Activity breaks South Wales

South Wales is overlooked by most visitors, perhaps because maps show a lot of urban areas compared to the rest of the country. That only goes to show how deceptive appearances can be. With coast and country in close proximity and fast roads like the M4, the region south of the Brecon Beacons provides an adrenaline fix within three hours of London and the Midlands – ideal for an activity weekend getaway.

Day 1 - A day in the Valleys

Morning: Mountain biking at Afan Forest Park

A man mountain biking in the Afan Forest, Glamorgan

Mountain biking in Afan Forest Park, Neath Port Talbot

Where else to begin in South Wales than the valleys that reach north from the cities? Those around Neath are the birthplace of Richard Burton (in Pontrhydyfen) and a former hub of coal-mining, a story told in the South Wales Miner’s Museum in Cymer. You’ll pass both en route to a former coal valley now famous as the fastest growing mountain bike area in Britain at Afan Forest Park. Bikers can tackle The Wall (graded difficult) and its endorphin-busting descent. The Rookie trial or Rheilffordd circuit are perfect for newbies and picnics. Bike hire and a café is on-site.

Find out more about mountain biking in Wales

Afternoon: A walk in waterfall country

Sgwd Gwladus waterfall after heavy rain in the Brecon Beacons

Sgwd Gwladus waterfall, Brecon Beacons by Paula J James

Head north around hairpins in the valleys into the foothills of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Cwm Porth is an ideal base to start exploring Waterfall Country. For walkers it’s Lord of the Rings stuff, with legends of a love-lorn Welsh princess at the most accessible falls, Sgwd Gwladys. Sgwd yr Eira – the ‘falls of snow’ – is celebrated as the one you can walk behind.

Day 2 - The Glamorgan coast

Morning: Surfing in Porthcawl

A surfer running into the waves on the beach at Porthcawl, Glamorgan

Surfing at Porthcawl, Glamorgan Heritage Coast

After a day in the hills, discover the coast. The Jurassic cliffs, long beaches and waves of the Glamorgan coastline tick all the same boxes for an aquatic adventure. Porthcawl is the area’s surf town. Hire a board and wetsuit or sign on to a lesson to have a go at riding waves in Rest Bay or beside the harbour. If that sounds too intense head to Merthyr Mawr (off A48) to roll down the ‘Big Dipper’ – a sand dune said to be Europe’s highest.

Search for surfing operators in Porthcawl

Afternoon: Glamorgan Heritage Coast

Dunraven Bay, Southerndown on the Glamorgan Heritage Coast

Dunraven Bay, Southerndown, Glamorgan Coast by Paula J James

The Glamorgan Heritage Coast may be the best bit of Welsh coastline no one knows: all fossil-studded Jurassic cliffs, golden beaches, bluebell woods and sea-views to Devon. The Heritage Coast Path has opened up the coast south of Southerndown. Park at spectacular Dunraven Bay, brush up on local wildlife in its heritage centre, then stride south along the cliffs or beach beneath depending on the tide. Five miles takes you to the lighthouses and tea-hut at Nash Point. A shorter circuit via the pub goes from Monknash. There’s also excellent horse-riding in the area.

Day 3 - Introducing border country

Morning: Walks in Monmouthshire

White Castle Circular path, Monmouthshire

White Castle, Wye Valley & Vale of Usk

It’s a more gentle day today as the valleys slip into the rear-view mirror and you enter the soft farmland of Monmouthshire. This is border country where hills are dotted with castles that originated from Norman battles with the Welsh. The Whitecastle Circular Trail ticks off the finest of the trio while also leading through some of the loveliest scenery in Monmouthshire. The sight of fields and woods patchworked before the Black Mountains from its ramparts is worth the hour-long stroll.

Afternoon: Canoeing on the River Wye

Two people canoeing down the River Wye

Canoeing on calm waters, River Wye by Team Black Hawk

A section of today’s border is demarcated by the River Wye. With its luxuriously wooded banks and ancient monuments, this has been voted the favourite river in Britain. It’s a river to savour, which is where a canoe comes in. Hire in the pretty town of Monmouth for a half-day paddle adventure. You go with the flow downstream for five miles to pick up (and return transport is often included). Allow two hours, say the activity organisers. The Boat Inn lies half way down at Redbrock, so we recommend three.

Search for canoeing and kayaking operators in Monmouth