These are historic counties used for geographic purposes. Due to the large populations of Glamorgan and Monmouthshire they are divided into twelve local authorities called "council areas", namely Swansea, Neath Port Talbot, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Bridgend, Vale of Glamorgan, Cardiff, Newport, Monmouthshire, Torfaen, Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly and Merthyr Tydfil.
Cities and towns
- Cardiff (Welsh: Caerdydd) (Glamorgan) – the thriving and trendy capital city of Wales.
- (Casnewydd) (Monmouthshire) – Wales' third-largest city.
- Swansea (Abertawe) (Glamorgan) – Wales' city by the sea and second-largest urban centre - spectacular sandy beaches await you.
- (Tyddewi) (Pembrokeshire) – Britain's smallest city and home to Wales' most important cathedral.
- Barry (Y Barri) (Glamorgan) – seaside/industrial town.
- (Caerfyrddin) (Carmarthenshire) – market town
- Chepstow (Cas-gwent) (Monmouthshire) – medieval walled town with castle, and gateway to the Lower Wye Valley.
- (Trefynwy) (Monmouthshire) – birthplace of King Henry V (of Battle of Agincourt fame).
- Tenby (Dinbych-y-pysgod) (Pembrokeshire) – medieval walled town and elegant seaside resort.
- (Parc Cenedlaethol Arfordir Penfro) – Britain's only coastal national park
Designated areas of outstanding natural beauty
- Gower Peninsula (Penrhyn Gŵyr) (Swansea) stunning coastal scenery with wide sandy beaches.
South Wales is a very mixed area. There is stunning pastoral scenery in many parts of South West Wales, the Vale of Glamorgan near Cardiff and the beautiful Wye Valley in the historic county of Monmouthshire. Wales' two largest cities, Cardiff and Swansea, are both located in the historic county of Glamorgan and offer an excellent shopping, restaurants and entertainment opportunities. The coast around Pembrokeshire and the Gower Peninsula in Swansea, in particular, have stunning coastal paths and sandy beaches, and the area boasts an abundance of castles. In addition, South Wales has a proud industrial heritage, with Port Talbot being a major steel processing town, while the valleys in central Glamorgan were once the centre of the Welsh coal mining industry. Since the 1960s, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire have been very popular with people involved in alternative and counter-culture; consequently South West Wales has become home to many communes and organic farms.
Welsh is commonly spoken in Carmarthenshire, northern Pembrokeshire and parts of West Glamorgan, but it is used much less in southern Pembrokeshire, Monmouthshire and the rest of Glamorgan, with the exception of some parts of Cardiff (notably Canton and Whitchurch). English is spoken natively throughout the region, and South Wales has a number of regional accents, including the distinctive Kairdiff dialect.
The M4 motorway links London and southern England to Newport, Cardiff, Swansea and near Carmarthen. If travelling from the Midlands and the North, the M50 and A40 are the best roads to use.
Great Western runs a main line service from London to Swansea, with stops in Newport, Cardiff, Bridgend, Port Talbot and Neath. Arriva Trains covers the rural areas west and north of Swansea.
There is an international airport at Cardiff and a small airport serving private planes at Swansea
There are regular car ferry services from Ireland to Fishguard and Pembroke.
Swansea offers mooring facilities for around 700 boats at the city's marina.
Cardiff, Swansea and Newport are connected to the National Express coach network, linking them to other major UK cities.
Trains connect all the main centres of population, and a local bus network links the stations to the smaller communities in the area.
- Coastal scenery - Gower Peninsula, Millennium Coastal Path in Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire
- Museums and galleries - Cardiff, Swansea, Newport
- Picturesque small towns/villages - Llandovery, Tenby and Oxwich, Port Eynon and Rhosilli on the Gower Peninsula.
- Caerphilly in Caerphilly - has a leaning tower
- Cardiff, perhaps Wales' most well-known castle, it is located in the heart of the capital.
- Carmarthen in Carmarthen - the ruins of Carmarthen Castle are in the town centre
- Carreg Cennen Castle - imposing castle near Llandeilo in Carmarthenshire
- Chepstow in Chepstow
- Kidwelly in Kidwelly
- Llansteffan near Carmarthen
- Manorbier near Tenby
- Oxwich at South Gower, Swansea - near Oxwich Bay
- Oystermouth at Mumbles, Swansea - commanding views over Mumbles and Swansea Bay
- Pembroke in Pembroke
- Pennard at Pennard, Swansea - the ruins of Pennard Castle overlook Three Cliffs Bay
- Picton near Haverfordwest
- Swansea - the ruins of Swansea Castle are in the city centre
- Weobley at North Gower, Swansea - the castle offers views over the Loughor Estuary to Carmarthenshire
- Hiking - Carmarthenshire, Gower Peninsula, Pembrokeshire
- Swimming - Swansea, Tenby
- Water sports - Swansea
Work on organic farmsWales is home to many communes and organic farms, and WWOOF can arrange for volunteers to work for free at some of these places in exchange for room and board. It is an excellent way to experience life in the Welsh countryside, make friends and learn a little about organic farming.
- Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, Cardiff
- Dylan Thomas Festival, Swansea An annual event held between 27 October and 9 November (the dates of the poet's birth and death) to commemorate the works of Thomas. In addition, the festival hosts the awards' ceremony for the winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize - a biannual writing competition for most outstanding literary talent in English, aged under 30.
Dylan Thomas FringeSwansea. Complements the main events at the Dylan Thomas Festival and is held at various venues throughout the city.
Swansea Festival of Music and the ArtsSwansea. An annual (October) three week bash of culture at various locations in Swansea, and the second largest such festival in the UK.
- Laver bread is a purée made from seaweed and eaten for breakfast. It is a speciality of the Swansea area.
- The Newport Lovely and Jann Split are two variants of Welsh Cakes particular to the South Wales region.
- Caerphilly cheese, originally sold in the town that bears its namesake, is a hard white cheese.
Joe's Ice CreamIs a popular brand of ice cream in the Swansea area.
- Cardiff, Swansea and Newport offer the greatest number and best quality of restaurants.
Penderyn Welsh WhiskyA single malt distilled in the foothills of the Brecon Beacons.
- Brains beer- a range of beers, including a highly popular bitter, available all over South Wales and brewed in Cardiff.
- You can also visit vineyards at various locations across South Wales, for example at Penarth, Cowbridge and in the Wye Valley.
- Cardiff, Swansea and Newport have a multitude of bars and cafés.
South Wales does not have a high crime rate, though like anywhere is in the UK, caution is required, especially in urban areas.
- Mid Wales
- Bristol and Bath are just across the Severn Bridge in the West Country of England, and the equally English Forest of Dean is on the western side of the Severn.
- Boat trips linking Swansea and Penarth with north Devon run during the summer months.