Touring South Wales always leaves you feeling that you haven't quite seen enough. With the variation in the landscape and the variety of the places to go and things to see, you'll wish to see more and more.
It is a land of contrasts, after all. There's the industrial heritage of the Welsh valleys – and all the cultural traditions associated with them – as well as remote uplands with tremendous peaks and amazing views, though far quieter and less touristy than the more popular Snowdonia in the north of the country. You'll find some of the best beaches in the world, some of the finest rivers in the world and some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.
Then there are the two national parks, the Pembrokeshire Coast and the Brecon Beacons, the countryside of both about as diverse as you can get within one region, plus two cosmopolitan and buzzing coastal cities full of life and vigour in Cardiff and Swansea, and the tiniest of cities too – St David's, the UK's smallest city.
So, whatever your ideals while touring in your 'van – retreat and seclusion or activity and adventure – you'll find it on your holidays in South Wales.
Top five things to do in South Wales
To discover life in a coal mining town, Blaenavon in the Welsh Valleys is designated as a World Heritage Site for its industrial contribution over three centuries. Go deep underground – 300 feet to be precise – at the Big Pit National Coal Museum. Visitors descending the mineshaft wear the very same equipment – helmet, cap lamp, belt, battery and ‘self rescuer’ – that were used by miners.
For some long distance walking, follow Glyndŵr's Way, named after the 15th century Welsh warrior and self-proclaimed Prince of Wales. The route crosses east to west – or rather west to east and back again between Welshpool, Machynlleth and Knighton. At Knighton, you can also pick up the well known Offa's Dyke Path, which runs north to south along the Welsh border.
Go stargazing in the Brecon Beacons National Park. On a clear night you can see the Milky Way, major constellations, bright nebulas and meteor showers. As an International Dark Sky Reserve, there are numerous stargazing events that take place throughout the year, often in the presence of an astronomer that will help you to appreciate and understand the night sky.
For fans of all things Darlek and Tardis-like, visit Wales and head to the Doctor Who Experience. The TV show is filmed at studios in Cardiff (and at many places around the Welsh Valleys) and the attraction sheds light behind the scenes with a multitude of special effects.
When to visit South Wales
No spring is complete without the annual festivities on the first day of March to celebrate St David's Day – you'll find something going on in most Welsh towns, with a big celebration in Cardiff. Neither would Hay-on-Wye be the town that it is without the internationally renowned Hay Festival for literary lovers, held every May.
Rugby fans can, of course, be kept occupied with Six Nations matches in Cardiff between February and April, while walkers should head to the Gower Walking Festival, held during June. And for music lovers, there's the Brecon Jazz Festival followed by the Green Man Festival, a folk offering, both held in August.
Wales is renowned for its fabulous local produce too, and this is celebrated throughout the region, whether with Pembrokeshire Fish Week at the end of June, the Cardiff International Food and Drink Festival in July or The Big Cheese, Caerphilly's take on foodie revelry – free of charge, too. Though the biggest day in the rural/food calendar is the Royal Welsh Show, held at the national showground in Builth Wells, which takes place in July.
Cheap overnight stops
Our Practical Motorhome Nightstops scheme has some great venues to overnight in South Wales, and we're adding new places all the time. Select, for example, between the Railway Hotel in Carmarthenshire or The Penrhiwgaled Arms, close to Cardigan Bay and the Ceredigion Heritage Coast. You can stay at both venues for just £5 per night. Alternatively, you can stay in the car park of The Seaview Hotel, right on the seafront in Fishguard, for free if you have a meal there.
Motorhome access and information
The roads across and within the Cambrian Mountains are narrow and steep in places, and many of the routes in Pembrokeshire are rural and twisty, so extra time should be allowed for journeys here. The best route to reach Pembroke Dock for ferries to Ireland is along the A48 and A477. Care should also be taken around the Gower Peninsula, where roads are narrow; indeed if you have a coachbuilt, the Gower is best explored on foot or by bike, having left the 'van at a campsite.
South Wales is not the easiest region within which to park a coachbuilt motorhome as many car parks are restricted by bay size and height. Town centre car parks in Carmarthenshire, for example, prohibit entry to any vehicle over two metres in height and more than 3500kg gross weight. Neither can vehicles use more than one bay, which is also the same in the district of Caerphilly and Blaenau Gwent, plus Cardiff.
For Cardiff, there are no height restrictions at either the East and South Park and Ride car parks (however there is a very good campsite right in the city centre of Cardiff, close to the Millennium Stadium and shopping areas). There are also useful park and ride facilities at Aberystwyth, Carmarthen and Swansea.
One of the most motorhome friendly counties in South Wales is Pembrokeshire, where motorhomes are allowed in council-run car parks, and with some larger bays provided – where 'vans take up more than one space, simply purchase additional tickets. Saundersfoot Harbour car park even actively promotes motorhome parking, a useful place to access the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. There are, however, a handful of car parks within the county with height barriers.
How to get to South Wales
The M4 crosses into South Wales north of Bristol, with access from the south west and north via the M5. The M4 travels as far west as Pontarddulais, seven miles west of Swansea, where the A48 picks up to Carmarthen and Pembrokeshire. Crossings on the two Severn Bridges are tolled westbound only, i.e. you have to pay to get into Wales on this route, but you can get out for free! Motorhomes are charged the same fee as a standard car. The 'old' Severn Bridge (the M48) is best for heading to Chepstow and the Wye Valley, while the Second Severn Crossing (the M4) is direct to Newport and Cardiff.
The M50, a spur off the M5 near Tewkesbury, is a useful alternative route to Monmouth and the Brecon Beacons, with the A40 and A449 dual carriageways providing an usually quiet and very picturesque route.