Discover the best places to visit on a free day out in South Wales: steep yourself in history or explore one of many Welsh natural wonders
Cardiff, Swansea and the surrounding mountains and coastline are packed with adventures if you're looking for a day out on a budget.
1. Go back in time at St Fagan’s
Famous outdoor museum St Fagan’s explores Welsh life through the centuries. You can go all the way back to a Celtic village and, immediately afterwards, visit a modern pub. The museum is set in the grounds of a 16th-century castle, which is great to explore in its own right, plus there are over 40 buildings from across the country that have been rebuilt at St Fagan's, from miners' houses to country cottages. There are also activities to take part in and a packed calendar of events.
2. Walk the Fforest Fawr Sculpture Trail
Starting from the fairytale Castell Coch, there are a two trails around the beautiful woodland of Fforest Fawr. Both the 3.7km Sir Henry's Trail and 1.7km Burge's Way go past mining sites. But it's the Sculpture Trail with its fun collection of wooden sculptures - including a wizard, dragon, lynx and bear - that makes an ideal excuse to get the family out in the fresh forest air. See the flowers, smell the wild garlic and enjoy a mythical adventure.
3. Stroll through the Bosherston lily ponds
At the National Trust’s Bosherto you can enjoy a beautiful, easy stroll through winding paths that surround dozens of ponds. What's more, said ponds are covered in gigantic water lilies and all manner of plant life. This makes for an idyllic 2km round trip from the car park to Broad Haven beach and back. Though the ponds are at their most vibrant in June, this trip is a treat for the eyes, ears and nose all year round. You can make a longer stay of it by playing in the sand dunes on the beach.
4. Visit Margam Country Park
Nestled just off the M4 motorway by Port Talbot sits the stunning Margam Park. Entry is free, with plenty to see. You can explore the grand castle, take in the smell of the gardens and the citrus plants in the Orangery, or see birds and deer in the huge amount of land that surrounding the castle. Keep an eye out for special events, too.
5. Wonder at Britain's smallest city
A real gem on the West Wales coast, St David’s is the resting place of the country’s patron saint. The spot where he lived is now a cathedral, which allows St David's to call itself Britain's smallest city. Explore the pretty city's shops and cafes, the Oriel y Parc Geellery and the beautiful scenery of the surrounding Pembrokeshire National Park.
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6. Go underground at Big Pit coal mine
See what life was like for miners whose hard work put Wales on the map at Big Pit. The old colliery buildings now house exhibitions telling the story of Welsh mining and how it evolved between 1850 and 2000. You can then put on a helmet and torch and head 300 feet underground to get the real mining experience. Older kids will enjoy getting dressed in a miner’s outfit complete with helmet and lamp, but this might be a bit daunting for younger children. The underground tour takes about 50 minutes, walking through tunnels and seeing the coalfaces that were once mined here. And make sure you pick up some amazing cheese from the gift shop that is matured in the mine.
7. Walk behind a waterfall
You’ll find plenty of waterfalls in the beautiful Ystradfellte Valley. The most impressive is the stunning Sgwd y Eira, which you can walk behind. Just watch your step as the whole area can be a bit muddy and slippery. It's part of a hiking trail you can follow from a dedicated car park - either pay to park here or make it a longer hike by parking for free in Ystradfellte or Penderyn.
8. Explore the Gower
The Gower’s beaches, Rhossili, Oxwich, and Three Cliffs, are renowned for their beauty. Captain James Cook even named New South Wales in Australia after them. While the beaches are the main highlights, you can also walk the peninsula, check out the pubs and shops, and discover plenty of outdoor activities.
9. Enjoy a Swansea museum
Another of Wales' free National Museums, the National Waterfront Museum in the vibrant maritime area looks back on the Welsh industrial history. The exhibitions are interesting and interactive, looking at the development of planes, trains, automobiles and the people caught up in the Industrial Revolution. After you're done learning you can finish your day at Swansea beach or by visiting the picturesque Mumbles area further down the coast.
10. Visit a crocodile bench
There’s plenty to do in Cardiff Bay. But travel along the barrage towards Penarth and you can get some fresh air, see seabirds from the RSPB cafe and have a play in the sandy pirate playground. What's more, there's a great photo opportunity if you sit on the Enormous Crocodile bench built for Roald Dahl's 100th birthday celebrations. Take a seat on him and see if he bites.