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 River Taff 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.
Things to do in Merthyr Tydfil
Outdoor Activities in Merthyr Tydfil
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. If you’ve a head for heights then Rock UK Summit Centre offers one of the largest climbing walls in Wales alongside its man-made caving system. 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 Brycheiniog National Park along the original route of the old Brecon and Merthyr Railway.
Golf enthusiasts shouldn’t miss the Morlais Castle Golf Course perched above the town boasts the ruins of a 13th century castle ruins running alongside the third fairway. Merthyr Tydfil Golf Club is a wonderful mountain top golf course consisting of some truly outstanding views from every hole. It’s perfect for golfers of all levels with 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 the NCN route 477 Trevithick Trail and historically themed guided walks in and around the town to name just a few. 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 legacy to the great wealth his business generated.
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.
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.
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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 centre and its surrounds. For morning coffee and afternoon cake, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
A favourite with the locals is Cefn Tea Rooms on Cefn Coed High Street which serves up slabs of freshly baked cake and tea in proper pots. You can find tasty treats at Truffles with a selection of freshly made pastries, crepes and ice cream! Or there’s the Bothy at Cyfarthfa Park, which eclectically mixes scrumptious cake with handcrafted gifts. It’s a creative hub, but they also specialise in local honey.
For the best fish and chips, it’s a toss-up between the Fountain Fish Bar and the Busy Bee Fish Bar. The Portugalles Café stays open late serving a Portuguese-themed menu, often accompanied by live music.
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. 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.
For cocktails and a party atmosphere on the weekend head to Hardie’s, and for traditional pubs take your pick from the Tiger Inn, the Grawen Beer Garden and plenty more. A guaranteed good night out is to be found at The New Crown Inn - It’s an award-winning entertainment venue and restaurant.
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 with its quirky mural. 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.
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