Merthyr was the focal point of iron production during the Industrial Revolution. It became the most populated town in Wales at the turn of the 19th century, with people drawn from all over the world to work at the ironworks owned by the Guest and Crawshay families. Cyfarthfa Castle was built by William Crawshay II in 1824 and the museum offers a fascinating insight into the colourful history of Merthyr.
Big Pit Mining Museum
There are few museums which feature a 100 metre journey underground. The Big Pit National Coal Museum is located in a UNESCO World Heritage Site at the former Lewis Merthyr Colliery, just a short drive from Cardiff. All the guides are former miners and the tour offers the unique opportunity to experience just what it was like to work in a coal mine during the 1950s.
Afan Forest Park
The quality of the five mountain biking trails of Afan Forest draws visitors from all corners of Britain. There are many other attractions besides, including numerous walks and the Afan Forest 4x4 tour. The South Wales Miners Museum charts the industrial heritage of the area, while Kanji Wood is a Japanese garden that creates a reflective and peaceful retreat in the midst this all-action corner of the South Wales Valleys.
This is the biggest and arguably the most impressive castle in a country that isn’t short of an ancient monument or two. Just a short drive from Cardiff, Caerphilly Castle is surrounded by an elaborate collection of moats and islands and was renovated during the 19th century under the instruction of industrial magnate the third Marquess Of Bute. Unfortunately, history doesn’t record whether he was a keen water skier.
Sultan the Pit Pony
Sultan the Pit Pony is the UK’s largest figurative earth sculpture features a 200 metre horse, created by landscape sculptor Mick Petts. It was carved on the site of a former coal tip on the outskirts of Ystrad Mynach and has been included among the Top 10 Woodland Sculpture Trails, compiled by the Woodland Trust.
The Vale Of Neath is a fascinating area featuring numerous geological attractions, including a series of dramatic waterfalls. Pontneddfechan is a good place to start your exploration. You’ll find details of how to find such landmarks as Sgwd Gwladys, Melincourt Falls, Aberdulais and Sgwd yr Eira, on the fringes of the Brecon Beacons National Park.
Blaenavon Ironworks offers a real step back in time to the height of the industrial revolution. This was the setting for an ingenious multi-furnace ironworks established toward the end of the 18th century, resulting in Wales becoming the most important steel-making producer in the world.
Penderyn Whisky Distillery
The distillery in the rural village of the Rhondda Valley is the first Welsh whisky producer since the 19th century and has won innumerable awards for its less-is-more approach to producing quality single malts. Penderyn Visitor's Centre has tours, tasting sessions and masterclasses, as well as an exhibition of whisky-making in Wales.
Brecon Mountain Railway
A picturesque journey along the Brecon Mountain Railway on a traditional steam train takes in some magnificent sights, including the Taf Fechan valley and reservoir. Locals recommend a bowl of traditional Welsh cawl, a hearty Welsh broth, at the Red Cow pub in Pontsticill; and who are we to argue?