Take a clutch of scarred medieval castles. Add a twist of Unesco World Heritage industrial history. Squeeze in some of Britain's wildest coast. Sprinkle liberally with sleepy villages, secret coves and surfing hotzspots and throw in some rolling hills for good measure. Smother with local pride and, hey presto, this is a microcosm of Wales. Welcome to the south, where the Welsh Dragon breathes as strongly as ever.
Stretching over 100 miles from historic border-town Chepstow in the east to the big sky and sea views of the jagged coast in the west, south Wales packs it in. The big draw is Pembrokeshire, the Welsh Land's End where the winds of outdoor life blows year-round. Almost 200 miles of magical shoreline has been defined a national park, delineated by craggy cliffs, golden sands, chocolate-box villages and traditional seaside resorts. St David's, Britain's smallest city, nestles at its westernmost tip and is home to Wales' holiest site. For budding hikers, the Pembrokeshire Coast Path is one of Britain's most celebrated long-distance walks.
At the eastern extremity, Chepstow's striking castle welcomes visitors to Wales, and the Wye Valley is a beguiling place to paddle the waters. In between, things get gritty, with Blaenafon and Big Pit providing stark reminders of a collapsed industrial heritage. Dropping down to the coast, modern Swansea is emerging as a serious rival to Cardiff, and the tiny, beach-rich Gower Peninsula is one of Wales' loveliest corners.
Outdoor activities abound across south Wales. The main draw is Pembrokeshire, with excellent canoeing, surfing, fishing and, most thrilling of all, coasteering. Craggy cliffs also offer superb rock climbing all around the wild coast.
Landlubbers can take pony rides on the beach or inland through the Preseli Hills, which is also fine mountain-biking territory. Walkers flock to the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, a 186-mile jaunt through some of Britain's most spectacular scenery.
In the valleys of southeast Wales canal towpaths, forest tracks and former railway lines provide good cycling and mountain biking. Canoeing is possible on the River Wye and surfers dig the breaks on the Gower Peninsula, where there are also beautiful day-walks. Hikers love Offa's Dyke Path and the Wye Valley Walk.
Brecon Beacons & Southeast Wales destination guides
Brecon Beacons National Park
Rippling dramatically for 45 miles from Llandeilo in the west all the way to the English border, Brecon Beacons National Park (Parc Cenedlaethol Bannau Brycheiniog) encompasses some of the finest scenery in South Wales.
A walk back through history to King Offa’s Mercia on the border of England and Wales