There are lots of things to love about Cardiff - its buzzing nightlife and friendly atmosphere are second to none. But living in Cardiff has another great advantage - the miles of stunning natural scenery right on your doorstep. Read on for our guide to some of the best places to get away from it all - from golden beaches to mystical mountains, there’s something for everyone.
If you like mountains then you can’t do better than the Brecon Beacons National Park - 520 square miles of mountains, moors, waterfalls and castles. A haven for hikers, you can pit yourself against Pen y Fan, the highest peak in South Wales, or stroll the rolling hills and valleys for a more relaxing time. Whether you enjoy ancient monuments or stargazing, mountain biking or food festivals, the Brecons have it all. Only an hour’s drive from Cardiff, you can be out of the city and into the hills in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.
Look at a photo of some of the golden, sandy beaches of Gower and you could be forgiven for thinking they’re in the Mediterranean, instead of only a short journey away from Cardiff. The UK’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Gower Peninsula is favoured by surfers and sun-worshippers alike, with its 188 square kilometres of coastline, estuary and heathlands. Around a third of the region is either a National Nature Reserve or a Site of Special Scientific Interest, which makes it the perfect spot for wildlife lovers. Adrenaline junkies can get their fix with a range of adventure sports - why not try coasteering, which involves climbing cliffs and jumping into the sea? Make sure you’re safe by trying this only when accompanied by a professional guide though!
Vale of Glamorgan
Step back into an idyllic past in the rolling hills and hidden footpaths of the Vale of Glamorgan. Only a few miles from Cardiff, this is the perfect escape for a day or weekend. There are outdoor activities galore; hikers can explore the Vale’s 14 mile stretch of the Wales Coastal Path, animal lovers can try their hand at pony trekking, and for golf enthusiasts there are no less than 11 separate courses. Fancy a fun family day out? Then head to Barry Island (of Gavin & Stacey fame) for all the fun of the fairground, rounded off with a fish and chip dinner.
Pembrokeshire Coast National Park
For a road trip like no other, try the two hour drive from Cardiff along Pembrokeshire’s famously beautiful coastline. With 243 beaches - some of which are regularly voted the best in the UK - there’s no shortage of spots to stop and take a dip, or try out some water sports. To really get off the beaten track, why not visit one of Pembrokeshire’s many islands; Ramsay is best for spotting grey seals and porpoises, whilst Skokholm is a paradise of wildflowers known for its seabirds. Or try Caldey for its Cistercian abbey and shops selling local perfumes and chocolate.
Snowdonia National Park
While it may be a bit far for a day trip, there’s no better place for a weekend getaway than this region of magic, mystery and world-class natural beauty. Home to England and Wales’ tallest peak, Snowdon, 52% of the park is covered with mountains, making it the perfect place for walking and climbing. Train enthusiasts will love the plethora of steam railways, many of which were originally used for transporting slate and coal from the area’s many mines. History lovers can enjoy exploring the area’s many castles, including the imposing Harlech, built in the 13th century, and there are a plethora of quaint towns and villages where the weary traveller can stop for tea, bara brith and welsh cakes.