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The Vale of Glamorgan occupies a swathe of green countryside just west of Wales’ cosmopolitan capital, Cardiff. Home to Wales’ only international airport, this coastal county gives many visitors their first impression of the country – which is lucky, as ‘the Vale’ (as locals refer to it) is packed with some of the most incredible medieval history, crumbling castles, quirky towns and epic beaches in Wales.
Make Penarth Pier your first stop. A stone’s throw from Cardiff, this pretty town was a popular seaside resort in the Victorian era and boasts a beautiful pier overlooking the Severn Estuary and a stretch of pebbled beach. Grab a slice of cake and a cup of Earl Grey at the tearoom on the pier, or opt for the ultimate British seaside meal: fish and chips followed by an ice-cream cone.
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A couple of miles south lies Cosmeston Lakes Country Park, a glorious place to immerse yourself in nature on a walk. Besides the lakeside trails and children’s play park, the site is also home to an authentically restored medieval village, where you can experience what life would have been like here around the year 1350.
Further along the coast, you’ll find Barry Island, made famous by the BBC TV series Gavin and Stacey. The family-friendly pleasure park is small, but makes for a fun afternoon, and Whitmore Bay beach is a delight – take a dip if you can brave the cold water! The ‘island’ is actually a peninsula – head to Barry proper for lunch at Goodsheds, a trendy shopping and dining destination made of shipping containers.
History buffs and families alike will love Fonmon Castle, near Cardiff Airport. The oldest residential castle in Wales, Fonmon was owned by the same family for over 360 years, until 2019 when it was sold to businessman Nigel Ford. Today visitors can take a guided tour of the family home, wander the 100-acre grounds hunting for dinosaurs (of which there are many, in statue form) or learn more about medieval life from the host of character actors who wander the site.
Keen walker? Why not tackle some of the Wales Coast Path, which meanders around the entire country? The Glamorgan Heritage Coast covers 14 miles; starting in St Athan, the path traverses wind-buffeted cliff tops and rocky, fossil-strewn beaches as you head west towards Ogmore. Highlights include Nash Point Lighthouse and Ogmore Castle – the latter is a riverside Norman ruin famed for its stepping stones and bucolic surroundings.
Did you know that Wales makes some delicious wines? There are around 30 vineyards in fact – and Glyndwr Vineyard near Cowbridge is the oldest and longest established. Join a vineyard tour to see how Welsh wine is made, meet the resident llamas and tuck into a feast of Welsh bread and cheese, all washed down with Glyndwr’s fine reds, whites and sparkling rosés.
If you’re a fan of formal gardens, then save time for a visit to the Dyffryn Gardens. The Edwardian grounds stretch over 55 acres and are a masterclass in horticultural design. Of course the gardens also include the obligatory glasshouse and an arboretum. The Victorian mansion that overlooks the gardens has been partially restored, but is not open to the public. It makes for a good backdrop though!
Our 101 team have been working with local tourism, business, community and Council initiatives to bring you some of the best ways for you to live your connection to Vale_of_glamorgan.