscuits and doggy ice cream in the pet-friendly tearoom. The only place pups can’t go is inside the house, but there are plenty of benches and tables dotted around the grounds so you can take it in turns.


Price: Adults £11.00, children £5.50

Location: Pencarn Way, Newport (NP10 8YW)

Facilities: Tearoom with dog-friendly tables, shop, WCs, car park, dogs welcome in the gardens and parkland

Stay nearby: Caban Cwm Hedd, Newport | Sleeps 5 + 2 dogs

Afan Forest Park

Dog having a walk in Afan Forest Park

Discover some of the best walks in South Wales with your pup by your side in Afan Forest Park. This 48-square-mile forest near Neath offers a myriad of woodland footpaths of varying lengths, as well as picnic tables, a shop and a museum.

If you’re feeling particularly energetic, you can also enjoy one of the thrilling mountain biking trails – bring your own bike or hire one there. Trails range from the family-friendly Rookie Trail to black and red graded routes for serious mountain bike enthusiasts.


Price: Free entry, there is a charge for the car park

Location: Port Talbot (SA13 3HG)

Facilities: Café, picnic area, shop, bike hire, bike wash, museum, walking and cycling trails, WCs and parking

Stay nearby: Ty Hiraeth, near Afan Forest Park | Sleeps 4 + 3 dogs

Craig-y-nos Country Park

A lake at Craig-y-nos Country Park

We couldn’t write a list of fun things to do in South Wales without including Craig y Nos Country Park. A haven for those with two and four legs, this 40-acre Victorian garden in the Upper Swansea Valley is a paradise of rolling countryside, shady woodlands and meandering rivers.

The paths are gentle and easy to follow, and there are many benches and picnic areas for little rest stops. The only restriction is that dogs are not allowed in the hay meadow while sheep are grazing in the winter months.


Price: Free entry, there is a charge for the car park

Location: Craig-y-nos, Swansea (SA9 1GL)

Facilities: Visitor centre, tearoom, picnic areas, WCs, car parking

Stay nearby: Breconview Lodge, Abercraf | Sleeps 8 + 1 dog

Unusual things to do in South Wales

After something a little different? Then these top unusual things to do in South Wales are sure to satisfy.

Red Kite Feeding Station

Red kite soaring in the sky

Once an endangered species, red kites are now an iconic sight in the Bannau Brycheiniog / Brecon Beacons National Park – there are now well over 300 pairs of breeding birds in South Wales. If you’re looking for one of the more unusual things to do in South Wales, then why not have a memorable experience and see these graceful birds of prey up close at the Red Kite Feeding Station?

Here, you can sit in a specially-built hide only feet away from the birds as they dive for their food. It’s a breathtaking spectacle of aerial acrobatics as the kites swoop and soar, sometimes hundreds of birds at a time!


Price: Adults £6.00, children £3.00

Location: Llanddeusant, Llangadog (SA19 9YG)

Facilities: No facilities, dogs welcome on a lead

Stay nearby: Llwynrhosser, Llangadog | Sleeps 4 + 2 dogs

Castell Coch

Castell Coch at sunset

You might be wondering why we’ve included another castle in Wales on this list… but this isn’t any ordinary folly! Castell Coch (Red Castle in Welsh) is a decadent fantasy fortress in Cardiff, seemingly straight out of a storybook. Set on a steep, wooded hillside, its conical towers rise above a fanciful drawbridge, which hints at the splendour within.

Head inside this architectural beauty and you’ll discover lavish interiors – a magnificent vision of an imaginary medieval world. It must be seen to be believed!


Price: Adults £8.30, children (5-17) £5.80, under 5s free

Location: Tongwynlais, Cardiff (CF15 7JS)

Facilities: Café, gift shop, WCs, car parking, dogs welcome in the grounds only

Stay nearby: Pontcanna Mews, Cardiff | Sleeps 4

Merthyr Mawr Nature Reserve

Sand dunes at Merthyr Mawr Nature Reserve

Also known as the ‘Welsh Sahara Desert’, Merthyr Mawr Nature Reserve near Bridgend is the second-highest sand dune system in Europe. This unusual attraction on the South Wales coast extends to 840 acres (the size of 340 international rugby pitches) and is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of its wealth of plants and insect life.

These shifting sands doubled for the Arabian Desert in David Lean’s epic 1962 film, Lawrence of Arabia. And it’s not hard to see why, especially when you catch sight of the most dramatic dune of them all, the Big Dipper!


Price: Free

Location: Merthyr Mawr, Bridgend (CF32 0ND)

Facilities: Two pay and display car parks at either end of the dunes with WCs, dogs welcome

Stay nearby: Somerset View, Ogmore-by-Sea | Sleeps 6 + 1 dog

Free things to do in South Wales

Take a look at these fantastic free things to do in South Wales for an exciting day out.

Waterfall Country

Two waterfalls in South Wales

For one of the most memorable free things to do in South Waleshead to the Vale of Neath and discover Waterfall Country – where you’ll find not only the largest concentration of waterfalls in South Wales, but all of the UK.

One of the most noteworthy cascades is the 90-foot-high Henrhyd Falls, which you can walk behind, and was featured in the Batman film The Dark Knight Rises. And if you’d like to admire several in one spectacular stroll, try the 5.5-mile circular Four Falls Trail, which includes Sgwd Clun-Gwyn, Sgwd Isaf Clun-Gwyn, Sgwd y Pannwr and Sgwd yr Eira.


Price: Most of the waterfalls are free to explore, some have a car parking charge

Location: Vale of Neath

Facilities: Picnic area at Gwaun Hepste Car Park, WCs at Cwm Porth/Four Waterfalls Car Park

Stay nearby: Sunnyside Lodge, Aberdare | Sleeps 2

Gower Peninsula

Paraglider above Gower Peninsula

With its rugged coastline, pristine beaches and rolling green hills, the Gower Peninsula is one of the top spots for walking in South Wales. This Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is home to 37 square miles of coastline which is also designated as Heritage Coast. 

Its turquoise waters are a surfer's heaven, while families flock here to enjoy some of the finest beaches in Wales, including Three Cliffs Bay, Rhossili Bay and Oxwich Bay. If the tide is right, venture out to the tidal island of Worm’s Head, and keep your eyes peeled for seals, dolphins, and the rarely-seen chough. Take a look at our full guide to South Wales beaches for even more sandy inspiration. 


Price: Most of Gower is free to explore, some places have a car parking charge

Location: Near Swansea, West Glamorgan

Facilities: Varies across the peninsula

Stay nearby: Sea View, Gower | Sleeps 5

The Big Pit National Coal Museum

The Big Pit National Coal Museum

One of the top free South Wales attractions, The Big Pit National Coal Museum showcases the country’s rich industrial past at the heart of the Blaenavon UNESCO World Heritage Site. Armed with hard hats and safety lamps, you will descend 300ft below the surface into a deep, dark mine shaft led by a former miner.

After experiencing what life was like at this eerie coalface, you can head back into the light and explore various colliery buildings filled with fascinating objects and displays.


Price: Free

Location: Blaenavon, Pontypool (NP4 9XP)

Facilities: Café, shop, WCs, baby-changing facilities, dogs welcome in the grounds but not inside the buildings or underground

Stay nearby: Coity View, Blaenavon | Sleeps 4 + 2 dogs

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St Leonards Ground Floor Apartment
St Leonards Ground Floor Apartment

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Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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