With its southern border beginning just over twenty miles north of Cardiff, the county of Merthyr Tydfil is long and slim, extending like a dart into the Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) National Park. To the north, the Taff River tumbles out of the mountains making its way through the heart of both the town and the county. Steep valleys rise up either side creating a dramatic landscape that’s perfect for all manner of outdoor activities.

The town itself was a busy industrial centre during the 18th and 19th centuries when the Welsh Valleys rang to the clamour of steel production and coal mining. Today, nature has reclaimed much of the land inviting walkers, mountain bikers, railway enthusiasts and picnickers to enjoy its bucolic parkland, wooded trails, wide reservoirs and wild moorland terrain.

Here’s our guide to planning your visit to Merthyr Tydfil.

A drone pic of a reservoir with a wooded island in the middle.

Beacons Reservoir, Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons), Mid Wales

Things to do in Merthyr Tydfil

Outdoor Activities in Merthyr

If you’re into the outdoors then Merthyr has plenty to get you fired up. For high-octane activity head to BikePark Wales to tackle one of its forty mountain bike trails. Then to make a splash, Parkwood Outdoors Dolygaer adventure centre offers kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding and gorge adventures for all ages.

If you’d rather ride the rails then the Brecon Mountain Railway lets you take in the scenery at a more sedate pace. Sit back in comfort in the observation carriage and let the power of steam do all the work as you chug into the Bannau Brycheniog along the original route of the Brecon and Merthyr Railway.

A mountain bike park in a wooded valley.
The wooden seated interior of a carriage on a heritage railway with a passenger looking out of the window

BikePark Wales, and the Brecon Mountain Railway, Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales

Golf enthusiasts shouldn’t miss the Morlais Castle Golf Course perched above the town of Merthyr. The 13th century castle ruins run alongside the third fairway and there are scenic views all around.

There’s also a comprehensive network of trails winding through the borough where you can amble, hike, bike or horse ride. The Taff Trail is a highlight, taking a mostly traffic-free route north from the town and crossing both the Pontsarn and Cefn Coed viaducts. Other trails include historically themed walks in and around the town and another that follows an old tram and waterway route to Cyfarthfa Lake. Check out the Visit Merthyr website for more details.

Museums, culture and the arts in Merthyr

For a crowd-pleasing day out you can’t get better than Cyfarthfa Castle Museum & Art Gallery with its wide range of activities. The Ironmaster William Crawshay commissioned this imposing residence in 1824 and its pomp and grandeur are a testament to the great wealth his business generated.

Exterior of stone castle.

Cyfarthfa Castle, Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales

On a sunny day, Cyfarthfa Park and its gardens are perfect for a picnic and a stroll. Indoors, there’s a diverse display of artefacts, from impressionist paintings and vintage Laura Ashley dresses, to the very first steam whistle. Social history galleries chart the highs and lows of the industrial age, including pioneering steam locomotives and the origins of the labour movement that led to the famous Merthyr Riots.

For a look at how the other half lived, pay a visit to Joseph Parry's Cottage Museum. This modest abode is an example of a typical ironworker’s home and was the birthplace of the famous Welsh composer after which it is named.

In the centre of town, you’ll find Redhouse Cymru in the grand old Town Hall. Built during the late 19th Century the building has been fully restored and is now a centre for the arts and creative industries. Nearby Theatr Soar presents a program of Welsh-language theatre, workshops and events from a Grade II listed former church.

Eating and drinking - Merthyr Tydfil restaurants and pubs

To fuel your adventures there is a good range of restaurants, cafes and traditional pubs in Merthyr Tydfil town and its surrounds. For morning coffee and afternoon cake, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Pop into the Redhouse Café for proper coffee with an arty vibe or head to Cosy Corner in the covered market for a classic no-frills fry-up. Cefn Tea Rooms on Cefn Coed High Street serves up slabs of freshly baked cake and tea in proper pots.

For the best fish and chips, it’s a toss-up between the Fountain Fish Bar and the Busy Bee Fish Bar. For evening meals, The Mine at CF47 & Castelany's features a classic burger and grill menu alongside Italian fare. This is definitely the place to come for a carb-fuelled blowout after working up an appetite. 

The Portugalles Café stays open late serving a Portuguese-themed menu, sometimes accompanied by live music. For cocktails and a party atmosphere on the weekend head to Hardie’s, and for traditional pubs take your pick from the Rose & Crown, the Tiger Inn, The Iron Dragon, and plenty more. Out of town The Red Cow and the cosy Aberglais Inn are ideal for a warming lunch or dinner after a stride in the hills.

A wide tarmacked path alongside a lake and autumnal trees.

Cyfarthfa Park, Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales

Where to stay - Merthyr Tydfil hotels and campsites

With so much natural beauty all around it makes sense to book your Merthyr Tydfil accommodation in the midst of it. There are some lovely countryside cabins and campsites not too far from Merthyr Tydfil town centre. So you’ll enjoy easy access to the town’s amenities and the peace and tranquillity of the countryside.

The Roost Merthyr Tydfil Ltd is a small, eco-friendly cabin site that makes a perfect base for walkers and cyclists. Grawen Caravan & Camping Park provides welcoming camping fields for you to pitch up in, and the Coed Owen Bunkhouse is a sociable low-cost option for those hitting the hills on a budget.

For self-catering accommodation in Merthyr Tydfil, the Old Canal Side Cottage in Abercanaid is a nice option. For a stay close to the centre of Merthyr town opt for the cosy terraced cottage Bwthyn Pen-Y-Fan.

If you’d rather someone else made the beds and served breakfast then the family-run Mount Pleasant Inn in Merthyr Vale is consistently popular. With just five rooms you’ll have to act quickly though. Alternatively, head further north to the Llwyn Onn Guest House with its gardens overlooking the reservoir of the same name. This B&B is close to several walking routes including the Taff Trail, so all you’ll need to do is lace up your walking boots and step outside.

View from Taff Trail

Old Canal Side Cottage

Merthyr Tydfil
Landscape of the attractions at Cardiff Bay seen from the water.

Bwthyn Pen-Y-Fan

Landscape of the attractions at Cardiff Bay seen from the water.

Mount Pleasant Inn

Merthyr Vale
Landscape of the attractions at Cardiff Bay seen from the water.

Llwyn Onn Guest House

Nr Merthyr Tydfil
Landscape of the attractions at Cardiff Bay seen from the water.

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