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Beautiful parks, nature reserves and wild places to visit in South Wales

One of the things we love best about living in South Wales is the contrast between town and country. Indeed, we are close to Cardiff, but judging by the variety of beautiful wild places, nature reserves and idyllic parks you might never guess so. Here are some of our favourite outdoor locations and beauty spots near Bridgend, Swansea and Neath. Cycling trails, nature walks, picnic spots, sculpture gardens and so much more abound, while most sites also tend to be family and dog friendly. Whether you want a great walk, outdoor activities or just a relaxing day out, the following are ideal:

Bryngarw Country Park

Bryngarw Country Park
Bluebells and wooded trails at Bryngarw (Image: Bryngarw Country Park Facebook page)

Featuring walking trails, a pretty Japanese Garden and open air play areas, this site has plenty to offer whether you want to relax and unwind, or let off steam. The one-hundred plus acres are an attractive mix of parkland and wilder corners. The pretty River Garw, wildflower meadows and cycle trails are all much loved by visitors. For those who enjoy a little history and folklore, the “Keepers of Bryngarw” trail is also well worth a look, with sculptures, music and myth to delve into. Find out more at http://www.bryngarwcountrypark.co.uk

Recommended Activities: walking, outdoor play areas, cycling
Access: Some disabled friendly features, including toilets and accessible paths in woodland garden area
Dog Friendly? Yes
Facilities: Tea rooms, toilets, picnic & bbq areas

Parc Slip Nature Reserve

Parc Slip Nature Reserve south wales
As nature intended: rich habitat and lots to see (Image: Parc Slip Nature Reserve)

If you’re nuts about nature, this fine location has such a rich mixture of habitat, from grassland to wetlands and shady woods. There is something different in every season, but it is especially splendid in the spring and summer, when you’ll find the open spaces ablaze with stunning wildflowers, butterflies and bees. Walkers love it for obvious reasons, but birdwatchers will also be in their element with woodpeckers, tawny owls and many other residents to spot. When you consider that the site was once an opencast coal mine, the beauty on display here seems even more wonderous- and the site also has an intriguing history. More information HERE.

Recommended Activities: Birdwatching, nature walks, cycling
Access: There are several disabled friendly routes, accessible by wheelchair
Dog Friendly? Yes, but please follow guidelines for nature reserves
Facilities: Café 

Kenfig National Nature Reserve

Bee orchid wales Kenfig
A stunning Bee Orchid, one of many unique species at Kenfig.

For a delightfully sandy, unique slice of Welsh wildlife, this nature reserve near Bridgend is rather special. Indeed, what it lacks in facilities it more than makes up for with a sweeping mass of sand dunes, not to mention Kenfig Pool, a splendid wild lake that is the largest in Glamorgan. That said, there is a helpful visitors centre A site for the serious botanist or naturalist, there are many special plants and creatures here in the dunes, many of which are rare and protected (including several stunning wild orchid varieties). For the walkers, there are many trails (some are winding and easy to lose track on, so a GPS device is handy!), but the trip to Sker Beach is especially recommended, with views to die for. Click here for directions and further information.

Recommended Activities: Walks, wildlife spotting, photography
Access: Difficult terrain, not well suited for wheelchair users
Dog Friendly? Yes, but do bear in mind this is a highly sensitive area (please follow guidelines for nature reserves).
Facilities: Visitors centre 


Parc Calon Lan

Parc Calon Lan
Would you ever guess this was once an open mining site? (Image: Parc Calon Lan/  C Templar).

A charming park with two adjoining lakes to admire, this delightful spot is a triumph of local efforts to transform what was once a coal mining site. Ideal for taking the dog for a walk, or just admiring the cool waters and surrounding mountains, it is also a spot favoured by less able visitors and parents with pushchairs, due to the level paths and easy short walks here.

Recommended Activities: Walking, photography
Access: Most of the paths are flat and accessible, making it ideal for wheelchair users and less mobile visitors.
Dog Friendly? Yes
Facilities: None 


Afan Forest Park

Afan Forest Park places to visit South Wales
Acres of space for adrenaline and relaxation at Afan (image: Wikimedia Commons/  E Swales)

There are contrasting reasons why visitors love this leafy, extensive Welsh forest. Indeed, there is a profound sense of peace and natural calm; but it is also one of the finest places for mountain biking trails and other adrenaline sports in South Wales. Or indeed book a combat experience with Battlefield Live (like a less painful, high tech version of paintball!). If excitement holds little appeal though, you needn’t worry because this is a very large site (over 9,000 acres) with peaceful corners galore and space for everyone. Fly or coarse fishing are another relaxing option on Glyncorrwg Ponds too. Add the South Wales Mining Museum, Afan Artworks trail and a friendly visitor centre and you have a very appealing site for most tastes. For more information, see www.afanforestpark.co.uk

Recommended Activities: Mountain biking, fishing, walks
Accessibility: Some disabled access, including visitor centre and surrounds.
Dog Friendly? Yes, but please follow guidelines for nature reserves
Facilities: Visitors Centre, tea rooms, restaurant, bike hire

The Glamorgan Heritage Coast

Great outdoor locations south wales

Last but not least, there are a whole host of fantastic coastal locations to explore around South Wales, including some of our most beautiful beaches and memorable landmarks. Once again you are spoiled for choice, whether you intend to go for a walk, a picnic or perhaps a spot of fishing or surfing. For the lowdown on several of the best locations, along with some stunning photography, look no further than our previous blog on the Glamorgan Heritage Coast!


Court Colman Manor: The perfect location for romantic mini breaks in South Wales!

If you love the great outdoors, you’ll love Court Colman Manor. Boasting elegant gardens, boutique hotel rooms and one of the best Indian restaurants in South Wales, it is the perfect place to visit for an excellent meal or idyllic mini breaks near the Glamorgan Hertige Coast. Keep an eye on our Facebook Page  for the latest news and deals on great Welsh escapes!