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Seven superb things to do in South Wales

Whatever the season, south Wales is fantastic. A place packed with potential, overflowing with fun. Summer brings light evenings, late sunsets and happy days. So whether you’re staycationing here on holiday or fancy making the most of your weekends, you won't want to miss the best bits. So read on for the Great House’s top tips for superb all-weather, all-budget things to do in South Wales.

Climb Wales’ biggest sand dune
Climb Wales’ biggest sand dune

As we all know, money is tight, so let’s start with one of the best free things to do in South Wales. The Merthyr Mawr Nature Reserve, near Bridgend, is home to the Big Dipper - the biggest sand dune in Wales. The dunes here are vast, covering 840 acres. And you can explore them on foot. Signposted trails include a 1km walk up the huge dune itself, which reveals cracking views. Don’t be fooled by the distance - this is a hard hike up shifting sand.

Or enjoy strolling among the dunes system on another waymarked trail that’s just under 4km long.  You can pick up both routes from the Candleston car park.

Stroll along the prom at Porthcawl
Stroll along the prom at Porthcawl

There are more low-cost things to do in South Wales in the nearby seaside town of Porthcawl. This popular spot boasts no fewer than seven beaches and bays. Mile-long Sandy Bay is home to the Coney Beach Amusement Park, a classic combo of rollercoasters, dodgems and bumpy slides.

Feast on hot doughnuts and fish and chips before walking it off on a stroll along Porthcawl’s promenade. After taking in the Porthcawl lighthouse, marina and some cracking sea views, you’ll end up at sweeping Rest Bay.

Surf, sea kayak or SUP
Surf, sea kayak or SUP

Rest Bay, at Porthcawl, offers one of the most memorable things to do in South Wales - learn to ride the waves. The breakers really roll into the region’s west-facing beaches, creating a surf-tastic shore. Rest Bay is one of the best places to learn, thanks to a Blue Flag beach, acres of sand at low tide and the Porthcawl Surf School.

It offers lessons year-round for adult beginners and improvers, and also runs special sessions for kids. They’ll teach you how to Stand Up Paddleboard too. Or if you know the basics but don’t have the kit, the centre also hires out surfboards, bodyboards, wetsuits, kayaks and SUPs.

Meet the King
Meet the King

Head to Porthcawl in late-September and you can be part of one of the quirkiest things to do in South Wales - the Porthcawl Elvis Festival. This three-day celebration of all things Presley is a fiesta of competitions, look-alikes and shows, and is the biggest event of its kind in the world, with more than 20 venues around the town taking part. Time to dig out the wigs and flares?

Make your own money
Make your own money

There aren’t that many things to do in South Wales where you actually make your own money, but at the Royal Mint you can. Tours of this remarkable place guide you through the history of coin-making along with the skills and security involved.

The exhibition has some of the rarest coins in the world. You get to watch the workforce producing coins and - best of all - actually strike one. The design varies depending on the theme being commemorated at the time. Once you’ve made your own coin you even get to take it home.

Bask in balmy weather, year-round
Bask in balmy weather, year-round

What about things to do in South Wales on wet weather days? Handily, on the few (ahem) days when the sun doesn’t shine, you can still enjoy tropical temperatures, thanks to Plantasia. This covered, mini-rainforest sits in the heart of Swansea.

Stroll among its bamboo, aloe vera and avocado trees and you’ll encounter marmosets, leopard cats and super-cute meerkats. Pythons slither, piranhas glide and parrots swoop overhead. Perhaps the most memorable creatures though are the Caiman crocodiles with their rows of razor sharp teeth. You can even book a place on a special Crocodile Feeding Experience, if you dare.

 Enjoy one of the best afternoon teas in South Wales
Enjoy one of the best afternoon teas in South Wales

After all that exploring it’s time to refuel and recharge. The beautiful grade II* listed Great House Hotel at Laleston, Bridgend, is just 10 minutes away from Porthcawl, and 25 minutes from the Royal Mint and Swansea. Here you can feast on fine food in gorgeous surroundings. Enjoy our charming landscaped gardens when it’s sunny, or relax in the delightful lounge if wet.

Either way you can tuck into one of the best afternoon teas in South Wales. Sandwiches – from goat’s cheese and pesto to coronation chicken. Cakes – from salted caramel eclair to mini citrus meringue pie, and, of course, light scones, sweet jam and gooey clotted cream. There’s even a fabulous vegan version too. All for just £19.95. It really is one of the best things to do in South Wales.